A Hudson family is counting its blessings this year even though its Thanksgiving plans are still up in the air.
Gina Boitnott said their dinner plans are generally last minute these days. It depends on how her husband, Earl, feels. Earl Boitnott has an inoperable brain tumor called GBM (gioblastoma multiforme).
“There are days when it’s good and then there are days where it’s bad,” Earl Boitnott said. “Then there are (good) days that only last a few hours and then it goes to bad. It just depends on the day, really.”
Boitnott was diagnosed in October 2019. He was told he may only have a few months to live. He retired early from Bloomington Public Works where he was employed for 21 years.
At age 45, Boitnott seems to be at peace with his fate. When WGLT spoke to him last year shortly after his diagnosis, Boitnott said he just hoped to make it long enough to see his first grandson.
After the birth, Boitnott had a change of heart.
“I can’t complain. I could be just not here,” he said, “I was ready to let go. I saw the grandkid and it changed my mind.”
Almost everything is hard for Boitnott after several rounds of chemotherapy and radiation treatments he has undergone over the last year.
The COVID pandemic also has made it harder. Boitnott rarely leaves home except for doctor's appointments. That's to keep himself and family and friends safe from the coronavirus.
“That’s a struggle because of their health. I don’t want to make them sick. It’s hard to stay away, but they need it right now,” he said, “They don’t need any more crap. That goes for everyone though.”
Boitnott spent much of the spring and summer tending to his backyard garden, but sometimes head pain and instability are so bad he can barely stand. He uses a walking stick to get around when he has the energy and not the pain.
“It does suck, I’ll tell you that,” Boitnott conceded.
There's one way the pandemic has helped. It has allowed his wife, Gina, to be a full-time caretaker while keeping her job. She is working from home as a claims adjuster for Country Financial.
“For me, it’s been kind of a blessing in disguise that this all hit, because it allowed me to stay home and be home with him all day, every day,” she said.
Doctors put Earl Boitnott on the chemotherapy drug Avastin last summer and said it could give him an additional 12 to 18 months. But the side effects were so bad, they took him off the drug. They plan to give him a new chemo drug soon. The tumor in his brain has grown from the size of a golf ball to the size of a peach.
“I don’t know that they want to give us a prognosis at this point in time, but we’ll take every day we get,” said Gina.
The couple is making the most of every day they get. They took pre-pandemic trips to Florida and Virginia to see relatives. They finished a home renovation they started before the diagnosis.
Friends, family and former co-workers have stepped in to help, too. They have hosted fundraisers and a GoFundMe page called Boitnott Strong to help cover medical expenses. The page has raised close to $4,600. It has a $10,000 goal.
Gina Boitnott said she wants others to understand they shouldn't let a health issue go unchecked. Earl had several episodes of head pain last year.
“Looking back, I really should have seen the signs that clear back to May he was having pain,” she recalled.
Doctors believed Boitnott was suffering a migraine the first time he went to the emergency room in June of last year. When they returned to the ER several months later, Gina suspected her husband's severe headaches and instability were signs of something more serious.
“It didn’t really dawn on me until I took him to the ER. That was when I kind of argued with the staff and said, ‘Listen, this is what I see and this is not just a migraine,’” she said.
Earl Boitnott remains upbeat about his prognosis. He cherishes each day he has.
“It’s just a matter of time when it comes and gets me and I am going to smile the whole way hopefully, and well, have some fun along the way,” he said.
The Boitnotts hope they will get to see their kids and grandkids on Thanksgiving. That's if Earl feels up to it. But the Boitnotts are just grateful they will get another Thanksgiving to celebrate.
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