For Matt and Dani Fontanesi, every thing was going in line with plan. The American newlyweds had simply been married in February and had been ramping up for his or her honeymoon that August. They would depart their dwelling in New Zealand to embark on a coast-to-coast tour of United States, climbing in Idaho, then sightseeing in Washington, D.C., New York Metropolis, and San Diego. After their travels wrapped up, they’d work on a brand new journey: beginning a household.
Matt developed a little bit of a chilly earlier than leaving however didn’t suppose a lot of it—August is winter in New Zealand, in spite of everything. “I used to be 33, and I ignored it,” says Matt. A little bit of soup and a vitamin-packed smoothie, and he’d be good to go.
Throughout the first 14-hour leg of their flight, although, Matt’s easy chilly developed right into a excessive fever and intense sweats. By the point they bought to Idaho, Matt crawled straight into mattress, hoping some relaxation would kind him out. However as three days handed and Matt stayed in mattress, Dani dragged him to the ER for some antibiotics.
When the physician got here again with the blood take a look at outcomes, his lighthearted, let’s-get-you-better angle from earlier had noticeably modified. “He regarded visibly shaken and ashen, and he stored wanting down,” says Dani. “I assumed, ‘What occurred within the subsequent room?’”
Nevertheless it was Matt the physician was frightened about. The affected person’s white blood cells had been dangerously low. It was both AIDS or most cancers.
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With Matt’s immune system down, even germs that may usually simply trigger sniffles could possibly be lethal, so he was put into isolation on the hospital. “We couldn’t even have the window open as a result of even pollen from flowers may are available and kill him,” says Dani.
Three days later, the prognosis got here: acute myeloid leukemia. The blood most cancers is uncommon, affecting lower than 20,000 new folks yearly, in line with the American Most cancers Society. Be sure you know these 16 silent signs of leukemia.
About 90 p.c of Matt’s blood was cancerous, so he’d have to start out chemotherapy straight away. There was a catch—remedy would imply Matt may by no means have children. They tried to protect a few of Matt’s sperm, however he was too sick. Even realizing their probabilities of beginning a household had been gone, they’d no selection however to proceed.
“They stated it will worsen earlier than it will get higher. It bought a lot worse,” says Matt. “Fevers of 105 to 107 each evening. I’d shake violently and be packed in ice. I misplaced 35 kilos within the first 35 days.”
Chemotherapy clearly was not sufficient, so Matt wanted a bone marrow transplant. His sister was the right match, and so they boarded one other airplane to San Diego for the remedy. Because the Fontanesis bought able to board the flight, Matt requested his father-in-law to push his gurney round on the tarmac. “It had been two weeks since I’d felt the solar, and it wasn’t clear if I’d ever be out of the hospital once more,” says Matt. “It was this second of ‘seize your freedom whilst you can.’”
At UC San Diego Well being, the bone marrow transplant worn out what was left of Matt’s immune system—and removed the most cancers—making means for brand new white blood cells to repopulate. “You’ve gotten a brand new immune system, nevertheless it’s as efficient as a child’s, so it is advisable be in isolation,” says Matt. His immune system was too weak to be in public, however Matt was robust sufficient to go “dwelling” to a brand new residence close to the hospital.
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The Fontanesis misplaced every thing again in New Zealand. The couple had stop their jobs—Matt as a structural engineer and Dani as a company lawyer—and gave up their dwelling, their automotive, and all their belongings. All they’d left had been two weeks’ value of garments they packed. “In that first yr [of marriage], we put each single phrase of our vows to the take a look at,” says Matt. “It was such a strong, galvanizing expertise.”
In the course of Matt’s combat towards most cancers, a weblog they’d began was picked up by New Zealand media, and the publicity meant their GoFundMe donations web page began filling up—quick. They acquired all $80,000 they wanted inside a couple of week, a lot of it from full strangers.
The remedy went higher than anticipated, and yr after his prognosis, Matt was already again at work in San Diego. However he and his spouse have by no means stopped fascinated with the unprecedented generosity that got here their means. “The sensation of being blessed in a short time grew to become an emotional burden. How will we responsibly settle for this?” says Matt. “We acknowledged we would have liked to pay this ahead and to be ambassadors for leukemia.”
The 2 have been volunteering with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, supporting different households going by means of related struggles. “Probably the most impactful second is once you see these households pulling behind them a little bit pink wagon with an image of the kid they misplaced to blood most cancers,” says Matt, who continues to be cancer-free. “It’s so unhappy for us, wanting to start out a household and to see somebody who additionally had that stolen from them.”
August 24 is often a bittersweet day when the Fontanesis rejoice Matt’s power on the anniversary of his prognosis. However this yr, the day introduced a miracle: Dani discovered she was pregnant. The ’ fertility remedies had paid off, and so they’re anticipating a child boy.
“It actually got here full circle,” says Dani. “Now we have a brand new appreciation for all times and a gratitude for every thing. Our lives are richer now due to it.”
Subsequent, try these inspiring quotes from most cancers survivors.
This text first appeared on Reader’s Digest.