Rick Desin knows his liver cancer doesn’t give him long to live, but he and his family are making the most of the time they do have together.
The Winter Garden family was vacationing in Tennessee two months ago when Desin started experiencing severe belly and back pain. The hospital’s original diagnosis was diverticulitis, and he was sent home with antibiotics and pain medicine. When he wasn’t responding to the medicine after four days, he made a visit to an emergency room in Central Florida — and was shocked to hear he has cirrhosis of the liver and two large tumors.
The tumors turned out to be stage 3B liver cancer, and it is untreatable, his wife, Tina Desin, said. The tumors are too large to be removed and have grown into the main portal vein.
“His treatment options are limited,” she said. “Should his body be able to tolerate the combotherapy we were presented, research data says it could possibly provide an additional eight to nine months.”
The combotherapy is immunotherapy and Y-90 radioactive embolization. The IV infusion drug helps build immunities, and the radioembolization in a minimally invasive procedure that treats the cancer with beads filled with a radioactive isotope.
“This procedure will most likely happen in mid-October,” Tina Desin said. “The goal of both of these targeted therapies is to impede growth or shrink the tumors and give us more time with Rick.”
The family is taking this ordeal one day at a time, she said.
“We have been together 23 years, and I cannot think about what the future will look like right now,” Tina Desin said. “We remain faithful and steadfast in prayer. We accept God’s timing and His plans for Rick. We continue to take it day by day and cherish every moment we have with each other. We pray every day for understanding and protection for our son, Riley; strength, healing, mercy and comfort for Rick in the days, weeks and months to come.”
Last week, the trio traveled north to spend time with his five siblings.
This week the Desins are preparing for the benefit Saturday afternoon at the Winter Garden Elks Lodge. It’s being organized by Sly and Jan Cawley of Sly’s Wrecker, where Desin is employed. The families have known each other since their sons played Little League T-ball together; the boys were classmates at Foundation Academy.
“This fundraiser will be a huge blessing to our family,” Tina Desin said. “Rick is not able to work, will not start receiving Social Security Disability until March and does not have life insurance, so it will provide a means to pay his medical bills and his final expenses in the end.”
The fundraiser originally was planned to raise money to replace the Desins’ roof — but West Orange Roofing stepped in and is providing the materials and labor free of charge. The money raised instead will go solely for deductibles, copayments and other medical expenses.
“To know Rick is to love him,” Jan Cawley wrote on a GoFundMe page she set up for the Desins. “He truly has a unique heart of gold, and he cares and loves deeply for others. If you are down or need to cry, he will make you laugh, while crying with you. If you need help with anything, he is there to lend a hand. He brings joy and happiness wherever he is. He is honorable, loyal and has integrity to a fault. Rick has such a kind and gentle spirit and is the most selfless man that I have been blessed too know.”
Cawley said Rick and Tina Desin are givers by nature and are constantly doing for others. She has gathered packages for overseas military troops, and he will go without himself to help others.
“I’ve seen him feed a stray dog his lunch and him go without eating,” Cawley said.
In response to the GoFundMe page, Tina Desin wrote in a Sept. 11 update: “Rick and I are overwhelmed with gratitude and want each of you to know how grateful we are for your generosity, kindness and love. ‘Thank you’ will never be enough to express how we feel.
“We just can't believe how many have given so unselfishly during this crazy 2020 that is difficult for so many,” she wrote. “My promise to each is to be a good steward of all the gifts we have received and pay it forward. Each of you are so important and special to us, and we appreciate you more than you know.”
Community Editor Amy Quesinberry was born at the old West Orange Memorial Hospital and raised in Winter Garden. Aside from earning her journalism degree from the University of Georgia, she hasn’t strayed too far from her hometown and her three-mile bubble. She grew up reading The Winter Garden Times and knew in the eighth grade she wanted to write for her community newspaper. She has been part of the writing and editing team since 1990.