By Odeya Rosenband
Kim and Bruce Bardes, husband and wife, of Shoreham are in need of support, as one after the other have now been diagnosed with cancer. A friend of the family has started a GoFundMe campaign that has raised $24,100 of its $50,000 goal, as of July 28.
“Back in April, Bruce noticed that one of his legs was swollen,” Kim said. “But he didn’t want to go to the hospital because of COVID-19.”
After eventually visiting the emergency room when the swelling worsened, Bruce was told he had a blood clot in one of his legs but was quickly discharged due to coronavirus guidelines. On May 6, after gardening in the backyard — one of his favorite activities, according to his wife — Bruce suffered a heart attack and stroke in the family home. When he was found unresponsive, his son ran to the neighbor’s house who was trained in CPR. Doctors suspected Bruce had cancer, and a week later, May 21, Bruce was diagnosed with stage IV metastatic lung cancer.
Nearly two months after Bruce’s diagnosis, the family received more devastating news. Kim was diagnosed with aggressive inflammatory breast cancer.
“It was seven weeks of me just getting my mindset around the fact that this was happening, trying to be his supporter and his support system, taking care of all of his medical needs — doing what any wife would do — when I had noticed one day that my left breast felt different in one area.”
With a “funky family history,” Kim had gotten routine mammograms since she was 30 years old. When she visited her doctor June 30, she received a diagnosis for a type of breast cancer she had never even heard of.
Bruce began his chemotherapy treatments in May, and Kim started hers July 28.
“I know our condition is going to get even worse because now I’m not just going to be tired from running my husband around and taking care of home, now, I got to add myself to this scenario somehow. And I don’t know how I’m going to feel from the treatments,” she said.
With a crackling voice, Kim describes their “love story turned tragedy,” as she calls it. They met at 15 years old, as sophomores at Half Hollow Hills East in Dix Hills. The basketball player and cheerleader were locker neighbors and a year later — thanks to Bruce’s persistence — they were a couple. They started dating when they were 16 years old, 34 years ago. High school sweethearts, Bruce and Kim got married in 1995 and had their first son, Austin, in 1996 and their second, Tanner, in 1999.
“We met 35 years ago and never had a fight,” Bruce jokingly adds from the next room. “If we can’t joke, then we cry. And we’ve already done too much crying.”
“Anybody would describe my husband as the kindest person they have ever met,” Kim said. According to their GoFundMe, Bruce coached youth basketball and baseball teams in Long Island for many years. Although he has been on disability leave since 2013 due to back injuries, he continues to be remembered as a beloved coach and has a “huge baseball family that has been giving them a lot of support,” Kim added. Kim, whose eBay business was already struggling due to the pandemic, had to halt her sales in order to care full time for her husband.
“I don’t have a job where I can take sick leave,” Kim expressed. Now, the family has no source of income.
“We were so excited for this year — we were turning 50, celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary, and were looking forward to the second half of our lives,” she said. “Our kids are now grown up and we were getting back to being us again … we even talked about moving to Florida.”
Kim added, “I feel blessed that we have never been hit this hard, but I didn’t expect that when we would be hit, it would be this hard.”
Overall, Bruce has been feeling better following his chemotherapy treatments.
“He hasn’t lost a stitch of hair, which I’m definitely going to be jealous of,” Kim joked. The hardest part is going through their doctors’ visits alone, due to coronavirus guidelines.
“COVID is making it 10 times harder because we can’t have any normalcy even if we try to,” she said. “It’s a weird feeling to ask for help because that’s not who I am, ever. But I’ve had to put my pride aside a little bit …. I can’t do it all.”
Kim, whose extended family describes her as the “matriarch,” had adopted the role of hosting Thanksgivings and annual Fourth of July celebrations. Now, without the time or energy, she’s struggling to adapt to her new normal that doesn’t include her regular hobbies like cooking and hosting.
“This isn’t the life we had, not even close to it,” Kim said. “It seems like somebody else’s life.”
Kim and Bruce’s family, friends and Shoreham community have been great supporters — in addition to the GoFundMe — offering their services, giving gift cards to local restaurants and writing letters.
“Our younger son is now a shadow and doesn’t leave us alone,” Kim said.
Their older son moved back home from Brooklyn in order to help. Kim’s mom and dad, who are 75 and 78, respectively, live in an apartment attached to the Bardes’ house and have also been significant supporters. Kim is one of three children who have all had cancer. Her sister is a nurse and has been instrumental in assisting the family, especially with their medical needs. Kim’s brother passed away at 33 years old from lymphoma.
“You do the best you can for people and try to do the right thing and it doesn’t matter who you are but sometimes life just attacks you. It feels like we are under attack … and I don’t know why,” she said.
A statement on their GoFundMe reads: “As you may know, medical expenses and life expenses add up quickly and the family needs to make financial decisions based on the best prognosis and not the cost of care … If you are able to support the family during this time please donate. But if not, that’s okay, please join them in prayer.”
The GoFundMe is available at: https://www.gofundme.com/f/nqp2qt-help-bruce039s-fight-against-cancer.