Logan Greene: Talking a lot and saying more.
In a year of monumental, global upheaval, where COVID-19 grips the world, and calls for social justice tear at the fabric of our society, people want to get out, but they’re told to stay in. They want to speak, but they’re told to cover their mouths.
The world of certainty is no more, and nobody can tell you for certain when it will be back.
Amid this chaos, the Greene's world was flipped upside down too.
Over this past year, their world has gotten a lot smaller. They’ve become so much closer.
They’re focused on their family, making it through what has been a life-changing year.
Nothing is certain other than the love they have for each other and the time they have right now.
Logan takes it all in stride and even smiles
His wife, Cheryl, was diagnosed with breast cancer in early January of this year. She underwent months and months of chemotherapy, radiation, a double mastectomy and ongoing treatment. She even had COVID-19 while she was in the worst of her chemotherapy.
Logan would like to talk about it, but he’s got something to get off his chest first.
“I have a ‘thing.’ It’s a disease, really. I don’t like to talk about it [he really does!]:
"I like to hear myself talk.
“I used to be a professional musical theater actor – that’s how I paid my bills!
“I really love performing on stage for the ‘show.’ It brings me to life, really.
“I like to sing and dance and be animated. I went to school for that and got an associate degree in acting and worked backstage, doing what I really enjoyed.
“I once gained 35 pounds for a show where I played a 17-year old wrestler. I bulked up. I had a blast playing the part. I was in great shape then, and decided I wanted to play football, so I tried out for a semi-pro football team and ended up playing for a team called the ‘Battle Creek Sting’ out of Woodbury.
“My progression from acting to football is very common,” he laughs.
It was during his acting days, in 2014, when Logan was also working as a swim coach at Foss Swim in Woodbury, that he met his wife, Cheryl.
“We had such different personalities, but we complement each other. I like to talk and deal with things by talking to my friends and my dad. Cheryl is not as talkative as I am and deals with her emotions differently. She has a small group of friends that she shares her deepest secrets and frustrations with.
“She agrees that I like to hear myself talk!"
When he met her, he knew.
“We had the same goals and the same values. She had a 3-year-old daughter, and I saw how great of a mom she was to Charlotte. Things progressed, and we got serious quickly and were ready for marriage before too long.
“I proposed to her in January 2016 at a work banquet. I talked to the CEO of the company and we worked it out so that I could propose to her in front of the entire company.”
The Greenes were married in May of the same year and their daughter, Mila, who is now 3 years old, was born later that year.
His ‘Day’ Job
“I’ve been a swim coach for 7 years and I love my job. I get to teach kids to swim,” he says. “And it’s awesome – being able to teach a bunch of kids how to swim and really be an integral part of their lives moving forward. It’s all worth it that I can teach kids to swim. To know that they might not drown because of what I taught them is so rewarding.
“One of the first kids I ever taught was a three-year old named Kai. He hated me. He hated swimming and everything we did in the water. At the time, I was new to coaching and barely knew what I was doing.
“We worked on this exercise called ‘Humpty Dumpty’ in the pool, where I would make him fall off the wall and he would climb back up. We would do it over and over again. We would fight and I would push him in sometimes, just to keep him going into the water and climbing back out.
“Well, one weekend, the family was up at their cabin over the Fourth of July, and Kai did fall into the water. Nobody saw him. Nobody heard him fall. He just fell in silently and climbed back out on his own. He had no issues getting out of the water by himself.
“When his mom saw me the next time, she was in tears.
“She told me, ‘we didn’t hear the splash. None of us heard it. None of us saw it. It just happened that fast. Then he climbed out and we realized what happened!’
“That’s what drives me and why I love my job!”
She found a lump
Last Christmas Eve, in the middle of everything else a family goes through to get Christmas just perfect for their little ones, Cheryl found a small lump in one of her breasts.
“We tried aggressively to ignore it,” says Logan.
“We were just like, ‘maybe it’s something, maybe it’s nothing,’ so we didn’t worry about it and planned to have it looked at a little later."
Getting the diagnosis
By the time the Greenes went to their doctor during the first part of the year, the lump had nearly doubled in size. Their doctor told them that it was 'not officially cancer, but that is was unlikely to be anything else.'
That's when they started to get freaked out by the reality of cancer that close to home.
After a biopsy on Cheryl’s breast, the Greenes were told that Cheryl had Invasive Ductal Carcinoma Stage 4, with one metastatic node under her bronchial tube.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the presence of abnormal cells inside a milk duct in the breast. DCIS is considered the earliest form of breast cancer. DCIS is noninvasive, meaning it hasn't spread out of the milk duct to invade other parts of the breast.
Considering how young she was and how aggressive the tumor was, the Cheryl made the decision to have a double mastectomy.
Her immediate treatment plan was 8 weeks, with 4 treatments (1 treatment every other week) of a drug called AC Chemotherapy, and 12 weeks with a drug called Taxol.
Following her chemotherapy was 6 weeks of radiation followed by a double mastectomy surgery, which was on July 13. Then she began targeted infusion therapy, which will continue until March 2021, and a hormone blocker, which will continue for 5 years.
She is scheduled to begin radiation this Fall.
AC chemotherapy can be used to treat primary breast cancer – breast cancer that hasn’t spread beyond the breast or the lymph nodes under the arm. Sometimes it’s used in combination with other anti-cancer drugs. Chemotherapy is given to reduce the risk of breast cancer returning or spreading.
Taxol is a cancer medication that interferes with the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. Taxol is used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer.
“She had a rough first week of chemo, but then her body got into a routine of being sick for a few days then get better the second week after treatment. Consistently, her best day was the day that she would get chemo."
Adding to their many challenges the family had, Logan had to work during the first 7 weekends of Cheryl’s first chemotherapy treatments. Friends and family filled in the gap, staying with Cheryl so she wouldn't be alone.
Then COVID-19 hit!
Going into March of this year, Cheryl’s treatments were going well when she came down with what appeared to be a bad cold. But the cold kept getting worse, so she went into the doctor’s office to have things checked out. The doctor tested her for COVID-19 because she was in the ‘high risk’ group to get it and they were told they’d have to wait for the test results.
Within a couple of days, she was feeling better and went into her last treatment of AC chemo, but when she came home, she started feeling bad again.
Things got worse before they got better
“The next two days got scary,” Logan says. “She had extreme fatigue, a complete loss of appetite, and horrible nausea. Then we got the COVID-19 test results back and found out that she had it. She slowly started to feel better. The weird part of it all was that she really didn’t have any of the classic symptoms of COVID-19, like respiratory distress, coughing, fevers.
“At the time, she wasn’t eating much and was surviving on popsicles.
“It was really hard for her because she wasn’t able to hug the kids for a month.
“It was interesting watching her deal with COVID-19. She’s on her last round of AC chemo and at the same time she’s fighting some of the worst symptoms of COVID-19. At the time, we didn’t know it was COVID-19 because the test results hadn’t come back.
“I give her grief now, telling her that she can’t just have cancer – she also has to get COVID-19!
“After she completed her first chemo treatment, she moved onto her next chemo treatment – Taxol. That was a whole different animal. She had really good and really bad weeks and a lot in between. Most were rough. She had to stay in bed quite a bit of the time because of the lasting effects of COVID-19. Some weeks she had a hard time eating.”
During the 12 weeks that Cheryl was on Taxol, Logan started to get frustrated with everything.
He was wearing down.
“I was doing all the housework. I wasn’t able to work. The kids were getting up in my face all the time. We couldn’t get away from each other.
“I started getting antsy. A few times, I called a friend and just said something like, ‘I don’t want to talk about cancer. Tell me something about what’s going on in your life and I’ll tell you the non-cancer things going on in mine.’ I would call my dad and talk to him about my frustrations with cancer. Those were great outlets for me.
“During that time, my best outlets were fishing and mountain biking.”
Before the surgery, the Greenes had a lot of fears. Cheryl was afraid of ‘body deforming’ and being maimed. She was afraid of death and leaving their kids too soon. This is a fear that Logan shares with her.
But the Greenes knew they had to face those fears head on as the date for her mastectomy approached.
After the mastectomy, it was mostly about the routine - routine for making sure that Cheryl got her meds, that her drains were cleaned, and making sure she was eating right.
“I had a timer on my phone reminding us of when we had to do certain things, like clean her drains. She had an infection from a drain that stayed in too long. Luckily it was manageable.
“The period of time for her to get used to her ‘new’ body was short."
Dealing with the changes of a mastectomy and being a mom
“The ‘shit show’ is when your 3-year-old sees her mom’s chest after a double mastectomy," Logan says. "The little one laughed at first, then hid behind me and said, ‘I’m shy.’ When usually she’s not. It was one of those moments I’d heard about but couldn’t imagine until it actually happened to me… It’s hard to explain - just seeing your daughter’s world view break and your wife’s heart shatter when her daughter can’t even look at her.’
“She is doing better now and has only asked my wife to cover up again once. I told her that she only gets to asked that one more time, then we will let mom decide for herself.”
Existing and so much more during a global pandemic
Logan and Cheryl have been on ‘furlough’ from their jobs since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. The time off has given them the gift of being able to spend so much more time together, staying home and staying close with each other and their kids.
To them, now is a time to draw close to the ones they love and enjoy everything they can with the time they have.
“The biggest luxury we have now is each other. We get to spend time together. We have to spend time together. We enjoy each other’s company. We like to hang out. Some days, we’re best friends with the kids. Some days, they’re our worst enemies. You know what I mean.
“We have been able to spend so much awesome time together,” Logan begins. “I was lucky to be home during the worst of Cheryl’s chemo treatments and assist her with whatever she needed. The stress of being a caregiver was relieved a bit because I didn’t have to worry about going to work, making money.
“Some of the major struggles I've had since Cheryl was diagnosed with cancer is probably what other caregivers have: balancing the responsibilities I have at home, with the kids as well as caring for Cheryl.
"Finding the time to do it all!
“I’m not saying that losing your job is good. I’m not saying that the pandemic is good. I’m not saying the cancer is good.
“I’m just saying that maybe there is a silver lining somewhere in it all.
“If I was working, dealing with all this would have been a lot more difficult. A big part of my day is making sure that the family is still moving, still functioning."
Reaching out and finding support
“Early on, I didn’t know what to expect, so I reached out right away.
“We had a huge need.
“Friends responded and we've had friends helping us in so many ways: staying with Cheryl when I couldn’t be there, providing support to our family in any way they could, brining us food. We had a good friend come and sit with Cheryl after her surgery and while she was normalizing to her 'new' body. My dad and her mom were the key people who would come and watch our kids.
“My dad has been a great rock of mine. He has supported me emotionally, mentally and financially. He is the person I call when I’m frustrated and scared. He feels my emotions with me. He’s been my biggest support system through it all.
“Right away, after her diagnosis, we worked with our employers and they’ve really supported us and helped make sure we were financially stable.
"We’re lucky in that we have a great support system from our work and our parents and our friends."
The prognosis is good!
Cheryl was told by her doctors that her cancer is 75% curable. Her most recent PET scans show that all the cancer from her breast is gone and the cancerous node in her bronchial tube is smaller than it was originally.
“The node is barely noticeable. Recurrence numbers are still at 25%.”
Trying to relate
“I’m 27 now. It’s beautiful to have my family, but a lot of my friends can’t relate to that because they don’t have kids.
“They can’t tell me what I should say to my 3-year-old who just puked at 3 in the morning or what to do when my 9-year-old has it come out at both ends. I work late so my wife can stay home with the girls during the night but some nights I end up working later than expected.
“That’s also how it is with my wife having cancer. My friends can’t relate to it. Finding others to relate to that, who understand what I’m going through is hard."
That’s what Jack’s gives me – people to relate to
“Jack’s has been a great outlet for my frustrations and emotions.
“Going to the virtual Jack’s events helps me with my stress level. I go to the Thirsty Thursday’s Happy Hours and it’s exactly what I needed. The guys there help me realize that I’m not alone – there are others out there who know what I’m going through and can help.
"I knew I didn't have all the answers. I didn't even have all the questions. Having a community of men who had gone through this before me was something I knew I needed. The reality is that I'm walking the path that many have gone on before me. I could try and beat my own path or I could try and learn from others who have been there before. I knew that that was the guidance I needed.
“Just knowing that there are others out there makes a lot of the unknowns feel manageable.
"I’m not alone. This helps me calm down too."
Staring right back at it and doing what it takes
“The most important thing I can do now is take care of my family and keep myself calm. That’s it! To do that, I need to talk to other people who can relate to my struggles.
"I need to be vulnerable, open up, and admit the struggles I have.
"That's my job right now!"
Logan is still dealing with the change this last year has brought to his family. The challenges it's thrust upon him. He's found his own peace with it, and he's had a tremendous outpouring of support from friends and family to get him through.
He's learned to vocalize his struggles and to reach out to people who can relate and offer advice and friendship.
“There’s your life after cancer, and there’s your life before it. They are both different, both distinct.
“I appreciate my wife more now and don’t get as frustrated as I did before. I realize things could be worse. We’re doing OK now. I remember how things were before we had cancer, and it was just different than it is now.
"I try to remain calm, but I also live at a level 12 stress level most of the time now because I know of the potential for things to get worse at any time.
“It’s always looming over our heads!"
He sees the path ahead may not be an easy one, but to him it's all worth it.
And that’s all he’s got to say.
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By: Mike McGarry
Mike McGarry is a caregiver for his wife, Tracy, who has multiple myeloma. Mike and Tracy have 2 boys, Joseph, 13, and Jacob, 12. Mike has been a Jack's member since 2017.
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Most people think of family caregivers as women taking care of their aging parents or children. What many don’t know is that 16 million family caregivers in this country are men. AARP is on a mission to break the stereotypes and ensure that all family caregivers, including men, get meaningful support. Men, often due to societal perceptions, avoid talking about their caregiving situation and don’t feel comfortable talking about the emotional and economic challenges of caregiving. However, caregiving is tougher than tough and seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
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