Chicagoans Michelle Murdock, 39, and husband Brian, 39, were both diagnosed with different types of cancer just months apart, starting in May 2015.
It all started when Brian, who works as a systems engineer, found out he had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a deadly cancer of the body’s disease-fighting network. He completed sessions in both immunotherapy and chemotherapy to fight the disease. Michelle and their children Madison, 8, and Logan, 5, supported him throughout his recovery.
When they were still celebrating the end of the father’s treatment, the mother suddenly noticed a lump in her left breast in November.
Michelle, who works as a credit manager, heard the devastating news in early 2016 that she had breast cancer and quickly had a double mastectomy procedure within weeks of being diagnosed.
While she was recovering from an intensive round of chemotherapy sessions, and still undergoing radiation therapy, Brian’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma suddenly returned in September 2016.
Can you even imagine? Michelle and Brian Murdock can. Read what it’s like when both you AND your spouse have cancer at the same time and you’re trying to raise a young family. https://t.co/GsrCNImxXP
— The Underbelly (@TheUnder_Belly) May 29, 2018
Although the couple took turns battling cancer, they found the life-threatening conditions only strengthened their relationship and love for each other.
“When he was sick, I begged God not to take the kids’ Daddy,” Michelle told the Daily Mail. “In a way, Brian’s cancer diagnosis prepared us for mine.”
She said each time the horrifying news came, she would try not to panic and just focus on what needed to be done.
“After I was diagnosed I had a bilateral mastectomy and surgery to remove fat from my stomach to make natural breasts,” she said. “In May, I started chemotherapy and I had eight rounds of that. It was in the middle of my radiation that Brian relapsed.”
Brian used each diagnosis as a chance to reevaluate his priorities in life and make a new beginning for himself and his family.
“When you are told you have cancer, you immediately think, ‘What are we going to do?’ Your mind does go to the worst things,” he 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.”
By the time Brian’s medical condition relapsed he felt much more confident.
“We were fighting cancer for over a year at that point and when I was told it was back, I wasn’t upset,” he said. “I just needed to fight.”
To drive the point home, the couple were compelled to renew their wedding vows twice with separate ceremonies held in Las Vegas, Nevada 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.”
Brian praised the love of his life for also helping to take care of the family.
“My wife is amazing,” he said. “She took care of everyone, she was the rock of our family, she made sure the kids were taken care of.”
They lovebirds also kept no secrets from their children, keeping Madison and Logan updated about the progress of their recovery as they received advice from health professionals.
Michelle did her best not to use the word “cancer” as it often carries a fairly negative undertone.
“We explained that Daddy and Mommy were sick and were taking medicine to get better,” she said. “You worry about what you will tell your kids.”
Thankfully, their employers were very supportive and allowed them to continue working in their jobs after they fully recovered.
Brian completed his final treatment session back in October 2018, while Michelle has been informed she no longer has cancer. They have completely changed their outlook on life.
“As a couple, having cancer has changed our perspective,” Michelle said. “It opened my eyes to what is important. Life is really short and you only have right now.”
Brian has vowed not to go to extremes with his work and take some time to enjoy the simpler things in life
“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.”