My Story: Never in a Million Years…
Husband and wife Bill Morehead, 79, and Fran Morehead, 85, from Olympia, Washington, have been married for 43 years. Last year, they were both diagnosed with breast cancer. They both learned very quickly what it was like to be a person in treatment for breast cancer and a caregiver to someone with breast cancer. Here, Fran tells their story in her own words:
Never in a million years did my husband and I expect to have cancer at the same time. But in 2015 we were not only diagnosed with cancer, we were BOTH diagnosed with breast cancer. We have always done things together, but this was taking togetherness a bit too far. I’m happy to report we were both diagnosed at stage I and are doing well. But it was not easy.
Our journey began with my diagnosis on June 8, 2015, after my annual mammogram. My doctor called and said, “As we suspected, Fran, you have breast cancer.” It was not what I wanted to hear. I had a lumpectomy on June 29.
Radiation began August 19. I had 25 treatments (5 days a week for 5 weeks) at the Providence Regional Cancer System in Lacey, Washington, ending on September 25. I was grateful to be at the end of active treatment. The entire staff was amazing and upbeat.
The most important person in my life was and is my amazing husband and caregiver, Mr. Bill. Though he is legally blind and no longer drives, he was at all of my doctor visits and most of my treatments. I couldn’t have made it without him.
Mr. Bill’s journey started, we think, in late July. He was shaking out an old blanket and he thought a bug had bitten his nipple. Two months later, during a regular visit with his doctor, Bill casually mentioned the bite. It didn’t hurt and the only thing his doctor could see or feel was an inverted nipple.
The doctor told me to keep an eye on it and call him if anything changed. Several weeks later it was painful to the touch. We were in the doctor’s office the next day. Two days later he had a diagnostic mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy. His doctor called me Friday, November 13, a memorable date, and said Mr. Bill has breast cancer. It was 5 months and 6 days after my diagnosis. Our lives were forever changed. My caregiver became a survivor. This survivor became his caregiver.
Surgery followed on December 29. Mr. Bill had a mastectomy. Lumpectomies are rarely an option for men. Radiation was not an option. To reduce his chances of recurrence from about 35 percent to about 10 percent, he elected to do chemo. He had four rounds of treatment 3 weeks apart. One pegfilgrastim (Neulasta) shot, given to reduce his risk of infection, nearly did him in with a week of bone pain. The pain meds didn’t help. Three days after chemo No. 4, he lost most of his remaining eyesight. He was devastated. On top of that, 7 days later, he developed a severe case of cellulitis (a skin infection) on his leg and nearly went septic. This was our lowest time. But his eyesight returned to where it was and with 2 months of help from visiting nurses, his leg is healed.
This journey has brought us much closer together, and made our lives stronger. It has taught us not to sweat the small stuff. Even our sense of humor has improved. We have received a lot of support. For that we are grateful. Every new day is a gift and brings us blessings.
We don’t know of any couples that have both had breast cancer at the same time. If you are such a couple or know of any couple in our situation, we would love to hear from you or them. Please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.