A husband and wife who were diagnosed with cancer within months of each other said that beating the illness together has made them an even stronger couple.
Michelle Murdock, 39, and her husband Brian, 39, from Chicago, Illinois, renewed their wedding vows twice during the difficult time and are now celebrating being given the all-clear.
Their troubles began in 2015 when Brian, a system engineer, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a cancer of the blood. The father of two underwent immunotherapy and chemotherapy to tackle the illness, with Michelle by his side.
The couple, who are parents to Madison, 8, and Logan, 5, was just celebrating the end of Brian’s treatment when Michelle discovered a lump in her left breast in November 2015.
Michelle, a credit manager, was then diagnosed with breast cancer the following January and underwent a double mastectomy weeks later.
Meanwhile, as Michelle just finished an intensive course of chemotherapy and was in the middle of radiation therapy, Brian’s cancer relapsed in September 2016.
The pair, who would travel together to their local cancer unit for treatment, said battling their conditions simultaneously has made them an even stronger couple.
“In a way, Brian’s cancer diagnosis prepared us for mine,” Michelle said. “When he was sick, I begged God not to take the kids’ Daddy.”
She further added: “When I was diagnosed I tried to push myself forward and put mind over matter.
“After I was diagnosed I had a bilateral mastectomy and surgery to remove fat from my stomach to make natural breasts.
“In May I started chemotherapy and I had eight rounds of that. It was in the middle of my radiation that Brian relapsed.”
Brian said: “When you are told you have cancer, you immediately think, ‘What are we going to do?’ Your mind does go to the worst things.
“At that time my prognosis was very good but when Michelle was diagnosed it was frightening.
“It kicked me in the gut. I knew we had to be really strong for our children.
“When I was re-diagnosed I felt like we had become old hands at this.
“We were fighting cancer for over a year at that point and when I was told it was back, I wasn’t upset. I just needed to fight.”
The couple were open with their children about their illnesses but made a point to avoid the word “cancer” fearing the negative connotations.
“You worry about what you will tell your kids,” Michelle said. “We explained that Daddy and Mommy were sick and were taking medicine to get better.”
Michelle also mentioned how the couple’s employers were extremely supportive, which helped them through a financially difficult time.
The mother of two is now cancer-free, and Brian finished his last treatment in October 2018.
The parents said they now approach their lives with a new perspective.
Michelle said: “As a couple, having cancer has changed our perspective.
“It opened my eyes to what is important. Life is really short and you only have right now.
Brian also mentioned: “Before I got sick, I was very work orientated.
“Now my family is my priority.
“I still work hard, but if I had the choice of spending Saturday at work to get ahead or spending the day with my kids, the kids win every time.”
The couple renewed their wedding vows twice, marking the occasions with ceremonies in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Oahu, Hawaii.
Michelle said: “It was important for us to do that because after everything we’ve been through we cherish each other even more.
“When you go through cancer together you realize how strong your partner is. Brian always puts us first and keeps us strong.”
“My wife is amazing,” said Brian. “She took care of everyone. She was the rock of our family. She made sure the kids were taken care of. She’s just an amazing woman.”
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