Chad Lanford celebrates on the soccer field with daughters Carys, left, and Cailyn in October 2009.
A HERO IN EVERY WAY
BY CINDY SCHAEFER – correspondent
Chad Lanford kept his family busy during what he called the “ultimate summer” of 2010. He wanted to pack as much into the days as possible – days that would create enough memories to last a lifetime for daughters Carys and Cailyn.
He and his wife, Skye, took their girls to the Great Wolf Lodge in Concord, to an exotic animal ranch in Charlotte, to the beach and to visit relatives in Tennessee. He snuggled with Carys, 7, and Cailyn, 4, and made plans with Skye. But the summer didn’t last as long as he had hoped, and they never did get to Disney World; he was too weak.
Three years ago Chad and Skye returned home after celebrating his parents’ 40th anniversary. Chad was tired. During the night, he had his first seizure. Tests showed a mass on his brain, and the prognosis was poor.
Subsequent tests each gave a different result, leaving the young couple unsure what to expect. So Chad tried to tackle the cancer the way he did everything in life: head-on. For two and a half years, he fought the tumors with chemotherapy and radiation. Between treatments, when he regained his strength, he would run. “One of the things he looked forward to in between chemo rounds was being able to run,” Skye said. “He would build up his stamina and get a decent time, and then it would be time for treatment again. Once chemo ended, he returned to a normal running schedule, and he looked forward to it so much.”
An MRI in June showed the cancer had gotten worse, and Chad decided he had had enough. He declined further treatments and concentrated on spending time with his family. By July, he was too weak and the headaches too severe for him to stray far from home. On Nov. 10, Chad Lanford died. He was 32 years old.
Chad and Skye had known each other most of their lives. They grew up in Stedman and met as toddlers in day care. They were friends in high school, but nothing more. In 1997, Chad’s cousin encouraged him to take Skye out. They were a couple almost immediately.
“If I had to describe him in one word, it would be exceptional,” Skye said. “He always did what was right.”
In 2001, he saw a car go into a pond during a flash flood in Raleigh. Inside were two women who couldn’t swim. “He didn’t think twice,” Skye said. “He jumped right in after them. He left shortly after the paramedics arrived because he didn’t want to receive any special attention.” When a TV station wanted to reveal his identity, Chad declined to be interviewed. “He just didn’t want attention for something he felt was his duty, to help people when they needed it.”
Bob Lanford said his younger son took the practical approach to life. “He was focused. He wanted to do something, and he did it.” In high school, Chad was at the top of his class. His father, a longtime employee of Krispy Kreme, suggested he apply for the company scholarship. It was little surprise when Chad won. “He was very intelligent. He could do calculus in his head. But he didn’t make you feel stupid. He was just a great kid.”
Chad studied engineering at N.C. State University and excelled in his career with the N.C. Department of Transportation. Skye Lanford said, “He accomplished so much and sacrificed a lot to get there. … He completed his master’s degree in civil engineering while we had a new baby at home.”
Chad Lanford at Mount Mitchell in 2008.
Courtesy of Skye Lanford
A forever presence
Carla Jones and her husband, Ryan, are neighbors of the Lanfords in Clayton. Jones said she would often see Chad outside, playing with the girls. “Our girls are about the same ages. The four girls would line up, and he would be out there spinning them around like tops. It gave me mommy heart attacks.
“When my husband and I get nitpicky, we look across the street and say, ‘We’re good.’ Watching Skye and Chad brought us closer. It’s been a journey. I’m sad, but glad Chad’s not in pain anymore.”
Chad was determined to be a part of his daughters’ lives, even after he was gone. He left cards for each of them to open on special days. Carys received the first – a handwritten card from her daddy on her seventh birthday. “She thought it was so special,” Skye said. When they turn 16, Carys and Cailyn will each be given a ring their father chose especially for them.
“He took care of us,” Skye said. “He made me stronger, and he left his legacy through our two daughters. I could not be more proud of him and the man he was.”
Chad L. Lanford
Born: April 3, 1978
Lived: in Clayton
Survivors: wife, Skye Lanford; daughters, Carys and Cailyn; parents, Bob and Sandy Lanford of Stedman; sister, Melynda Smith of Clarksville, Tenn.; and brother Todd Lanford of Stedman.
Skye Lanford began keeping a blog when their daughter was born. After his diagnosis, Chad allowed her to share the details of his life. “When you open yourself up like that, it’s a risk as to what the reaction will be,” Skye said. The blog eventually became a reference for brain cancer patients around the world. Skye continues to update her blog.