Robert & Joyce Hayes – Worship Leaders at America’s Keswick, Whiting, NJ

In Their Own Words

How did I come to be a caregiver? In 1989, I married my best friend. I vowed to love, honor, and cherish “in sickness and in health”. For over thirty years, we have loved and served each other, and honestly, Robert is much better serving than I am. Being cared for is probably the hardest thing for him to concede to since his diagnosis in the fall of 2020, of stage 4 pancreatic cancer. During cancer treatment, all other activities take a back seat to him receiving the best possible care. Both of us have had to learn to rely on friends to do tasks that normally Robert could do, and I am not able to do. That is a humbling experience. As a caregiver, I am a motivator, a cheerleader, a confidant, his ears, an advocate, and more things I will discover as time goes on. We are also the sandwich generation, in between caring for children and parents as they require and request help. Our initial response to Robert’s diagnosis was shock, and concern that we had not done enough to plan for our future retirement, no less catastrophic expenses relating to cancer treatment. We have served in full-time ministry our entire adult lives, in the local church, as concert artists and in conference ministry. Robert has been able to continue his work as an Artist-in-Residence at America’s Keswick through conferences and events as we work treatment around the program schedule. If he is not able to work here, we would need to find housing since we live in housing provided by America’s Keswick. Our family immediately responded to Robert’s diagnosis with commitment to help in any way they could financially though the financial needs were daunting.
Our long-time friend, BJ Speer contacted us when he heard of our situation and invited us to consider the Cancer Treatment Center of America. We went there for a second opinion after being told that Robert probably had 6-12 months to live. We filled out the application and were approved by our insurance to go for a consultation and within 2 weeks we were at the center beginning treatment. Our insurance company covers our treatment at the center, and we have been approved for both of us to receive travel expenses providing for our plane fare. This is reconsidered every 5 visits. I plan to make all of these trips from Philadelphia to Atlanta and on occasion, we take our young son with us adding the expense of his ticket. Our hotel rate through the center is minimal but our hotel bills add at least $250.00 per month to our budget. Meals are purchased reasonably at the Cancer Center or local restaurants which add expense that we would not have at home. Medications and health supplements add expenses too. It is overwhelming to consider the cost and this would not even be possible for us on our own. We have received constant gifts from friends, family, and people we don’t even know making it possible for us to travel without worry of finances.
Often our time at the Cancer Treatment Center would coincide with Stone Dartt and BJ Speer. We became quick friends with Stone as we learned the “ropes” from him at the Center. We spent precious time together even singing together in the chapel. BJ taught us how to travel well, giving us tips on how to manage the repeated trips to Atlanta. From TSA precheck approval to ordering insta-cart and of course where the best donuts are in town. We saw how they treated the staff well, and built lasting relationships with their caregivers. Stone set an example of how to suffer well ,and BJ taught us how to be an advocate as a caregiver. His constant and attentive care to his lifelong friend was exemplary. They are greatly loved by all who know them at the Center in every department probably because of the way they love others so well.
As of August 2021. We are seeing good results from the treatments. We are hopeful and thankful that we don’t fight this cancer alone. These have been difficult days and certainly our lives have been turned upside down, however I consider being a caregiver as my highest privilege and I am thankful for every day Robert and I are given together.

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Stone Mountain Dartt

Stoney, as his friends and family called him, was a singer-songwriter, musician, graphic designer, sound engineer, and bus driver for his family’s music group, The Dartts. Stoney was adventurous, and enjoyed traveling the world including all 50 states, and over 20 countries singing in music ministry. He enjoyed getting to know people and hearing their stories, as well as giving a word of encouragement to those in need. Stoney loved the people who cared for him and one of his last prayers was that we find a way to celebrate and support both nurses and personal caregivers.