Pilot Point man fights unknown severe cancer
By Tatiana Ambrosio
The Rawls family has gone through the ringer lately, and their struggles have not gone unnoticed.
The American Legion Post 550 has been rallying around the family in their recent months of trial.
Blake Rawls went to the doctor in Aug. 2021 complaining of a swollen neck and shoulder. This seemingly nondescript complaint opened a Pandora’s box for Blake on what would become a harrowing journey.
Blake’s doctor told him it was cancer.
In the months that have passed, Blake has been enduring many medical tests and months of not knowing, only to receive a recent diagnosis.
He has carcinoma of unknown primary, meaning they are not able to determine where the cancer started.
“First, they thought it was lung cancer, and then they thought it was pancreatic cancer, but there’s nothing in his pancreas so what they actually call it is stage four cancer of unknown [primary] origin,” said Mary Pelzel- Rawls, Blake’s wife.
The type of original cancer depicts what types of treatments can be most successful. Without knowing the origin, treating the cancer becomes more difficult.
“They said they’ll probably never know,” Mary said.
In the time since August, Blake and Mary have traveled to McKinney from Denton and then to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.
Unfortunately, Mary said, Blake is terminal and the doctors told her they don’t speak about life expectancy in this type of case in years. They speak in months.
Blake is the breadwinner in the family, and he continues to work through his health battle. He’s a regional manager for Worldwide Flight Services.
Mary said that he has been able to work from home more because of COVID-19 and his position.
“His work has been really good with him and trying to lighten his load,” she said.
In the meantime, Mary has two jobs. She is a hair stylist during the day, and she works at Peterbilt in Denton from midafternoon to 1 a.m. every evening.
“There are times that he can’t be by himself, so I’m thankful that my in-laws … and our two girls can be there to be with him when I can’t,” she said.
Her need to have and maintain her own full-time job is not only for added insurance but also the added income.
The family has been bombarded by medical bills.
Mary spoke of one test that Blake received to determine his type of cancer. The test was not covered by their insurance, and it cost over $7,000.
The American Legion held a benefit for the Rawls family in November, and another benefit is planned for Saturday.
“We consider [Blake] our sweetheart of the Auxiliary unit. He’s always been there for us whenever we’ve needed help with anything,” said Kelli Niles, acting historian for the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary unit and treasurer for the American Legion Riders unit.
She said Blake has always gone above and beyond to help. However, as the American Legion family, their mission is to take care of the veterans and active duty.
“Because he is a veteran, that’s just our responsibility to help take care of him,” Niles said.
The first event included a spaghetti dinner, cornhole tournament, cake walk and auction. The group successfully raised about $6,000 for the family.
On Saturday morning, the American Legion Riders will be hosting a Poker Run.
People that want to help the family can arrive at 10 a.m. at the American Legion, 905 Foundation Dr. to register.
At 11 a.m., they will begin. Participants will then drive to different locations throughout Lake Kiowa, Valley View and Denton picking up one playing card at each stop. When they return to the American Legion, all participants will be able to see who received the best poker hand.
“Whoever has the highest hand will win half of the administration fees,” Niles said.
A chili supper will follow at $5 per bowl.
Most recently, the Rawls have discovered that Blake has a tumor on his spine. On Monday, Blake will be starting a third round of chemo and will receive radiation on his spine for the tumor.
“He’s just doing his best, because miracles happen every day,” Mary said.
She pointed out that the family has also endured the tragedy of losing a son-in-law in recent months.
In addition, her own mother had been in a dire health situation, and the family had been told to say their goodbyes. Her mother did not pass away, and she came home from the hospital on Tuesday.
“We try to keep that faith,” she said.