My husband, Brett, was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin's Lymphoma in June 2007. At the time we had a one year old son and had only been married for 2 years. Some days it feels like it has been an uphill battle ever since.
Brett underwent many types of chemotherapy and they all failed. He then had an autologous stem cell transplant at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. This means essentially that they harvest his own stem cells, give him enough high-dose chemo to almost kill him, and then put the stem cells back in. This failed.
Next, Brett underwent another stem cell transplant where his brother gave him donor stem cells. This failed. He was then put on a study drug through Mayo Clinic and was given 4 ½ years of remission! Eventually, however, this too failed.
In February 2014 the cancer came back yet again. Since that time he has tried many different chemo regimens and radiation. He is once again in remission but the battle never really ends. I think at some point whether we are a patient or caregiver we all ask “What would my life be like without cancer?” at one time or another.
It’s very easy to say that I wish none of this ever happened, but that is only part of the story. When we packed up and set out for Rochester for that first transplant our friends, family, and community rallied around us.
We received countless cards in the mail. There were two benefits thrown on our behalf, one in our hometown in Iowa and one in Lake Crystal where we live now. Even our daycare provider summoned the other families to help us out with gifts of time and money.
We had just joined a new church shortly before his diagnosis and didn’t know anyone. But that didn’t matter. Complete strangers to us in this congregation came up to us and offered prayers, to cook us a meal, and to watch our kids. We became very close with the Pastor as well.
Now we have two beautiful children, a strong close-knit community and are part of a caring church family. We are closer than ever to our family that was there for us throughout the fight and have made many new friends along the way. Life is actually pretty great!
I do believe there is a purpose in our suffering and that God has a plan for everyone, even though we may not understand it. I think I need to stop thinking in “what ifs” and start appreciating all the beauty that’s in the “what is.”