Grandparents adopt as cancer closes in

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When Pete Graham entered his second marriage, he had no way of knowing his bride would bring him an unconventional family to fill his golden years. His greatest heartache is that he will likely raise that family on his own.

Graham and his wife, Terry Graham, wed in 1997, both of them bringing nearly grown children into their union. About five years into their marriage, the couple adopted Terry’s granddaughter Taylor, now 13.

Taylor’s mother had lost her parental rights as she coped with a drug dependency that would eventually cost her custody of her other girls, Kyra, 8, and Arayna, 4.

When the younger girls entered the foster care system in 2010, the Grahams made the life-changing decision to adopt Terry Graham’s other granddaughters.

It was a decision that came at a time when life was about to drastically change for the Castle Rock couple, who in May 2012 received cancer diagnoses within four days of each other.

While Pete Graham, 62, successfully battled his prostate cancer, Terry Graham, 60, knew she would not likely see the girls grow up.

Terry Graham fought Stage 4 pancreatic cancer with chemotherapy that did nothing to stave off the prognosis. She was given months to live.

In November 2012, the adoption of Kyra and Arayna was finalized. Terry Graham continued to fight the cancer that, by May 1, had her bedridden.

“(The adoption) was a tough decision,” Terry Graham said. “We felt we wanted to keep the girls together. We knew he would probably be raising them himself.”

At the time of her diagnosis, Terry Graham was a registered nurse, studying for her master’s degree to become a nurse practitioner. Pete Graham was granted a medical leave of absence for surgery to treat arthritis in his back. They spend their days together, keeping Terry Graham comfortable as she comes to terms with the inevitable.

“I know the end is coming and I think it’s coming soon,” Terry Graham said. “I like to think I will be healed on the other side of the curtain.”

While Pete Graham has indulged his moments of private mourning, his goal is to stay strong for his wife and look forward to life with the girls. He laughs at the memory of a 6-year-old Kyra, whose father is from Portugal, asking him, “Poppa, did you ever think you’d be adopting a little Portuguese girl?”

“(Terry) did me a favor by bringing these girls into my life,” Pete Graham said. “I don’t know what I would do without them.”

The couple has been at the receiving end of an outreach from family and friends that includes dinners, days of pampering and an online fund to help meet their medical and hospice care expenses. To donate to the Graham family fund, visit http://youcaring.com/nonprofits/graham-family-fund/49408.