Craig Rainey was diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer in October 2014, after several throat “infections" would not clear up.
He had to have a trach tube placed immediately due to the large size of the tumor impinging on his airway. We were thankful to have caught it the day that we did!
He received chemo and radiation treatments. After a resting period, follow-up scans indicated that a “small” area needed to be removed from his tongue. Instead and so sadly, he had to have his tongue removed (Glossectomy) on June 1, 2015. His recuperation went well and he continued to stay peaceful and joyful and optimistic, even in the grief of this life affecting loss.
We learned to read lips, relied on hand signs and writing boards and tablets. He continued to make us laugh constantly and comforted us as his caretakers and friends.
He lived in my mom’s home when we also were caring for our Grandma Ruby Rhodes, who was 104, and he enjoyed doing things to take care of her needs. It was sweet that they had each other. She went to be with the Lord one month and two days before he did, and maybe she was helping Jesus get his heart and mansion ready.
We spent many hours making music as a family throughout his disease. He was passionate about following sports and writing about that with his friends throughout his illness.
He continued to sing with friends and family, even in the middle of all of this! He worked on a project of old gospel songs called “The Little Flock Project” that he wanted to record for his parents who passed on the gift of music and gospel singing. He would have us practice these with him when he had the strength (some of his favorites were…...”Peace in the Valley”, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”, “Love Lifted Me”, “In the Garden”, “When We All Get to Heaven”….and we could go on and on with the pages of notes he left us on his plans).
When he progressed past being able to sing around the tumor and radiation complications, he would joyfully play his guitar or drums instead, and directed us - just like my dad, Larry Rainey and my mom’s dad, Alvin Rhodes, had done for years…..as you can see, his joy and fun-loving, contented nature continued to reign.
Miracles come in many shapes and sizes.
He lived on a feeding tube due to radiation and the inability to swallow starting in January 2015. He also bore this loss like an optimistic champ. We would pretend to put yummy things into his feeding tube and he sometimes would enjoy smelling his favorite foods if they were in the kitchen.
But at first we also felt very, very sad not getting to eat together. Eventually, you get used to the new norm, and celebrate what you can do and not focus on what you cannot do! Especially when your patient is known for that sort of optimistic thinking!!! Suffering teaches us to cherish what you have and prioritize what is truly important…. God, family, people, love, peace and simple blessings.
When he was a young man, he was a boxer in the Jr Olympics. We took encouragement from his strong ability to fight. While ill, he would often strike the “let’s get back into ring and face this opponent” pose.
Gratefully we saw an explosion of care and prayer all over the United States as people learned of his battle and joined in.
He continued to jam with his music buddies when they came to love on him. They came to encourage their suffering friend, and left inspired by him.
There were many, many miracles along the way that occurred, so that we were able to keep him longer than what could have and should have happened in some ways.
He bore this joyfully, remained his content and loving self, caring for and tending others while he suffered greatly beyond what humans should have to endure.
The night before he lost his tongue, he encouraged me, his little sister, who he has comforted so many times before, and who was very worried with “God’s going to use this to make me stronger.” I know that it did, and I only hope that it will continue to have that same impact on us all.
We also hope that this battle to find healing and answers for others who are suffering will help to change what we can change.
Special things about our Craig:
So thank you for listening to our love for this treasure we called brother, son, nephew, cousin, friend.
I had known about oral cancer. As a dentist, I train others to look for the earliest signs. Until you pass through it with a loved one, you don’t really know it like the books and lectures taught me.
We just hope that this fund and this precious man’s life story will make a difference in other suffering people’s lives!!!
Donations to the Craig Rainey Memorial Fund may also be made by mailing a check payable to the Oral Cancer Foundation to the address below. Please contact the foundation with any questions or concerns at (949) 723-4400.
Oral Cancer Foundation
Attn: Ingrid Hill
1211 E. State St
Boise, ID 83712