JENICA AND KEITH BARRY are shown with their children, from left, Leah, Zack and Luke.

JENICA AND KEITH BARRY are shown with their children, from left, Leah, Zack and Luke.

LISBON

It was like a bad cold and sinus infection that wouldn’t go away, Jenica Barry said, that made the holidays a difficult time for her husband Keith Barry.

The illness persisted and he continued to get more sick, which is “when this stuff started happening really quick. Fast and furious,” Barry said.

Her husband finally went to the emergency room and after testing, the 41-year-old was told he has acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

A benefit potluck supper for the family will take place Saturday from 5 to 10 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, located at 2 Columbus Drive in Brunswick. Admission is by donation and there will be a cash bar, a DJ, 50/50 raffles and a silent auction all to help the Barry family with medical expenses. Cash only is requested.

There also will be a volunteer nurse at the benefit who will be taking swabs of DNA from people interested in being part of a nationwide bone marrow registry.

Barry remembers how scary it was to hear the diagnosis of cancer, “like the vacuum sucking air out of your lungs scary.”

Always a healthy guy, Keith has been at Central Maine Medical Center for three weeks and likely will remain another couple of weeks. The next course of treatment depends on the results of a biopsy he had late last week, Barry said, and he is looking at spending time at a Boston hospital. After more testing there will be consults and a treatment plan developed, whether that includes a bone marrow transplant or stem cell therapy.

The week before last Keith underwent a seven-day, 24-hour chemo drip. During the treatment the hospital found him a guitar to play — but now he doesn’t have the energy and can’t really leave his room. He has been in good spirits and had many visitors, but his hospital stay is starting to take its toll, Barry said. Her husband wants to be home with their three children, but can’t. And the kids — an 11- year-old boy and 5-year-old twins, a girl and a boy — have colds so they haven’t been able to see their dad. When they can, there is no physical contact because Keith has to be careful about exposure to germs.

The anticipated medical bills are scary, Barry said. Keith had just started on a new health insurance plan Dec. 31, so now they have to make sure the new policy kicked in properly.

Neil LaRochelle of Lisbon spearheaded the benefit supper for his friend, and said he got the idea while attending a benefit dinner recently for another friend who needs a double lung transplant. He talked to close friends and nominated people to take charge of various aspects of donations to make the event possible. They soon had to find a larger venue when after the first day circling Facebook the event drew interest from 150 people.

“So many people wanted to help Keith and his family,” LaRochelle said.

His son and Keith’s oldest son play basketball and baseball together, and in the last couple of years they have developed a strong friendship. He wanted to do something to help. There is a good group of friends and family in Lisbon and so he knew they would do a good job with a benefit.

There are several amazing auction items, LaRochelle said, like an autographed Carl Yastrzemski plaque, Boston Celtics tickets, Portland Sea Dogs picnic seats, $500 in Frank FM radio advertising, a $125 car detail, a Samsung Galaxy 3 tablet, a limousine and driver for an evening — and several gift certificates. It’s been hard to keep track of all the donated items coming in.

“Tons of stuff,” LaRochelle said.

“It’s overwhelming, the amount of support the community has brought in,” Barry said. “It’s a real tight knit community we’re part of.”

The financial support is certainly needed, but it is the emotional support that has really meant a lot. Everyone is helping with the children, keeping them distracted and happy. The school system immediately put measures in place to help with the situation as well.

“We’re just wrapped up in so much support and so much love and it’s amazing and overwhelming and heartwarming,” Barry said. “A thank you is not enough. Appreciation is just not enough for everything they’ve done.”

For more information, visit “Benefit Potluck dinner for Keith Barry” on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/events/1532135550397291/). There is also a GoFundMe page and anyone can go to a Five County Credit Union and donate to the Keith Barry fund.


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