I met Andrew Heard at Baylor University in 2005. He was a seminary student who played on the Baylor football team, and I was a business major who cheered on the coed squad for Baylor.
We were set up on a blind date by mutual friends and married in 2007.
Andrew's history of Hodgkin lymphoma
From the moment I met Andrew, I was blown away by his intelligence and his drive.
One of the many things I found fascinating about him was that he'd already written a book about his cancer experience in high school.
Andrew was 18 when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma
, which was the size of a cantaloupe in his chest.
He received cancer treatment at MD Anderson, where he endured six months of chemotherapy and two months of radiation. He then went into remission.
This all happened before I met Andrew.
Right around the time we got married, he was considered medically cured.
Warnings of a possible second cancer
Andrew warned me that the cancer could come back in the form of leukemia at some point and that I should be prepared because he might not be able to have children.
The latter was not a problem. We welcomed our sweet baby girl, Ellie Grace Heard, in February 2011.
A year after Ellie was born, Andrew started having a lot of trouble breathing. He ended up in the hospital with pneumonia and never really recovered.
A surprising stage 4 lung cancer diagnosis
Six months later, we found out Andrew had stage 4 squamous cell lung cancer.
This was so shocking because we'd assumed that if the cancer did come back, it would be leukemia. We'd never considered the possibility that Andrew would have lung cancer, especially since he didn't smoke.
We assumed all the radiation to his chest years ago could have caused the lung cancer, but that's just an assumption.
We have been coming to MD Anderson for the past nine months getting chemotherapy, radiation, gamma knife and currently whole brain radiation.
The cancer has spread into parts of Andrew's bones, brain, some lymph nodes and his liver. The prognosis doesn't look good, but we know we're in the best hands possible.
Creating a community of hope
I didn't think at age 28 that I would be the caregiver for my 30-year-old husband with lung cancer, but life sometimes throws you curve balls and you just do your best to swing hard and look up.
One way Andrew and I have been trying to use a terrible situation to create purpose and meaning in our lives is by sharing our story, challenges and inspiration through our blogs (AndrewBHeard.com and BaileyHeard.com).
I feel so blessed to share our life experiences in hopes that we can create community and lift others up through difficult times.