My name is Laura Lutarewych and I’m a 33 year old married mother of two. I’ve lived in Chicago since I graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a masters in speech communication back in 1999. I worked as a software trainer and ended up as a payroll analyst in an outsourcing firm.
In July of 2008, I was laid off and became a stay-at-home mom. Luckily, that was the plan all along. I hadn’t even wanted to go back to work after I’d given birth to my daughter on September 20, 2007, but my manager called and lured me back (after my maternity leave ended) with the promise of a retention bonus and severance package if I came back for three months. She needed my help transitioning a client from our company to our competitors.
I decided, for the sake of the family (monetarily speaking) that I could suck it up for twelve weeks and go back, though the day I left my daughter in the hands of my fully competent mother, my heart broke. I knew that this wasn’t how I wanted it. I had to keep reminding myself that it was only for 12 weeks and after that day it’d only be for another eleven weeks and six days. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I ended up “forced” to stay an additional four months if I wanted to reap my cash rewards.
When the day finally arrived, I was the only one of my team members that left with a smile and bounce in his/her step. I really felt bad for my co-workers, but so glad that my future was that of a stay-at-home mom tending to my most precious treasure – Atia (pronounced ah-tee-AH), but being a stay-at-home mom was certainly a lot harder than I had anticipated…
I have been married for five years and during that time, my relationship with Steve has been tried and tried again. Fortunately, we are a strong unit and happily married. I’m not just saying that to paint a lovely picture. It’s the truth. Steve’s proven himself to be strong and fully committed through good times and bad.
You see, ten months after we said our vows I was diagnosed with stage 3b melanoma, skin cancer. It was the strangest thing. Several months before our wedding, my left hand middle fingernail was torn off while I was adjusting my bra strap under my tank top. I dropped to my knees in pain and shock. Up to that point, it was one of the most excruciating experiences I’d had. It left me with an exposed, bloody, hypersensitive finger tip.
I went to the dermatologist and she assured me that it was just a traumatized nail bed that required time to regrow the nail. I was prescribed an anti-fungal medication and told to simply continue to observe it. The doctor was confident that it would grow back. So, I gave it time, but it didn’t get any better.
Months and months later I went back to the dermatologist. My regular doctor wasn’t available so someone else saw me. Immediately she informed me that I needed to see a specialist and set up an appointment that day. I was rushed, in a cab, over to the Skin Cancer Institute of Chicago (my head was spinning). I had a biopsy and within a few days had the results that I had cancer.
Up to that point, THAT was the scariest day of my life. I traveled to several hospitals searching for multiple “second opinions”. I ultimately had a partial finger amputation to remove the tumor, a full lymph node dissection in both my left elbow and armpit (the disease had spread to a single lymph node in each place), and underwent a year of Interferon treatment (similar to chemo).
It was such a low point. Many times over the course of treatment I thought I was going to die. It was scary and debilitating both literally and figuratively. Steve saw me at my worst. He held my hair when I threw up; he helped me into the bathtub for water therapy when I could no longer stand the excruciating joint pain and he heroically cleaned the tubing from my drains after surgery. It was a disgusting job, but he did it.
I was no longer the outgoing, bubbly, cute woman that he had married. I kept thinking, If he leaves me, I totally understand. He didn’t sign up for this. No one deserves to have to do all of this in their first year of marriage, but he did it and it has been three years now since I ended treatment. I’m anxiously looking forward to the five year mark when I’m officially considered CURED!
You know how they say, everything happens for a reason? Well, this experience had only just begun to prepare us for what we would be going through two and a half years later…