It started with a cough that would not go away. A cough so bad that it would stop him in his tracks and he'd have to rest afterwards for a few minutes just to catch his breath and regain strength. This was in March 2016. My husband, Mike, was like any other 31 year old "healthy" person. He figured the cough was allergies or a stubborn cold. He finally agreed to go to urgent care because of course he didn't have a primary doctor. The doctors had the same thoughts: allergies or a stubborn cold. They treated him for these things and none of them helped. Finally, he found a primary care doctor to go to. After explaining to her that the only problem he was having was a cough that apparently didn't want to leave, she ordered a chest x-ray and a CT scan. As she told us later, she was fully prepared to tell us it was pneumonia or something of that nature. But on Friday, May 13, 2016 (yes, Friday the 13th), our worlds were turned upside down. It was the worst day of my life. I sat there in the doctor's office with my husband as she told us it appeared to be Hodgkin lymphoma.
As my husband sat there in shock and staring at the blank wall, I immediately went into business mode. I grabbed a piece of scrap paper from my purse and took all of the notes I could. I wrote down the time and date of the already set-up oncologist appointment. I wrote down the date of the already set-up appointment for the biopsy. I wrote down everything I could process from what the doctor said to us. She gave us all the information we could handle as she had tears running down her face. My husband was her first cancer diagnosis. This was almost as hard on her as it was for us.
We left the doctor's office stunned and as soon as we got in the car, my husband finally let go of his emotions and sobbed the entire way home. When he walked in the front door, my husband feel to the floor sobbing. I had to explain to our one-year-old son that Daddy was crying because he didn't feel good. After a couple hours, I went up to our bedroom and finally sat down and sobbed like a baby.
Over the next couple weeks, we had appointment after appointment. We received the call from his oncologist on Memorial Day 2016 while we were at the zoo with family members who had flown in and drove in to support us. We stood in the food court area as the oncologist told my husband that it was in fact Stage 4 Hodgkin lymphoma. There was a softball sized mass in his chest and effected lymph nodes in his neck, arm pits, diaphragm, and lungs. He would immediately start chemo.
For the next six months, my husband was the rock star of chemo. Luckily for us, I am a special education teacher and this all happened right at the beginning of summer break. I was able to go to all of his summer chemo appointments while family members would drive in or fly in to help watch our son. My son loved this time because we had a revolving door of guests for him to play with! He had no clue what was really going on.
That year, we lost eight months of our lives. The world kept going while he kept fighting. But in those eight months, I learned more about my husband, our family and friends, and myself than I have learned in a lifetime. I learned how strong he is, how brave he is, how emotional he is, how stubborn he is, and how humble he is. I learned how our family and friends are the best damn group of family and friends I could ever ask for. As horrible of an experience as this has been, this experience has taught us that we have each other's backs. It's taught us what "In sickness and in health" truly means. I learned that no matter the circumstances, my husband, son, and I can face anything together.