Forty years ago, a friend introduced Hugo to the neighbor girl who lived three houses down. His life has never been the same.
Today, Hugo and Amanda share 37 years of marriage, two daughters, two grandchildren and have another grandchild on the way. They’ve also navigated multiple cancers diagnoses, a variety of treatments and participation in several clinical trials.
A routine trip to the gynecologist in 2000 revealed a lump, which was soon confirmed as breast cancer. Within a week, Amanda had received surgery and was starting four rounds of chemotherapy and 30 days of radiation. “At the time, the information in the Internet was very limited,” Hugo, recalled.
“As a father and a husband we want to protect our family and we struggle to balance the information yet spare our family. As a husband my duty is to protect her and not only inspire confidence that everything will be ok, but also be understanding or her fears and feelings.”
“One of the hardest things was having to go home and give her bad news. After surgery, the doctor called to say that the margins weren’t clear and she needed another operation. I pulled into the driveway and heard her laughing with my brother and mother. Those who have being on this road know how difficult is to give this kind of news to the person that you love the most. But Amanda’s resiliency and love for life is awe-inspiring.”
They called on that resilience when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that required more surgery, iodine and radiation treatments. After treatment, they enjoyed seven happy, cancer-free years until 2011 when a checkup revealed elevated markers and testing confirmed that cancer had metastasized to her lungs. Since 2011, she’s been receiving palliative care and has participated in several clinical trials.
“As much as I want to, I cannot protect her and the girls from everything. I accept that this is our reality that every three weeks we have to go for treatment, that every three months we have to go for scans. I accept the reality of my life. What’s difficult for me is to accept that she has to go through this.”
Hugo’s advice to new caregivers is straightforward. “Don’t be afraid to admit that you’re scared. But don’t be paralyzed. Be your own advocate. Don’t ever stop telling her how much you love her and that you are going to be there for her. “
He encourages caregivers to reach out for connection. “My wife was the first person in either of our families to be diagnosed. Cancer wasn’t something people talked about. Cancer is not going to stop us from living a full life. Starting the conversation helps break down taboos.”
“I know tomorrow is not promised to any one. We must enjoy today. We can’t waste time crying for tomorrow. When this first happened, I’d always say ‘One day at a time….’
“Since she was first diagnosed back in 2000, our love for each other got stronger. We renewed our wedding vows on our 30th anniversary, we celebrated out daughters sweet sixteens’ and weddings, we received God’s blessing in the form of two grandkids and are looking forward to meeting our third grandchild soon. All those things happened while we were living our life “One Day at a Time.”