Meet Devon! Where to even begin with this incredible woman! She was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma when she was 33 years old. 33! The same age I am now. When her and I met, I immediately loved her and quickly knew that she would be someone who would FOREVER be a special friend in my life! We spent so many late nights chatting and sharing stories when I worked as her nurse. Those memories are the ones I think of the most. Not the nursing duties I had to do for her. For her story, I am going to share it a little differently. She and her husband have always been amazing writers. I am happy to share below her story in her words! But first, I have to share this image (below)! The image on the left is her and I when she was going through chemo and the image on the right is us now! My heart smiles cheek to cheek when I see this!!!
My name is Devon Stoddard. I’m a 38 years old wife and dog mom of two Australian shepherds. My husband and I moved to Arizona in 2008 from Michigan. In 2013 I was training for a ½ marathon when I started to have knee pain. This prompted me to see a doctor, in which, I was eventually diagnosed with High Grade fibroblastic Osteosarcoma in my left tibia. I was 33 years old and my life was literally flipped upside down. I went from working full time, running, working out and living an active fun life, to the complete opposite. I was unable to work. I had never ending doctor appointments and tests. I couldn’t walk without the use of a walker or crutches for 9 months. I did 21 weeks of inpatient chemo therapy over a course of a year. We had to make 3 trips to the ER with two stays in the ICU. And I had to have a total of eight surgical procedures on my left leg. Of course with chemo therapy, there comes collateral damage. The port they put in my chest to receive chemo caused damage to my heart. I had to have a hysterectomy due to complications of chemo. I have constant ringing in my ear, along with hearing lost. I’m also in pain pretty much 24/7 due to all the surgery’s and nerve damage. If anyone has ever had cancer or a loved one with cancer, then they know how important the 5 year mark is. After being in remission for 4 years and 9 months, in July of 2018, my osteosarcoma made a comeback. It decided to make an appearance in my right lung. They fortunately found it very early and they had to just remove my right middle lobe. There is no chemo needed at this time, however, we are still currently pending other test results to make sure it is not in my left hip now.
I was asked, what have you learned from going through this journey? I can honestly say, cancer has taught me a lot about my family, my husband, my faith and me.
My family and friends have been the best support group ever. Having all of my family out of state was really tough on both ends. I went to Michigan right before my treatment started to spend some time with them and to let them know that I was “okay”. I wanted to have some control when it came to losing my hair. My sister is a hairdresser, so I asked her to cut my hair. (I was very happy to donate 13 inches to charity.) With family and friends surrounding me, we all laughed and cried together. We decided then, that we would start a Facebook page so that we could keep everyone up to date with my journey. My step mother-in-law suggested DEVONSTRONG and it clicked. Having that page is still one of the best things. It helped me get through some of my darkest days of treatment.
With my protocol I basically spent 2 weeks in the hospital getting chemo and then would be home for 2 weeks. While I was in the hospital I felt good for the most part. It was when I was home I felt bad. Our family all agreed to fly out at separate times to help us when I was home for the 2 weeks. My husband still had to work and wanted someone at home to watch over me because I would get really weak from the chemo. Also, it was nice to have help to take me to doctor appointments. Not one family member batted an eye before accepting the challenge and making a reservation at “Hotel Stoddard”. Our friends started a go-fund me account because I couldn’t work and it also helped pay for the flights for our family to come help us. I come from a small town called Ubly, Michigan, and the out pour of love, support and donations from them were so generously overwhelming. On top of the gofund me, there were benefits, gifts, and cards coming in all the time from people I didn’t even know. It really made you feel good to know how good people can be. I’m not sure where we would be today without it. As anybody going through cancer knows, having cancer isn’t cheap.
My husband has been my rock. I really couldn’t ask for better. If he could get away with it, he would wrap me in bubble wrap so no harm could come to me. He would roll me around everywhere though because we are always on adventures. The thing about my husband though, is that he forgets about himself. 3 months into my chemo he had a heart attack. 98% occluded LAD, AKA the widow maker. Thankfully, he was noticing the symptoms and we went to the hospital before he went into a full cardiac arrest. He would have died in his sleep that night. He was over stressed taking care of me and his genetics were working against him. This was a huge eye opener for us. Here we were 2 pretty healthy people and in 3 months’ time, this was where we stood. Yes, we were mad. Yes we cried. Yes we thought it wasn’t fair. But we won’t let ourselves stay in that funk. We always joke with each other that we could never get divorced because we are both to broken for anybody else to want us. As an outlet for him, he really dove into his weekly reflections on the DEVONSTRONG page. Writing his feelings and what we were experiencing was pretty good therapy for him. This is when I learned my husband was a really good writer.
I would say my faith grew much stronger. I believed in God before all of this, but I definitely talk to him a lot more now. Every time I say, “God, I know I can’t control this and I am in your hands” it always seems things fall into place. With all the conversations we have had, I never once asked him “Why me”. I will say sometimes however, “Could you just give us a break? Or, please stop because I can’t handle anymore.” For the most part, He listens. I also believe that God has a plan for us. Each stepping stone has been a lesson in something. You just have to always look for the good. I have met so many people through cancer that I wouldn’t know today. My life wouldn’t be complete without some of them. I also know that my story has changed and inspired people for the better. That makes my heart happy. I truly do know how blessed we have been though all of this.
Finally, with me, I have learned how strong I really am. You really don’t know until you are put in a situation how you would handle it, but I think I’ve handled myself well. Yes, sometimes I think…. I could have handled that one better, but over all I think I’ve done well. I loved that I’ve kept a sense of humor about things. I feel that laughter is the best medicine and it keeps you sane. When my husband told me that the lesion in my lung was for sure cancer, I asked him, ‘Do you know how to say cancer in Spanish? El cancer”….. Man I love my Deadpool. Staying positive for me was really important. Never once did I think that this was going to kill me. It’s all mind over matter. I’ve also learned that beauty is really all in my head. When I saw my leg for the first time after surgery, I told my doctor it looked beautiful. She kind of looked at me crazy and said, “No one has said that before”. I was like, “Are you kidding me! I still have it, which means I can still get pedicures!” Don’t get me wrong though. I struggled at first. My whole body has completely changed. I gained weight that I am still struggling to lose. I have so many scars, and Frankie (my nickname for my leg because it looks like Frankenstein) surely gets a lot of strange looks when exposed. But I don’t care anymore if people stare. These are my battle scars and I earned every one of them. I feel a sense of pride now. I know what I’ve been through to get them. That’s for me, and no one else.
Cancer sucks in so many ways, but watching your family and friends suffer because of you is the worst part for me. It’s my biggest struggle. I can handle the chemo. I can handle the pain. I handle all the side effects. I can’t handle watching the pain and suffering it has caused them. Cancer doesn’t just affect you, it affects everyone around you. But with saying that, if I could give anyone any advice going through this, it would be, don’t be afraid to ask for help. People feel helpless and want to do something, anything. Asking for help, helps them take their mind off of things for at least a minute.
If I could change things and not get cancer, I’m not sure I would. If not me, then it would be someone else. I wouldn’t want anybody else have to endure this. My life has changed because of cancer, some for the worst, but I like to more for the better. I enjoyed life a lot before cancer, but I think it’s even more beautiful now. I’l
l follow this journey God as planned for me and enjoy all that there is to love. Remember, we are never alone. Thank you Ryann for letting me share my story.
Special thanks to:
To read more about the Beauty in the Struggle series check out part 1