Jack, a 22 year old active duty soldier, a father, a husband, a son, a brother, a friend, & an inspiration to thousands around the world, was diagnosed with a rare form of NHL. On October 6th 2016, the world crumbled at our feet. Jack was diagnosed with stage 4b Anaplastic Large T cell Lymphoma. He went through 6 rounds of gruesome chemotherapy. On February 9th 2017, he finished what we had thought to be his last round of chemotherapy. We were told he was on the road to recovery & was in clinical remission. A second start, a second chance at life. Little did we know that 4 weeks later, our worst fear would become a nightmare once again...
We thought it was over, but the fight was just beginning....
February 9th, 2017 was supposed to be a day of celebration. A day of happiness. A day to the start of a new beginning. A second chance at life. It was the day my husband finished chemotherapy. 6 rounds of aggressive, grueling chemo. 6 rounds of chemo that SHOULD have helped him. 6 rounds that DID help him, until the cancer became resistant to the treatment. It was the day we longed for, the day we looked FORWARD to, because we THOUGHT it would be the day we could put cancer behind us, & start to live a new normal life. We went to the hospital for that last, final round. We heard the IV pump go off for the last final time. The nurse took off the LAST Nuelasta patch. We took some pictures, & then my husband headed to "THAT" bell. The bell that is so meaningful. The bell that you get to ring after finishing your very last round of treatment. The beautiful "ring" to a new chance at life. So my husband rang it, loud & proud! & when I say loud & proud, you best believe I mean it. He rang that bell to the point it CAME APART! We then left to go home. As we pulled down our neighborhood, every mailbox had a lime green ribbon on it, along with lime green balloons everywhere! Definitely showed us how much support we had from our community during the last few months of fighting this beast called Cancer. We went about our day, celebrated, laughed & joked. Told our two boys that daddy is CANCER FREE! No more cancer. No more chemo. No more long hospital stays. The next few weeks were great. Jack started feeling great, his hair even started growing a bit! We went to the beach. We had family come visit. We were finally starting to feel "normal" again. & then it happened. Jack started getting what we thought were "cramps" in his left calf. Of course, we thought maybe he just bruised it. In the back of your head you start to think " cancer ". & then you convince yourself by saying "No, there is no way. He just finished chemotherapy. There is just no way." We let it go for a few days. & then it got worse. It got to the point he could hardly walk up the stairs. & then one day he woke up, & his shoulder was sore. He thought maybe he slept wrong. My stomach started to turn & I knew it was time to call his oncologist. I remember calling him bright & early, & he told us to come in. We went to see him & he said Jack looked great & said he doesn't believe it's the cancer. He thought it might be a bruised calf & just some soreness near his shoulder from sleeping wrong. He ordered some scans to be done within the next few days just to make sure it was nothing serious. We went home that day & Jack went to work in the yard. He did the grass, picked weeds & later that evening came inside to take a shower. I was laying on the couch with our boys watching a movie. Jack came to lay with us & I got up to use the restroom. I remember walking out & Jack said "Babe can you get the thermometer?' & I went into panic mode. I asked "For who? The boys?" & he said no, for me, I'm feeling really warm. My heart sank. I was praying it was nothing, praying that he just felt warm from being in the sun all day in the yard. We took his temperature, & 10 seconds later, we saw the numbers. 102.5. I couldn't believe it. He couldn't believe it. I called our babysitter, she met us at the hospital & took the boys back to her house. Test after test, labs after labs. It was all pointing to one thing. Cancer. Again. The next morning, they did a biopsy of the calf. The following day, pathology results were in. Lymphoma. Again. Just after a short MONTH. A month after finishing 6 rounds of gruesome chemotherapy. It was back. I remember sitting in that hospital room, my body went numb. My tears were hitting the floor, harder then before. My husband was squeezing my hand, crying, asking why. How. Everything was going so well & then one day things took a turn for the worse. The doctor stared blankly at us, & was shocked just as much as we were. He apologized over & over again, told us he's never seen it happen like this, this fast. Next was to have a PET scan. & that PET scan revealed our worst nightmare once again, stage 4. Stage 4 Anaplastic Large T Cell lymphoma. Except this time, with very little hope. Very little hope for a cure. Until we found out about the CD30 CAR T CELL clinical trial that Jack is eligible for. Jack will be apart of that trial at UNC hospital. He goes in May 10th to start testing, to make sure his body is ready for the fight. That specific trial JUST became available a few months ago. Just in time when Jack was diagnosed for the second time. That is our hope. So, here we are. Getting ready to beat this for the SECOND time. We WILL beat this. We are stronger than cancer. God is above all things. & once this nightmare is finally over, Jack will have one heck of a testimony to share with the world & give others HOPE that ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE! #StillmanStrong #StrongerThanCancer #TeamStillman