Aaron Foy has become the masked man.
But his mask is a life-saving filter from viruses, not a disguise. He’s fighting cancer.
On those rare occasions when Foy ventures out, he usually wears a surgical mask and plastic gloves to protect him from germs. His white blood cells that fight infections have been wiped out by five months of chemotherapy.
“The mask keeps me safe,” said Foy, who played aggressive defense as a guard on the first men’s basketball team at The Evergreen State College 13 years ago. “My kids don’t like it, especially my babies. But I’ve got to do it.”
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Tonight, Foy will be the guest of honor at Evergreen’s last home game of the season. The school is teaming up with Puget Sound Blood Center to conduct a bone marrow drive.
Within a year, Foy needs a bone marrow transplant, or he’ll die.
“They’re searching,” Foy said. “I’m staying positive. I know they’ll find someone. There’s going to be a match.”
Foy will not wear his mask and gloves tonight. But he won’t shake hands.
He’ll be there with his wife, Carla, and four children – 16-month-old twins Aamir and Aarmon, 5-year-old daughter Aamori and 15-year-old son Kashawn.
“This stresses everything,” Carla said about her husband’s cancer. “Your marriage. Your family. It tests everything. But he’s handling it. He’s got his good days and his bad days.”
Until he began undergoing chemo treatments, Aaron Foy worked as a case manager for a juvenile group home in Auburn, caring for as many as 10 kids at a time.
“I was basically their mom and their dad,” Foy said.
Foy was also the top assistant coach for the boys basketball team Lincoln, the 3A Narrows League champs. Foy can’t go to practices now, but he goes to most of the Abes’ home games. He sits wearing his mask and gloves high in the stands in a corner of the gym.
“I’m basically a scout,” he said. “I tell them what I see. But as far as being around the guys, I can’t do it. That’s tough.”
Because of the risk of exposure to germs, Foy can’t be around his children a lot. He’s living with his parents and visits his wife and kids.
“He’s not living here, and he’s missing out. We miss him not being here.” Carla said.
In November, Foy was hospitalized for three weeks with a virus. His body temperature reached 104 degrees. Last month, he spent two weeks hospitalized with another virus.
In August, Foy went in for his annual doctor’s checkup. The doctor told him that the vitamin B-12 count in his blood was low, and the doctor wanted to conduct more tests.
In October, Foy was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndromes, a group of cancers of the blood and bone marrow. Up until then, he was playing basketball and had no symptoms.
“I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t gone in for my checkup,” Foy said. “I was tired. But I thought, as a dad, you were just supposed to always be tired.”
Through it all, Foy remains upbeat, drawing on his Christian faith.
“I have too many things that are positive in my life to be sad,” Foy said. “God is going to see me through this. If he decides it’s time to go, then it’s time to go. I’m not going to look back and say ‘Woe is me. Why did this happen to me?’ I have family, friends around me.”
Evergreen’s bone marrow registry drive will be from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. today at the gym. It’s an attempt to raise awareness and to add to the registry.
The message Carla wants to share with mothers is to give approval for the hospital to save their newborn’s umbilical cord, which contains stem cells that can be used. The stem cells from the Foy twins’ umbilical cords could have been used to treat Aaron.
“We had twins 16 months ago,” Carla said. “That would have been plenty for Aaron.
“Donate. You can save lives.”
Gail Wood: 360-754-5443 firstname.lastname@example.org