Smiley's 16-year-old son is fighting an aggressive form of brain cancer
Slade Smiley is doing everything he can to make sure that his 16-year-old son Grayson receives the medical care necessary to fight his aggressive brain cancer.
Throughout his time on The Real Housewives of Orange County, audiences watched 42-year-old Smiley accrue debt while caring for his ill son. Though he is in the process of paying down his debts, both Smiley and his fiancée Gretchen Rossi are not allowing monetary worries to dictate their happiness.
“I am happy to be in debt as long as Grayson gets to stay here with us,” Smiley exclusively tells PEOPLE.
“He still has a very aggressive brain cancer situation happening and sadly we’ve spent a lot of time in the hospital. We spent three weeks in July already in the hospital dealing with complications,” Smiley, who is the CEO of Grayson Entertainment and on the advisory board of Zip app, says of his teenage son. “It’s a lifelong battle for us and we just keep our fingers crossed and praying that there are new therapies and new treatments that come available. That is one of the hopes that we have for him.”
Though Smiley’s financial woes were a concern for 37-year-old Rossi during her time on RHOC – and was a deterrent to her walking down the aisle with her fiancé – she no longer views it as a reason to not marry the love of her life.
“It’s no longer a concern of starting a family with him because I think that through self-realization and realizing that life happens, Slade’s unfortunately and probably never going to be completely out of debt because a lot of his debt is due to his son being ill,” Rossi tells PEOPLE. “I think that it’s something that every single day we work to chip away at. Slade does everything he can to make sure he’s taking care of his son and making sure that his medical bills are getting handled so he stays healthy and here with us. Sadly, it’s going to probably be an ongoing thing for a long time.”
But although medical bills are ongoing, Rossi says that the couple’s journey with Grayson has helped them recognize their true priorities.
“When you deal with something like that, it really helps just keep so many things in perspective in your life on a daily basis. It’s so sweet to see – I used to say little boy, but he’s really grown up now, he’s a 16-year-old kid – because every time he’s in the hospital, he’s always just going, ‘Dad, you’re my hero. I love you. You’re the greatest guy. I’m so happy that you’re here dealing with the doctors,’ ” Rossi says.
Rossi adds of the father-son relationship: “Grayson goes through a lot while he’s there being poked and prodded and doing all that. Slade just has a way of comforting him and helping him through it and helping him deal with all of the anxiety that he has. It’s really sweet to see the bond between Slade and Gray, despite what they’re going through.”
While the couple doesn’t have a specific wedding date on the calendar, Rossi confirms to PEOPLE that the “wedding planning is in full-force” and their big day will eventually arrive.
“As [viewers] know watching us on the show, we’ve gone through hell and high water to stay together and be at where we’re at,” Rossi says of her beau. “We’ve both sacrificed so much for each other and that day is going to be such a special, special day for us. I’m really looking forward to that day.”
The Real Housewives of Orange County airs Mondays (9 p.m. ET) on Bravo.