Tag Archives: family

My Brother, My Hero

Lance Perry Snyder is a gem of a brother. I’ve known that since I was a kid when my Mom and Dad put us in the same room. At night, we’d lie awake talking to one another past our bedtime. He’d ask me questions and I’d reply with big-brother answers.

Lance ParkerOnce, I made fun of him for being afraid of the dark, and pulled out the nightlight to help him overcome his fear. He got up and tried to re-attach it to the socket, only to get shocked by the electricity. As a big brother who knew better, I had him wash off the electricity in the bathroom sink.

Later, we played on the same soccer team. I don’t remember the name of the team, nor our coach, but I remember the last game we played together in Norwin, PA. Our team made it to the final. Tied 1-1 until the last minute, Lance and I combined on the game winning goal. Winning in Norwin was bigger than the Pens winning the cup.

Lance Parker

Along with Morgan, Lance and I share a love of golf. All three of us used to play on a junior tour where 15 to 18 year olds competed. One year the tournament was held at the Oakmont East golf course.

At the end of the day, I went to greet my brother who was playing along with an 18 year old, twice his size, and the expected winner of the tournament. To my surprise this guy was congratulating Lance, who had just won the tournament after sinking a ten foot putt on the final hole of the course.

Lance has an easy-going nature. I never really met someone who didn’t like Lance. Not just his peers, but guys much older than him. When Lance was in high school, some of his friends had already retired. I remember his boss at his first job out of college with Pulte Homes was a guy named Robbie, a big burly former marine. He and Lance were pals. They’d go fishing, boating. Lance has a good soul. He’s a gentleman, who loves everybody and is loved by everybody.

Sometimes, because I live far away, I lay awake at night wondering if we squeezed the lemon. It’s easy to say no when the devil of doubt crawls beneath your skin, and you start to think – not about what you did – but about all you might not do.

But as I write this blog post in the guest room of his house at 106 Virginia Ave, on a short visit home to spend time with him, I don’t doubt he’s already lived more in 30 years than many live in 60. How few even get started on the house of their dreams, let alone renovate it before age 30?

Some of you may be wondering how Lance is doing. From my point of view, he’s doing well. Although his spirits are down, he’s surrounded by his siblings, Morgan and Ashley, his wife Francine, Bob, Cherie and Kasia in spirt, by his Mom and Dad.

Yes, Lance we squeezed the lemon.

As I get ready to head back to my wife and son overseas, I have to say that Lance and Morgan are the best brothers I could ask for.

Lance, you are still teaching me the value of hard work. Morgan, you are teaching me the value of treating everyone the same, as you work for the good of all those you meet. You both have accepted me for my decisions. Thank you both. Let me close with a few words from the dedication Lance read to me on the day of my wedding in 2007:

“Parker and Kasia will unite and become one. Together, they will create opportunities for others with new beginnings and better endings. They will travel with one another, know no distance too long, no barrier or border too big… where others would see only differences, they would see love.”

Lance, I am hoping you will get better and trust you to the gracious care of your wife. But while I’m gone I want you to know that I love you.

Lance Parker

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Lance’s treatment plan will be re-evaluated

Hey everyone, Lance’s brother Parker writing here.

Lance went in for an MRI the other day. The test was to see what effect, if any, the chemotherapy and radiation have had over the last three months.

My brother is part of a double-blind study (in which neither the doctors nor the patients know who gets what) to test the effects of Avastin, a drug which targets the blood supply feeding the tumor.

Well, the results of the MRI are in. They have determined that there has not been the level of impact they hoped from efforts thus far and will evaluate his treatment plan and make new recommendations this week.

What everyone would like to know – me included – is will Lance get better? When will he be back to his old self? Smiling, blue-eyed, Lance.

I am just like you! I created this blog for the purpose of documenting his recovery. I was committed to put prayer first and to hope until the end, and even further, because that’s what we’re taught to do, and what human bonds shared in flesh compel us to do.

But that goddamn cancer. I’ll be the one to speak from my heart, today. It’s tough to say if Lance will get better. My Dad, my Mom, my brothers (especially Lance), my sister, friends, close family, we’re all optimistic, as our nature instructs. Francine especially. She is the strongest of any of us. That girl, God bless her, will love and support and fight until the end. I only write what I write because that’s what Lance would do for me if he were in my shoes.

The cancer Lance has is progressive. It effects the centers of memory and speech. It hits his balance, nerves. It has the egregious character of rendering the brain, that fragile mass of flesh, progessively less capable of understanding what’s happening to it. And it advances, not linearly, like a golf cart, but quicker and quicker, like a plane at takeoff.

I know you have your hope on the line for him. I do too. Today, I hope the doctors and nurses un-blind the experiment to find out if he has been receiving the Avastin, and if not, that they would give it to him promptly.

Lance is with us today. We spoke to one another for an hour on the phone. He was bright and alert. He is bright and alert.

If you are a friend, and you are wondering, do I stop by or not? Stop by. Do it now, because life has a way of slipping, and regret is a bitter pill to swallow.

My sister Ashley is more eloquent, my brother Morgan more sincere. I am pragmatic, spare. This is what I would have done for me, were I the one.

I love you Lance. I am sorry to write about you, and not to you. You are very much at the center of my heart.

Parker

A twist of fate keeps tugging a sister’s heartstrings

I (Ashley, Lance’s sister) would like to share a little story with you to take you deeper into the heart of Lance…

This past summer, my family–Bob, Garrett 9, Julia 8, Ryan 7, and I–spent a couple months at Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  We enjoyed day after day of water, waves, sand, surf, and sun until 1:00am on Sunday, July 25th, when we had a little emergency of our own.

Ryan, then 6, had a seizure.  (While it caught us off guard, it didn’t come as a complete surprise.  Ryan was diagnosed as an infant with a congenital brain malformation; we were told back then he had a 50/50 chance of developing seizures.)

Ryan was transported by ambulance to the local hospital and then flown to A.I. Dupont Hospital for children in Wilmington, DE because of its remarkable pediatric neurology department and because he had been in a seizure for a dangerously long time–1 hour and 45 minutes.

When Ryan woke up later that same morning in the pediatric intensive care unit, he asked why he was in the hospital and how he got there.  We briefly explained to him that his brain “paused,” just like a DVD, and stopped communicating to his body and that he wasn’t able to respond to anything.

“So,” we said, “you had to be taken to the hospital, first by ambulance then by helicopter.”  Ryan’s next question was, “How am I getting home?”  We told him “in Daddy’s car, which is here because we had to drive up separately.”  Ryan, who happened to be born on 9/11, LOVES rescue vehicles, and–quite ironically–had prayed with me many a time for the men and women who work all night to keep us safe, said very seriously, “Well, that’s not fair; I want to go back the same way I came–first on a helicopter, then on an ambulance!”

Well, Lance, upon hearing what Ryan said, without delay, called up a very small airport in Western New York and hired a helicopter to take Ryan for the ride he didn’t remember.

This is where evidence of God’s orchestrating all of these events comes into play.  Our entire “Snyder Family”–Mom, Dad, Morgan, Cherie, Joshua and Abigail, Parker, Kasia (with baby on board!), Lance, Francine, my five–and my mom’s sister Vikki were due to travel to Chautauqua Lake, New York for a family reunion on Saturday, July 31st–just six days away!  (Chautauqua is where, back in the 80’s and early 90’s, my family owned a condo and we spent many wonderful weekends together.)

Ryan was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday, July 27th.  We went back to the beach to pack up.  On Thursday we traveled to our home in Maryland and on Friday, the 30th, we were on our way to Pittsburgh!  (Thank God Ryan took well to his medicine; there was no time to play around with that if we wanted to make the trip.  And for those of you who know me and how deeply I love my family, I was determined to make the trip!)

Another disaster we managed to avoid, believe it or not, was a tornado that came off Chautauqua Lake and right up through the “M” building of Chautauqua Lake Estates, leaving our old condo with the most damage!  This tornado happened on Saturday, July 24th, the day before Ryan’s seizure.  Had my parents booked condos in the “M” building, for old times’ sake, we would never have made it to the reunion either.  You see, God definitely wanted that reunion to happen!

Ryan in helicopter

Lance not only made Ryan’s wish come true; he gave the entire family an opportunity to ride in a helicopter!  Would you believe the first three up in the air were Lance, Ryan, and I?  (This is a small miracle in and of itself, as my last “wild ride” was with Bob on a roller coaster about 16 years back that left me on the couch for days!  That was literally the last time I willingly got on a nauseating ride just so I wouldn’t look like the wimp that I am when it comes to such things!)  But, when it came to having the first honorary ride with my brother and my son, there was something compelling me to go for it.  I did and am I ever glad!

Lance in helicopter

Up in that helicopter, to my surprise, it was quite calm and relaxing; not nauseating at all.  (It was also very symbolic, as we flew over all the areas we used to explore as a family back in the day.)

Up, high above the trees and lake, above seemingly everything, the following scripture verse kept coming to mind:

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.  Is 40:31

Ashley, Lance and Ryan with Co-Pilot

Ashley, Lance and Ryan with Co-Pilot

I knew then, in my heart, more than a simple propeller was keeping us in flight.  I also believe now, looking back, that God was preparing my heart for what was to come…

So, when I got Mom’s call on Friday, October 8th, telling me that Lance was admitted to St. Margaret’s ER and would be transported to Shadyside Hospital where there was a highly esteemed neurological department, you can imagine where my mind went–back to July when it was my son in the neuro ICU and back to August when it was Lance who made my little boy’s dream come true.

Ashley in helicopter with Ryan

Lance, I only wish I could now, in turn, make it all better for you.  While I can’t, I know who can.  And He, who carried us in flight that day, still is holding you this day.

Lance, I believe in you.  We all do.

Family at Institution

Family at Institution

More than a pumpkin

My wife Kasia says hope carries on the wings of a butterfly. It’s an idea she borrowed from her sister-in-law, Cherie. Where Cherie heard this delightful bit of wisdom, I know not. But it’s true: butterflies carry hope. And not just any kind of hope. Real hope, the kind you feel watching a bed sheet dancing in the sun-shine while pinned to a clothesline that holds aloft the butterfly. There are thousands (you’ve seen them haven’t you?). Tonight, before you go to bed, look for them, as they take their rest on bed-posts or head-boards or drawer knobs all over the United States, and Britain, and Poland, and Argentina, and Switzerland, in the thousand odd places they’ll fold their wings during God-our-father-we-thank-you and take flight upon the words, goodnight children.

Hope

Hope

A Word About Prayer

Last Friday, I called home to talk to my brother. I asked him how he was feeling. He said not good. I asked why? He said I have a headache and I’m scared. I think it’s something serious.

Only 2 hours later, after a CAT scan at the hospital, his worst fear was confirmed.

The 10 days since have been the most difficult of my thirty short years. From seeing my brother Lance suffer pain, to seeing fear in my Mom’s eyes, to seeing my Dad bent over, utterly broken. Words fail me when I think back over the past week. But one doesn’t — prayer.

Last Tuesday in particular. We woke up early to be at the hospital before the surgery began. The city was shrouded in fog. All of us, for about an hour, went into the chapel and lifted Lance up in prayer. Each in his own way, my sister with her head on my shoulder, to give up our fears and anxieties, our doubts and cynicisms. 

At midday, about halfway during the surgery, we received news that the cancer was malignant. Since then, the only thing that has sustained us has been prayer. My Mother’s perhaps, the most profound. She prayed to take upon herself all Lance’s fear. Surprisingly, he has been quite upbeat.

Funny how prayers works.

My friend emailed me to tell me Lance’s name has been added on a slip of paper to the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A family friend lifted him up at the basillica in Rome. Another will pray for his health on a week-long visit to Chile. My wife keeps vigil in Warsaw. Everywhere, the prayers for my brother, are being offered up like incense…

And Lance, our prayers have been heard. The Doctor said you may lose your memory. That you may have trouble with speech. But right away, when you woke up, you were so rambuctious and chatty they had to sedate you to let you rest. In the six days since your surgery, you’ve recovered to be your old self.  Full of wit, enthusiasm and charm. Tomorrow, so they say, you may go home from the hospital. Horray!

Our prayers have been heard. So persevere. Brother. My Best Friend.

Parker

Brother Lance

On Friday, October 8th my brother Lance walked with his wife Francine to the emergency room at UPMC St. Margaret’s hospital.

Lance had a headache and some numbness in the right side of his body. For the past several weeks, he had been experiencing these symptoms.

The emergency room doctor did a CAT scan and found a tumor in his brain, on the rear-left temporal lobe, about the size of a golf ball.

Immediately, Lance was taken in an ambulance to UPMC Shadyside. Several days later, on Tuesday Oct 12th, he went into major surgery to take out the tumor. The doctors removed a great deal of it, but discovered it was malignant.

Lance will need to fight it in the weeks ahead with a course of treatment that will be prescribed to him by his oncologist.

My brother is a tough, well-loved young man. He is also gracious and friendly to his colleages and friends. There are many people who have been sending e-cards, or dropping by food at the house. Howard Hannah and Giant Eagle, my brother and Francine’s employers, have been very helpful. Friends of my Parents. Pastors and Priests. Nurses and Doctors.

If you would like to reach out, feel free to leave a comment anywhere on this website. Francine will relate your get well messages to Lance.

I am confident of one thing. My brother Lance is surrounded by love — he is in the hands of a caring, loving wife. He is the apple in the eye of my parents. He is the baby of the family, the well-regarded youngest, who will always be — no matter what — charmed and touched with luck.

Parker