Michelle Murdock and her husband Brian, both 39, 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 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, were just celebrating the end of Brian’s treatment when Michelle discovered a lump in her left breast in Nov. 2015.
Michelle, a credit manager, from Chicago, was diagnosed with breast cancer the following January and underwent a double mastectomy weeks later.
She had just finished an intensive course of chemotherapy and was in the middle of radiation therapy when Brian, a systems engineer, relapsed in Sept. 2016.
The pair, who would travel together to their local cancer unit for treatment, said battling their conditions simultaneously has made them an even tighter 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. 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,” she said. “It was in the middle of my radiation that Brian relapsed.”
“When you are told you have cancer, you immediately think, ‘What are we going to do?’ Your mind does go to the worst things,” Brian said. “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,” he said. “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 said 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. The parents say they now approach their lives with a new perspective.
“As a couple, having cancer has changed our perspective,” she said. “It opened my eyes to what is important. Life is really short and you only have right now.
“Before I got sick, I was very work orientated,” Brian said. “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, and Oahu, Hawaii.
“It was important for us to do that because after everything we’ve been through we cherish each other even more,” MIchelle said. “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,” Brian said. “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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