In memory of Donald Ballard

This is probably the most difficult post I’ve ever had to write. Many of my friends have already heard this, but there will be a few who have not. Don fought a courageous battle but, sadly, he succumbed to pancreatic cancer on November 17, 2017. Ray and I would like to thank everyone who joined Don in this fight and all those who hoped and prayed for his recovery.

Don was very reluctant to make it public that he was dealing with cancer. He truly believed he could beat this. He went through a full round of chemo, started a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins, and then when the tumors continued to grow, went back to chemotherapy. After his last treatment he rapidly declined. By Monday, October 30th, I had to call in help through hospice. Don wanted to stay at home, and so we honored those wishes. My 2 sisters, Mary Beth and Nancy along with Lynn were a tremendous help. Various neighbors and friends brought food and helped to stay at the house when I couldn’t be there.

This story gets more complicated though, because Ray was admitted to Fairfax Hospital on Tuesday, November 14th with severe back pain. X-Rays and CT scans showed spinal compression fractures. A sedated MRI had to be arranged with anesthesiology because of how painful it was to lie flat. Ray spent his first night ever (not counting the Duke PICU where we were not allowed to stay in his room) alone in a hospital room that Monday night. He handled it well, but by Tuesday he was spiking fevers. His fevers went up to 103 and his vital signs were not stable, so he was moved to their step down unit. I had to come back to the hospital that night after leaving to go home.

So with Don under hospice care and Ray in critical care, I relied on the amazing support of friends and family. One of my sister’s arranged for 24 hr LPN care from the hospice organization. This was not an easily accomplished feat and took a couple of days to arrange. We did eventually get 24 hr assistance. Don passed away gently on Friday the 17th while I was still at the hospital with Ray. My sister was there with him.

Don had decided early on that he wished to be creamated, so we are not forced to prepare a memorial service while Ray is still in the hospital. A memorial will be planned after I get Ray home and have a better handle on his status.

Yesterday’s MRI indicated that the spinal fractures are not acute, which doesn’t help to explain the level of pain he has been experiencing.

Several people have already asked about memorial gifts. Our family has designated 3 organizations which have been important to our lives. If anyone would like to make a memorial gift in Don’s name we’d be honored if they would do so to any one of the following:

I have to thank all those who have been a part of this journey. I’ve been blessed with some of the most amazing friends, family, and neighbors. I cannot express how much your support has meant to all of us, but especially to me. I love each and every one of you.