LUZERNE - For a man staring mortality square in the face, Kevin Roche remains engagingly upbeat, cracking jokes and tossing admiring glances at his daughter and wife. He smiles when asked their cat's name. "Meow Meow Kitty Kitty Meow Meow," he laughs. "I just call her Kitty."
He quips about the grueling weekly chemotherapy sessions he endures in a battle with metastasized pancreatic cancer diagnosed less than four months ago. "It's why I don't have much hair," he notes, turning his pate down for a clear view of the thinning strands.
And he takes any success in as small a dose as necessary. He recently took his beloved 1500 Goldwing motorcycle – "All my life all I wanted a Goldwing," he says – out for a ride. "I used to be able to muscle that around no problem," he said. "This time I barely got it out of the garage before it fell over. But the ride was a success."
Kevin's wife Rochelle laughs; clearly there's more to the story. "By success he means he made it home," she smiles
At 46 with his daughter Rebecca just about to turn 10, Kevin Roche suddenly finds himself playing a weak hand from a stacked deck. An initial round of chemo, while brutal, proved depressingly ineffective – it was a low point in the ordeal, he concedes – and the new, weekly regimen leaves him wiped out and unable to participate in the things he used to relish – the motorcycle rides, practice shooting with his large gun collection, hitting the trails on his all-terrain vehicle.
But something startling happened in his trip through purgatory: Friends. They banded together to organize a fundraiser for him Oct. 21 at Rodano's on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, and talking about the epic response to the effort makes Kevin's face glow with appreciation.
"I was stunned," he says, leaning forward. "I can't believe how many businesses donated.
"I didn't know friends could step up and do things like this for friends. I'm amazed at how many people stepped up when the chips are down."
The couple has insurance, but Rochelle said the deductibles in such a costly fight pile up fast, especially since Kevin can no longer work. He had been a supervisor at an auto parts store before being laid off, rebounding to master computers and work in tech service. Now it's a struggle to get around the house most days.
He promises he'll be at the fundraiser, which starts at 1 p.m., but can't guarantee he'll be able to stay through the full four hours of music, entertainment, and raffles – "lots of raffles." Sometimes, the chemo is just too overwhelming.
One reason the event has drawn substantial support from area businesses may be Kevin's affiliation with the Irem Temple Shriners. As president of the uniform units, you may have seen him driving one of the vans that pull the many floats the Shriners enter in local parades.
No, he never dons any of the exotic costumes like those Egyptian band members and their toes with curled up shoes, but yes, he does enjoy the events, despite the long hours it takes to stage such displays.
It hasn't been easy to stay positive, both admit. "We did the stages of grief," Rochelle notes "But we're dealing with reality."
"I do what I can when I can," Kevin says. "I'm going to beat this."
Then he gives the reason for such determination.
"Right there on the couch," He says, nodding to Rebecca. "I want to walk my daughter down the aisle."
What: Four hours of music entertainment and prizes
Where: Rodano's, 53 Public Square, Wilkes-Barre
When: Oct. 21, 1 to 5 p.m.
Cost: $20 adult, $10 children. Proceeds go to offset costs of pancreatic cancer treatment
As president of the uniform units, you may have seen him driving one of the vans that pull the many floats the Shriners enter in local parades.