Husband, partner, rock
ABOUT JOHN, IN HIS OWN WORDS:
- I had just gone through a divorce and had been on my own for a little over a year. Another couple knew of this wonderful woman named Cindy. The rest, as they say, is history.
- My brave wife has dealt with breast cancer not just once, but twice. Hearing you have cancer is traumatic for anyone, but to hear that it has returned unexpectedly is devastating.
- I do my best to encourage her by stressing the good things, the great care provided by her doctors, and to trust her faith.
- I cannot express how proud I am of the woman I married.
A Love Story
My brave wife has dealt with breast cancer not just once, but twice. Hearing you have cancer is very traumatic for anyone, but to hear that it has returned unexpectedly is devastating. Through it all, she reminds me every day how important it is to live the life you’ve dreamed with the people you love.
Cindy and I met each other later in life. I had just gone through a divorce and had been on my own for a little over a year. Another couple knew of this wonderful woman named Cindy who also happened to be divorced. After some convincing, I agreed to meet her. The rest, as they say, is history.
Our journey with cancer started after a routine mammogram in spring 2007. Cindy and I had plans to fly to Honolulu for a seven-day cruise. A few weeks before our trip, Cindy got a call from her doctor who explained that there was some irregularity in her mammogram and that she needed to have a biopsy performed, which she did. On our trip, Cindy received a call and was told the biopsy showed she had Stage 0 breast cancer in her left breast, ductal carcinoma in situ. However, she was told it was not serious and not to worry; she should enjoy her vacation and see the doctor when she returned. We did just that, but I am sure the news weighed on her.
The two of us had a wonderful time on our cruise. What Cindy didn’t know was that I was going to ask her to marry me on the ship when we docked in Kauai. Well, I did, and she said yes! We have never been so happy. It was definitely a trip for the ages!
The Reality Of Diagnosis
Unfortunately, when we returned, reality set in rather quickly. We were referred to a surgeon, who ended up recommending a double mastectomy. Even though her right breast was healthy, in time, he said, the cancer would probably show up in her right breast as well. Cindy was devastated. After a second opinion, Cindy decided to have the procedure. In addition, a plastic surgeon performed immediate reconstruction of both breasts. I did my best to be totally supportive and offer Cindy whatever help and encouragement I could. Having her healthy and alive was my only concern.
After her surgery and months of recovery, she was referred to an oncologist. I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday. We were both worried about what the treatment plan would include, and I was especially concerned about the side effects that she might have to deal with. The oncologist recommended that Cindy start hormone therapy, a five-year program. The excellent news was that with this treatment she would have a good prognosis. I was extremely relieved and left that meeting feeling like a weight had been lifted.
Fast forward about four years later. We had gotten married, bought a house, and settled into our lives together. Cindy was having a lot of discomfort on her treatment, so she asked her oncologist if she could discontinue it. Her oncologist agreed, even though she was only on year four of her five-year hormone treatment. She gave Cindy a clean bill of health and stated that any chance of her cancer recurring was remote. Cindy didn’t have any follow-ups and at that point, we really thought she was cured! Besides, how could she have breast cancer again if her breasts had been removed?
Blindsided By Recurrence
We returned to our normal lives, thinking we had put cancer behind us for good. But things changed. Cindy felt a lump in her armpit. When she lifted her arm above her head, I could feel a lump about the size of a walnut. My first thought was Oh, crap! I knew that lymph lodes are located there and I remembered that breast cancer can spread to the lymph nodes. However, since it had not been discovered in her lymph nodes during her first bout of breast cancer, it never dawned on me that it could suddenly appear there many years later. What took place next was a doctor’s visit, an ultrasound, and then a biopsy. The follow-up news was like a punch in the gut. Her breast cancer had returned and spread to sections of bone in her hip and back.
Her doctor wanted to surgically remove the malignant tumor in her armpit, pending further tests. They immediately scheduled Cindy to have a PET scan, bone scan, and another biopsy, which confirmed our worst fears—that her cancer had metastasized to her bones. Another tough blow. The good news was that there were only two very small spots. Talk about riding the highs and lows!
At our next appointment, the doctor recommended the combination of IBRANCE and letrozole as a first-line, or initial, treatment for postmenopausal women with HR+/HER2- metastatic breast cancer, which is the type Cindy has. Cindy started on IBRANCE plus letrozole, which is an aromatase inhibitor. She has experienced side effects, including some hair loss, and sores in her mouth, as well as hot flashes, pain in her lower extremities, a small rash, tiredness, indigestion, and low white blood cell counts. Her dosage was reduced to help manage some of her side effects. So far, we have been pleased with her results. However, please remember that this has just been Cindy’s experience. Other people might experience other common side effects including infections or nausea.
Focusing On The Positive
One of my biggest challenges is to keep her positive when she sometimes starts to get negative. Whether her negativity is because she’s scared, apprehensive, or even just overwhelmed, I do my best to encourage her by stressing the good things, the positive reports, the great care provided by her doctors, and to trust her faith. I’m glad she shows her emotions. I would rather she share her negative feelings with me and not hold them in. And even then, those times are rare. She simply lives and tries to enjoy life every single day.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing Cindy happy. Her doctor has encouraged us to fulfill our dreams.
Suffice it to say, Cindy has been a real trouper. Yes, she is scared sometimes, and so am I, but who wouldn’t be? I am proud that we have never given up and never lost hope. I have always considered my role to be her biggest supporter and be the strength she needs to help her get through the tough times. I am honored that I get to do that. I cannot express how proud I am of the woman I married, and I pray we have many more years to enjoy together.