By Blythe Alspaugh
COVINGTON — The last three months have been full of the unexpected for Ben Wilson.
“I never would have expected this,” Ben said. “You don’t expect to get cancer at 29 years old.”
Ben has lived in the area his whole life, having graduated from Covington High School in 2011 where he played football and baseball before studying at Wright State University, where he graduated in 2015 and was promptly offered a job at Midmark Corporation in Versailles. He married his wife, Brooke, in 2015, and together they have three young daughters — Addison, 5; Laurel, 3; and Maela, 1 — who are the lights of his life.
On March 2, Ben had an MRI after consulting his doctor about prior headaches that had been bothering him for over a month. The headaches, which would happen for 10 to 15 minutes at a time and then go away, didn’t raise much alarm for him until one specific one had been more intense. The MRI lead to the discovery of a baseball-sized, malignant brain tumor that was removed five days later. The pathology reports indicated that the tumor was stage 4 glioblastoma.
Following his craniotomy, Ben underwent 30 days of radiation and chemotherapy. Exhaustion has been a challenge for him during treatment. Another challenge he hadn’t been expecting was finding it difficult to communicate post-surgery.
“I could think something, and I could think it correctly in my head, but verbalizing it was very challenging,” Ben said. “Thankfully, I’ve gotten pretty much all of my communication back, but it’s still a struggle sometimes to come up with the right word for certain situations.”
Since his diagnosis, Ben has been finding strength in the support from friends and family, reconnecting with old classmates and leaning on his wife and daughters when things start to become overwhelming or too bleak. Brooke’s background in oncology has helped tremendously in getting the right appointments scheduled and keeping on top of treatment, and his three young daughters have kept him anchored through it all.
“I would not be able to do all of this without her,” Ben said.
His daughters are a mix of colorful personalities; Ben describes his oldest, who he affectionately calls Addy, as a princess-loving drama queen with a tomboy streak who laughs at everything and enjoys playing sports like tee ball and soccer. Laurel has a more definite tomboy streak who enjoys keeping up with her older sister where sports are concerned, and Maela is starting to develop her own personality, always finding a reason to laugh and striving to make others laugh with her.
“They don’t understand the severity of the situation yet (…) they don’t know that it’s terminal. Eventually, when it comes time, we’ll tell them, but they have just been a rock. They don’t understand the severity of it, so they haven’t changed their personalities at all. They’re so much fun to be around and they make things so much better,” Ben said.
In the mix of everything, classmates of Ben have pulled together to organize “Stay Positive — Walk for Ben,” a one mile run/walk on Saturday, July 16 in honor of Ben, with the goal of raising funds so that he can build lasting memories with his wife and daughters. Currently, the walk has 86 participants across the Miami Valley region, with a month left to register. The community support Ben has seen so far has been another unexpected thing, but a pleasant one nonetheless.
“When I first found out about this, I was — I don’t really know what the word is. ‘Surprised’ really doesn’t seem like enough,” Ben said. “The level of appreciation that I have for the people that are putting this together, for the people that have signed up, for the people that have donated and all kinds of stuff — it’s amazing. It’s inspiring to see the kindness of people.”
The walk will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 16 at the Covington Fraternal Order of the Eagles, 715 E. Broadway St., Covington. Following the walk will be a live and silent auction, along with other activities including a 50/50 raffle and mug slide. Entry fee for the walk is $30 per participant and includes a t-shirt, and additional shirts are available for $20. To register for the walk or to donate to the Wilson family, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/OH/Covington/StayPositiveWalkforBen.