Positive despite the pain

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For these baseball parents, cancer is the ultimate opponent

By Deb Hurley Brobst

Longtime Evergreen High School baseball dad Glenn Grise believes the game is a metaphor for life.

“If you think about it, baseball is a game of failure,” he said. “They count your errors. Hitting the ball three times out of 10 is considered good. The thing is to stay positive through the adversity.”

Glenn and his wife, Mary Pat, whose sons Sam and Jackson have been EHS baseball players, continue to stay positive through their adversity. Glenn has lung cancer that is exacerbated by the scleroderma that already had compromised his lungs. Mary Pat was diagnosed with colon cancer in December and is in the middle of six months of chemotherapy treatments. Yet they don’t dwell on those problems.

“What we are going through is not more important than anybody else,” Glenn said. “There are other parents whose lives are just as difficult.”

When the EHS baseball team honors parents who are battling or have overcome cancer next week, the Grises will be among those throwing out ceremonial first pitches. They will be honored at a game against Arvada High School at 4 p.m. Monday at the EHS baseball field just west of the school.

EHS varsity baseball coach Steve Jones said the cancer awareness game is the beginning of what he hopes will be an annual event.

“We need to take time to recognize folks in our baseball community who have some challenges,” Jones said. “I’m just thrilled that, as a baseball team, we are going to honor not just the Grises, but all of the families. We are in solidarity with them and want to let them know they’re not alone in this challenge and this fight.”

Over the years, the Grises — like many parents — have worked the concession stand and the scoreboard, done announcing, and served on the baseball boosters club board.

The Grises’ oldest son, AJ, 24, preferred ski racing, but Sam, 21, and Jackson, 17, were EHS baseball players. Sam went on to play for the University of North Carolina and now plays for the College of Idaho. Jackson will graduate in May.

Glenn, 52, and Mary Pat, 51, say their baseball family, neighbors, friends from church and others have rallied to help them through this difficult time, bringing meals, picking up the mail, shoveling the driveway and providing tons of support.

They still attend as many baseball games as they can — traveling between Mary Pat’s chemo treatments to see Sam play and attending EHS games. They park their truck on the hill along Buffalo Park Road — “the handicapped parking,” as Mary Pat calls it — so they don’t have to walk to the bleachers to see the game.

Over spring break, they traveled with the EHS team to Arizona, where it played in a tournament.

“Glenn and Mary Pat have always been very supportive of our program overall,” Jones said. “They embody the spirit of commitment and dedication to Evergreen baseball. They embody what makes Evergreen so special.”

Years of adversity

Glenn was diagnosed with scleroderma, a hardening of the skin, 17 years ago. On rare occasions, the disease settles into the lungs. When his did, he was given two years to live. But with a variety of remedies — vitamins, diet, prayer — he got better. Then last year, doctors found a black spot, so half of his left lung was removed, and now doctors have found spots in his right lung.

He has decided against chemotherapy because it would only prolong his life rather than cure the cancer, and the chemotherapy would take such a toll that he wouldn’t be able to enjoy the time he has left. Life is too short, he said, to waste a single day.

“I want to have quality of life, not quantity,” said Glenn, whose oxygen tank is never far away. “I don’t measure life in the number of years you live. It’s the way it is. All of us have to go sometime.”

Mary Pat had a colonoscopy late last year, and doctors found cancer. Her chemotherapy has an 85 percent chance of curing the disease.

She said her response when she found out she had colon cancer was, “I can’t. My husband has cancer.”

Living positive lives

Glenn has a variety of “Grise-isms” that he imparts to their sons, their friends and baseball players, all of whom seem to wander through the house at various times during the day.

Glenn, known as “Brown Bear” to friends and family, says he’s imparting words to live by: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Live life with an abundance attitude. Be happy for other people’s successes. If you make other people happy, you will be successful, and conversely, if you make other people successful, you will be happy.

In a corner of the living room is a Christmas tree that stays up all year, decorated for various holidays and other significant events. It was decorated for the Final Four basketball tournament, but it quickly turned into an Easter tree, and then it will become a graduation tree in honor of Jackson’s big day in May.

Christmas lights are still strung up on the walls and over the mantel of the fireplace.

“We’re not normal at all,” Mary Pat said, laughing. “We have a tree in our house all year long.”

It’s simply a matter of doing things to make yourself happy, Glenn said. “I try to laugh every day. Why waste a day?”

Glenn continues to work as an electrical engineer for CISCO Systems, though most of the work is done from home. Mary Pat stays home to “manage the frat house,” as she calls it.

Friends call the Grises inspirational because of their positive attitudes despite the adversity. However, they don’t feel they’ve done anything special.

“You’ve got to live every day,” Glenn said. “I wouldn’t trade my life for anything in the world. It doesn’t mean it doesn’t stink once in a while. We cry together. But I believe we are spiritual beings having a human experience. This is just another experience. You’ve gotta keep the faith and move on.”

Contact Deb Hurley Brobst at deb@evergreenco.com or 303-350-1041. Check www.CanyonCourier.com for updates.