To Our Friends and Family ~ Near and Far,
When you see two young people get married and start a family, you never imagine that one day you’ll be helping them to create a website because one of them is battling lung cancer and the other a serious autoimmune disease while raising a four-year old little girl. But that is where Nicole and Clay Gessner find themselves, in a place of vulnerability and need, a place where they’ve been driven to their knees because they’re not sure there’s any place else to be. And, where their family and friends are desperate for ways to help them.
They are the Gessners – Clay (34), Nicole (31) and Aria (4), and of course their dog Nala. Raised in Mifflinburg, PA, they are grateful for their little town. Clay works as the Restaurant Manager for the Rusty Rail Brewing Company. Nicole is a speech language pathologist for the Milton Area School District who loves and cares for her students deeply. And Aria, well she’s a sweet, smart, and well-spoken 4-year old.
In the spring of 2017, Clay began experiencing significant breathing difficulties that were accompanied by pneumonia diagnoses and atypical chest x rays at local hospitals. Exhaustive tests and procedures and surgeries resulted in a stream of biopsies with a diagnosis of interstitial lung disease which was severely limiting Clay’s lung function.
In late fall, they visited specialists at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia. The team of doctors there continued the stream of tests and procedures and, in February, diagnosed Clay with a late stage adenocarcinoma lung cancer and end stage lung disease, which also claimed his father's life in Clay’s early college career.
As a family, we are determined to not leave any stone unturned so plans have now been made for Clay and Nicole to travel to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas later this month to be evaluated by their experts, the best in the world, for additional opinions and treatment options.
They find themselves right now at the hardest possible place any of us can imagine. Their family and friends have encouraged and urged them to allow others to help. With Nicole having exhausted all of her paid time off from work and Clay limited in his ability to work, they will need help with daily expenses but also all the expenses associated with medical care in Philadelphia or Houston.
They also need our help in giving them ‘space’ – space where instead of asking them to share every detail of what’s going on every time we see them, that we can try and allow some type of normalcy and sense of privacy for them. Offer a hug and a conversation, but one that we would all have typically with Clay and Nicole just like any other day.
As they face this tough journey, we know that they will need ongoing help. Our family has set up this site in order for updates to be easily shared, messages to be sent and help/donations to be organized. Our plan is to regularly update this site so please check in here as much as you like. We will also post on this site any fundraisers that have been approved by the family. If you don’t see it here, it’s not been okayed by the family.
The most important thing we request are your ongoing prayers. If you can hold them in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate these difficult days, it will mean the world.
With peace, love and gratitude…