More than 12 years has passed since Wayne Rose lived in Falmouth, but earlier this month his friends, family and former high school classmates welcomed him back with open arms, and in the process showed him he will always have a home in this corner of Cape Cod.
That message was sent during a fundraiser his two sisters-in-law, Erin R. Rose of Old Barnstable Road, East Falmouth, and Heidi Rose Ficher of Mashpee, organized for Mr. Rose and his family at The Beach House Restaurant in North Falmouth. Over 200 people showed up, contributing more than $33,000 to Mr. Rose, his wife, Kathryn, and their three children, Andrew, 5, Hannah, 4, and Matteah, 1, who have endured hardship after hardship over the last five years.
“I saw friends I hadn’t seen in eons. One guy came from California that I hadn’t seen since 1995 or 1996,” said Mr. Rose, who now lives in New Hampshire. “What I was always told is that the way to measure a man is how many lives he has touched. For me to touch that many people and for them to touch me back that night at a time I really needed them meant a lot to me.”
That turnout and show of support is one reason, Mr. Rose said last week, just prior to Thanksgiving, that he felt blessed this holiday season despite having to cope with his two oldest children being diagnosed with autism, nearly losing his youngest four days after birth and his wife being out of work since January 2011 due to a back injury suffered at work.
The final kick in the stomach occurred in July, when Mr. Rose was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Though he had surgery to remove the tumor, he has had several complications since that have included internal bleeding immediately afterward. And about two months ago when he went to have subsequent radiation therapy in New Hampshire, he said, medical staff at Dana-Farber’s satellite office in Londonderry, New Hampshire, radiated the wrong side of his body.
What I was always told is that the way to measure a man is how many lives he has touched. For me to touch that many people and for them to touch me back that night at a time I really needed them meant a lot to me.
“It has been a snowball effect,” Mr. Rose said. “Even our neighbors have been asking why we can’t catch a break.”
Regardless of the adversities life has thrown in his path, Mr. Rose said, “I’ve always been kind of an upbeat guy. You only live once so there’s no reason to live in the past.”
A 1994 graduate of Falmouth High School, he went on to earn his bachelor’s degree from Bridgewater State College in public relations and communications in 2000.
By that time he had already met the woman who would become his wife, when both worked for the Steamship Authority at the Palmer Avenue parking lot. “It was odd because her last name was Rose as well,” Mr. Rose said. “Even when we got married the priest told us he had never had a Rose-Rose wedding before.”
After college, Mr. Rose moved to Boston, although he has returned often as his parents, Gail E. and Frank J. Rose Jr. of Central Avenue, have remained in Falmouth.
Starting A Family
He and his wife eventually married in August 2005 before giving birth to their first child, Andrew, a little more than a year later.
All seemed well with Andrew until teachers noticed in preschool that his fine motor skills were behind those of his peers. Shortly thereafter he was diagnosed with autism.
Over the past two years, his father said Andrew has been going to occupational therapy to help improve those skills although this year, his first in kindergarten, has proved to be a difficult transition. “His class is 23 kids, which is pretty large, and he continues to have problems with autism,” Mr. Rose said, providing just one example: “They are learning lower case letters in class and he is still doing upper case letters. It has been a challenge for him.”
His second-oldest child, Hannah, also was diagnosed with autism about seven months ago, after her parents noticed she was constantly biting her lips and having trouble communicating. Now she is undergoing occupational and speech therapy.
Mr. Rose said it has been tough for him and his wife to see their children’s struggles. “As a parent, we always want our kids to do better than what we did and have more than what we have,” he said. “To see them struggling, through no fault of their own, has been difficult. We try to do our best, but when they are at school and they have difficulties doing something and we’re not there to help them, we kind of feel helpless.”
Perhaps the most trying moment for the Roses was shortly after Matteah was born in December 2010. Four days later, she had open-heart surgery to treat what Mr. Rose said was a congenital heart defect in which her arteries were not properly mixing red and blue blood through the pulmonary artery.
Before surgery, Mr. Rose said, doctors said she had a 60 percent chance of survival. “That was tough to swallow,” Mr. Rose said. “Obviously I was very nervous and very scared because you don’t know if she’s going to make it. I got a lot of gray hairs when she was born and then we spent the next two weeks in the hospital over the Christmas holiday. It was very, very tough.”
Today, Matteah is doing well, though she still is short of breath and tires out more easily than a typical child her age would. Whether she will be able to be physically active and play sports in the future is still unknown.
Anyone wanting to donate toys or make monetary donations to the Rose family can do so at South Cape Village Hair & Spa in Mashpee, which is hosting a fundraiser for the family next Thursday, December 6, from 4 to 8 PM.
A month after Matteah’s birth, life would throw a curveball at her mother as she was trying to lift a 500-pound patient from his bed as a nurse in the intensive care unit at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston. Ms. Rose and two of her coworkers, Mr. Rose said, were injured as a result.
She has been out of work since then, forced to go on both short-term and long-term disability, which has since run out. Although she can return to work, Mr. Rose said, she has not been cleared to return to nursing. “When you go to school for six or seven years to work in a medical ICU and now they tell you that you have to give up your dreams and go do something else is difficult,” he said. “So we are fighting that battle, too.”
His cancer diagnosis is the latest situation the family has had to endure. After surgery this summer he began radiation treatments, as the cancer had spread to his lymph nodes. In January he will go for a CT scan to determine whether he will have to continue with radiation treatment.
A salesman with the Woburn-based software company Kronos, Mr. Rose has been out of work since his surgery, collecting a fraction of his salary from short-term disability. As the only parent earning a paycheck, he said, being out of work has only added to the financial stress of raising a family in this economy.
It is why this month’s fundraiser was such a boost to the family. “With my surgery alone I owe about $6,000 or $7,000,” Mr. Rose said. “It was such a blessing for everyone who came out and donated. I’m trying to bail myself out. Now we have a little additional money to pay our bills off and keep a little money for the holidays.”
For more information on how to help the Rose family visit www.teamrosey.org.
Both his sisters-in-law were touched by the outpouring of love shown by the community to Mr. Rose and his family. “It was really humbling to see how many people came together in their time of need,” Heidi Rose Ficher said. “Some of these people haven’t spoken to Wayne and Kate since they were in high school. It meant a lot to them that they didn’t forget about them and they were there to help them when they really needed it.”
“It definitely affirms your belief in human kindness,” Erin Rose added. “Sometimes that easily gets lost at this time of year with so much focus on material things. That stuff means nothing in the whole scheme of things. Their kids aren’t going to remember what they got when they were 5, 4 and 3, but they will remember it was the Christmas when Daddy got better.”