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One family’s return to normalcy

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

    The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.

    (Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)

  • Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.<br/>Hampshire 100 preview

    Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.
    Hampshire 100 preview

  • Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.<br/>Hampshire 100 preview

    Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.
    Hampshire 100 preview

  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • The Guinn family of Greenfield prepare for a family dinner on Nov. 26, 2012.<br/><br/>(Staff photo by Tim Goodwin)
  • Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.<br/>Hampshire 100 preview
  • Greenfield Trails Association trail ride.<br/>Hampshire 100 preview

It is a Monday night in late November.

The Guinns are spending some quality time in the kitchen of their Greenfield home. Arline, the mom, is making dinner and the menu features Shepherd’s pie. Kaleb, a sophomore at ConVal and the oldest child, is sitting at his laptop at the counter. Dale, the father, is making sure the wood stove is set for the evening and Bailey, a ConVal freshman, is cutting up a cantaloupe.

The family’s two dogs are running around fighting over an old tattered ball. It seems like the typical evening in the life of a family.

But if you visited the Guinn household back in March, a family dinner would likely have been one of the furthest things from the norm.

Dale’s Diagnosis

It all really started back in December 2010. Dale had experienced some dizzy spells and his doctor thought he had an ear infection. But a week later when nothing had changed, Dale returned to the doctor and it was then determined he had suffered an inner ear stroke.

So over the next year, Dale’s body had to relearn how to balance itself.

Then late in January of this year, the symptoms came back. But it was the day after Super Bowl Sunday when everything really started to change.

“He got up and it was bad,” said Arline. “We actually thought he had the flu because it had been going around.”

A subsequent trip to the doctor and an MRI revealed a three-and-a-half centimeter mass in his brain. The mass did not show up on a previous MRI and surgery was scheduled for March.

“This thing grew in nine months,” said Arline. “And it really looked like a brain tumor.”

There were some indications that it might be cancerous, but the only way to tell was to have it taken out and tested. The good news, after six weeks of uncertainty, was that it was not cancerous.

“That was a long six weeks just waiting,” said Kaleb. “Wondering if my dad had a cancerous tumor.”

Dale was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disease called cerebral angiitis that affects the central nervous system. The mass in his brain was the result of an exploded blood vessel.

Arline’s Scare

During Dale’s ordeal, Arline had also been feeling some symptoms of her own. As a way to help with the stress of Dale’s ongoing medical issues, Arline had made it a point to run as much as possible. It was her stress reliever, but she wasn’t up to her normal standards. She had noticed a shortness in breath and, on one run in particular, Arline coughed up about a half cup of blood.

But at that point, all her energy was focused on Dale.

Then about a week after Dale’s surgery, Arline noticed what she called a stitch in her side. She was short of breath and just couldn’t get comfortable.

“The pain was relentless,” said Arline. “I could barely put my arms up.”

So she went to the emergency room and had a CAT scan performed. She assumed it was nothing, but that was far from the case. The CAT scan revealed between 40 and 50 blood clots in her lungs, including two that were about the size of a quarter.

“Within five minutes the doctor was in and they’re putting in IVs and even brought in a defibrillator,” said Arline.

So what she expected to be a quick trip to the hospital resulted in a four-night stay.

“I had no idea she was as serious as she was,” said Dale.

The Residual Effects

Because of Dale’s diagnosis, he must take a daily dose of prednisone and undergo chemotherapy every fourth Thursday at the Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., for 12 to 18 months. The treatments began eight weeks after his surgery and, while it makes him feel awful for a day or so, by Saturday morning he is out the door for a run.

He has to go for an MRI every three months, just to make sure there is not a reoccurrence.

“They’ll monitor it for a while. It’s kind of like the cancer approach,” said Dale.

Arline is on a blood thinner called coumadin and will be for the foreseeable future. She does not like the side effects, but knows it is the only option. Arline returned to physical activity in about a month and is right back into her pre-medical routine of running and mountain biking, but pays a little bit more attention to things.

“I need to be very careful when I get cut,” Arline said. “Bleeding could be fatal for me.”

The Big Events

When Dale finally returned to his active life, he made the decision to try something new. In August, he participated in the Double Down Challenge at the Multi-Sport Festival in Greenfield. On that Saturday, Dale ran the 13.1-mile inaugural Highbush Half Marathon Trail Race and then completed the Hampshire 100, a 62-plus mile mountain bike race, the very next day.

For Arline, a little over six months after her hospital stay, she was able to do something that has been on her bucket list for years. On Sept. 30, Arline ran in the Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon and finished in three hours and 52 minutes.

What Has Changed

For the Guinns, life is back to normal. Outside of the medication and doctor visits, the family is once again an active group.

“I think it brings the family closer,” said Bailey. “Everyone needed to be supportive of each other.”

What Dale and Arline realized throughout everything was just how many friends they have. The night before Dale’s surgery, 30 people showed up at their house. When Arline was in the hospital, her close friend, Judy Surdam, took time off work just to visit.

Dale had already changed his outlook on life prior to his medical issues.

“It really changed for me before this. I wasn’t all about work and money,” said Dale. “It was all about being happy and doing what I liked to do.”

For Arline, she views the medical issues as just another test in life.

“I have had a lot of bumps in my life, so this was another bump that I have to get through,” said Arline. “But I can’t worry myself too much.”

The biggest change is that they now have wills.

It has been quite a year for the Guinn family.

One filled with highs and lows, ups and downs and everything in between. But the Greenfield family of four took it all in stride.

“I’ve always said life is too short and this made me appreciate that life is too short,” said Dale.

And now they can enjoy quiet family nights at home, something they would have given just about anything for nine months ago.

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