Photo by Frank Couch.
Grey, Stacey, Nola and Brad Booth pose for a picture on a walking path in their backyard.
Brad Booth was diagnosed with cancer more than five years ago. The constant barrage of treatments have kept him busy and weak, but thanks to some good Samaritans, he and his family now have a backyard retreat they can use to take their minds off their troubles — even if it’s just for a few minutes at a time.
When Brad Booth was undergoing cancer treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center, he and his wife received free housing near the hospital for two months, which was provided by a nonprofit organization in Houston. When he found something similar in Birmingham, he wanted to get on board.
“We were so impacted by this, that when Brad heard about it, he jumped all over it,” said his wife, Stacey Booth. “Since he’s not able to work, it’s given him an outlet, something to wake up for and meet others, and it’s been very helpful.”
Brad Booth reached out to Jason Carroll, founder of Red Mountain Grace, a nonprofit that houses families receiving extended medical treatment in Birmingham. He and Carroll became friends and now Brad Booth serves on the board of RMG.
Brad Booth, 32, played college football at Air Force Academy and Samford University before graduating from law school in 2009. He was in practice for a year at Carr Allison Law Firm before he was diagnosed with desmoplastic small round cell tumor sarcoma in 2010. He was in treatment all of 2011, then went into remission for three years. During this time, the couple had in vitro fertilization and had their daughter, Nola, in June 2013.
In 2014, they found out Stacey Booth was pregnant with their son, Grey. This was a surprise, they said, because they’d been told the cancer procedures had left Brad Booth sterile. That same week, Brad Booth’s cancer returned. He has been in treatment since June 2014, receiving chemotherapy, radiation and surgery.
The family moved into Stacey Booth’s aunt’s house in the Russet Woods neighborhood in Hoover last June. When Carroll visited, he noticed the backyard hadn’t been kept up. He knew that due to his treatments, Brad Booth wouldn’t have the time and energy to put into it, so he said he decided to help. Carroll gathered volunteers to work on a backyard project to make a space the Booths could relax in and enjoy.
Carroll, along with family members, college roommates, neighbors and church members from Christ Community Church in Helena, gathered together in April for a day of work.
“I laid out a design on paper and looked at what materials and tools we’d need,” he said. “Just by telling Brad’s story, people donated. One company donated sod and plants. We had other companies give us some highly discounted things. His buddies came together and gave the rest of the money to do it.”
The day of the event, Carroll laid out the project with spray paint, and was joined by about 30 volunteers. The plans included laying sod, planting gardens, laying pine bark, sod, pea gravel and border rock and flagstone rock for a pathway. The workers also built a playhouse, pressure washed the fence, cut down tree limbs, made a fire pit with chairs and also assembled a trampoline.
When the family arrived home and saw what had been done, Carroll said they were overwhelmed. “They didn’t realize the project would be that big,” he said. “They loved it. The best things about this project are that a lot of people got to see the church in action, and also this was a monkey on Brad’s back we were able to take off.”
Stacey Booth said she couldn’t believe all the effort that was put into the project for them.
“It’s hard for me to comprehend that people wanted to step into our story, and weren’t afraid of cancer, and just wanted to help us,” she said. “It made it feel like a home for me. We felt very loved by it.”
While Brad Booth is on full-time disability during his chemo treatments, the family has enjoyed spending time in their updated backyard, sitting in the Adirondack chairs around the fire pit and watching their kids play, Stacey Booth said.
Although the type of cancer Brad Booth suffers from has never been cured, it does go away for a time before coming back, and treatment has to be resumed. He already has beaten the odds he was given when he was diagnosed: Only 15 percent of those diagnosed live for five years. Stacey Booth said her husband knows this is God’s story, and they’re in it.
“He really encourages me to stay positive and not get down in the dumps,” she said. “He always says [he has] the easier part of this, that I’m juggling everything — the kids, the house, the food and stress, and he is just fighting cancer. He definitely encourages me and pulls me back up.”