This month my husband is OFFICIALLY five years cancer free! I’ve sat down numerous times trying to put these feelings into words and nothing seems to fit how I feel. I want to yell at the top of my lungs….we did it! I’ve hesitated sharing this part of my life to the internet world. But let’s face it, it is a big part of my life. Part of me will always be changed from this experience. Some for the better and some for the worst. But mostly for the better.
It was a beautiful September day and we were headed to Hawaii to see one of our great friends. Living in Chicago, we woke up extra early to beat traffic to the airport. We hopped in the cab and headed to O’hare. Only to discover we went to the wrong airport!
We ran back to the taxi area and in a panic tried to find a cab that could get us across town to Midway. We were now in the peak of rush hour traffic. Our cab swerved in and out of traffic at points reaching speeds that I was too scared to look at the speedometer.
I remember riding in the back thinking missing that flight would be the worst thing in the world! We made it to the airport, thru security and to our gate just in time. Our Hawaiian vacation had started.
We exited the plane in San Francisco for an hour layover. There was a faint memory that the surgeon was going to call with the results of the MRI, but it was faint at this point. Doug turned on his phone for the hour and we killed time in the airport. About ten minutes before we were to board the plane,the phone rang and my life was forever changed.
I watched the color drain out of Doug’s face as he talked to the surgeon. He got off the phone and looked at me and said, “They think I might have Hodkins Disease.” I have to be honest, at this point, that I didn’t really even know what that was. I just looked at him and he said it again, but this time more clearly, “It might be cancer”. My whole world just changed.
We boarded the plane, tears rolling. It was one of those times in public when you know everyone is looking at you wondering what is wrong and you don’t care. We sat down in our seats. They made the final announcement that the plane would be leaving and at that point it was clear. We needed to be in Chicago. We grabbed our luggage and bolted out the door. The flight attendants just kept asking if everything was okay. All I could get out was that we needed to get back to Chicago. We spent that night in San Francisco and then headed home.
After another surgery, it was confirmed that Doug had non-Hodgkins lymphoma. And it all just fell into place. A chemo regimen was determined. Radiation would follow. We were told all of the side effects, hair loss, sterility and the long list went on.
Again, my world was rocked. We were only married a year and my husband might be sterile. Before chemo would start, donations to the sperm bank were made. I cried a lot, but somewhere in the middle of all of this things got better.
In fact, I don’t look back at the experience as negative. It was a time in my life when everything was perfectly clear. All of the little things that happen in any given day were not important. Doug living was important.
I am married to an incredible person. He is my best friend. He is kind and selfless.
We now have two wonderful little boys, which I might add were spontaneous (as the medical world calls it). A year after treatments were done, we talked to a fertility doctor about starting a family. We were told that there would be no risk in trying naturally and that some patients are not sterile after the drugs. Before the doctors could call us back to say that there might be some problems having children, we were pregnant.
This year we celebrate five years cancer free. We are told that it is almost the same as being cured, but they can’t officially call it that.
Here’s to another wonderful 100 years (or so)!
Here are some pictures from our trip to Alaska – nine months after Doug’s diagnosis – where we raised over $14, 500 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.