MERCER — By his own account, Scott Greaney should have been dead by now — three times over.

Greaney, 52, his wife, two sons and a daughter run a turkey farm off the beaten path in Mercer in Somerset County. For Thanksgiving this year they shipped 1,400 gobblers to market.

Since the Morning Sentinel first met the Greaney family in 2014, Scott has fought off the effects of cancer and chemotherapy, which knocked out his white blood cells; suffered a serious allergic reaction to chemotherapy called anaphylaxis; and found three holes in his intestines that turned out to be Crohn’s disease.

Through it all, Greaney has stayed positive — animated and funny, with his thinning hair and bright blue eyes — as he turned over the jobs on the farm to the rest of his family because of his illnesses.

“My job is making the coffee and getting lunch, that’s what I do,” he said with a laugh. “These guys are the backbone of the farm. I can’t do this without you guys. I can’t do it because of my strength. I don’t have the stamina. That’s why I depend on these guys.”

Scott Greaney was diagnosed in 2013 with genetic mantle cell lymphoma, a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He has been in and out of the hospital ever since. He stopped two years of chemotherapy treatments in July, so he’s still a little weak, he said.

“It almost killed me,” he said of the allergic reaction. “I almost died at least three times. I had the anaphylaxis reaction. Almost died right there at the cancer center in Augusta. They put me in isolation down there for almost 10 days at MaineGeneral.”

He had a gangrene appendix, too.

And all the time, the kids were running the farm.

He said the “parting gift” from chemotherapy was the Crohn’s disease. His cancer is in remission, but the Crohn’s remains and has been treated all summer, but with the same side effects as chemotherapy, including chronic fatigue and weight loss.

Greaney said the key to his survival and to keeping the farm, with all the turkeys and 12 head of beef cattle, is to look on the bright side of life. His family is his anchor, he said.

“If I can stay positive through chemo treatment, you can stay positive through anything,” he said from his farmhouse kitchen table. “Like I used to tell them down at Dana Farber (Cancer Institute), what are you gonna do? You can’t sit around on the pity pot and feel sorry for yourself. You just keep going forward, you know? Try to find humor in everything.”

His kids, Emily, 19; Ben, 17; and Adam, 13; all the while did most of the work on the farm with his wife Tracy being the “head office” of the whole operation. Scott has had to stay out of the barn, where dust and dandruff from the birds pose a risk to his immune system.

During the Thanksgiving turkey season, the Greaneys have four hired hands and a couple of volunteers from the Maine Academy of Natural Sciences at Good Will-Hinckley helping out.

Turkey chicks arrive at the farm from a hatchery in early August and spend the first week of their lives under heat lamps in the barn. They grow to between 14 and 30 pounds at slaughter time, which was last weekend for all but the largest of the birds.

The Greaneys sell turkeys to eight stores in Maine and about 100 individual customers.

The Greaney kids think their dad is a pretty remarkable man.

“He’s a hard-working person. He never gives up,” Adam, who attends Skowhegan Area Middle School, said. “He’s very funny. Wants you to always get stuff done and have a good time with it.”

Brother Ben, a senior at Skowhegan Area High School, agreed.

“He’s a very strong person,” Ben said. “He’s great. He makes people laugh. He knows just how to change a situation, if someone’s had a bad day, and knows just what to say.”

Mom, Tracy Greaney, a clinical supervisor for Motivational Services Inc. in Waterville and Augusta, said it’s been a tough few years, but as a family, they stuck together with love and hard work.

“There’s been a lot of challenges coming through Scott’s illnesses, but now that we’re over the hump of it, we’re looking for better times ahead,” she said. “He’s a wonderful guy — hard worker — couldn’t ask for a better husband.”

Daughter Emily, who is a sophomore studying mechanical engineering at the University of Maine, said she looks forward to coming home on weekends to do her part around the farm. She said her dad handles everything with his rich sense of humor, which keeps everyone else accentuating the positive.

“His ability to turn around any situation is what helped everyone get through everything,” Emily said. “Even though he was the one going through the health issues, he was one of the strongest people. I can tell that it is hard for him to watch us do all of the things that he once did because he wants to be out in the barn with us, but knows that he can’t.”

Since he retired from his job at the VA Maine Healthcare System at Togus, Greaney has invested in $35,000 worth of new equipment. He did it, he said, because the kids are behind him, working the farm, shoveling sawdust, cleaning barn floors, hauling grain and water, feeding the birds, then preparing them at slaughter time.

“Talking to the kids, I’m like ‘Do you guys still want to be doing this because I won’t invest the money?'” he said. “We’ve upgraded and I’ve only upgraded because of the kids.”

He said he and his wife share profits with the kids. When they sell the turkeys, each of the kids gets paid a dollar a bird for every bird they sell.

“Adam is 13 years old, and he’s going to get a check for $1,400 at Thanksgiving,” Greaney said. “Ben the same thing and Emily.”

Greaney said his weeks, months and years battling illness have not gone without worry and stress despite his positive outlook. He said he worried about the people that worked for him and what they would do for their Christmas money. He also worried about his customers, Maine people who will settle for nothing less than a fresh, farm-raised turkey at Thanksgiving.

The Greaney children say they are now committed to total involvement in the family business. That comes from their father.

“I know how much my dad loves the farm, so I could not just watch him give it up,” Emily said. “I did not just do this because he is my dad. I did it because he is the person that I look up to and admire the most. He has given up so much for me, so running the farm was not a hard decision to make.

“I think that the biggest lesson that I have learned over the past three years is that life happens, and all you can do is keep a positive attitude and handle whatever it throws at you. That is what my dad has done. All you can do is take one day at a time, and enjoy the moment.”

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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