Heartbreak and Hope Over the Internet

6 years ago

Sitting in the doctor’s office, her hand wrapped in her husband’s, Elisa Bond, a 36-year-old New Yorker, was delivered a startling blow –- she had breast cancer. Her first response was to laugh aloud –- life couldn’t actually be this cruel, right? It had to be a joke.

And yet, it wasn’t a joke –- just a cruel twist of fate. Not nine days earlier, on Valentine’s Day, Elisa and her husband, Nathan, had sat through a similar discussion with Nathan’s doctor. Nathan was diagnosed with Stage II rectal cancer at the age of 38. His doctor delivered the grime news: Nathan has a 60% chance of surviving five years or more. Elisa is facing similarly depressing odds; her aggressive Stage IV breast cancer has spread throughout her body, leaving her a 16% chance of surviving the next five years.

“What couple gets cancer at exactly the same time? This brings empathy for what one's spouse is going through to a whole new level,” wrote Elisa on her blog, where she is brutally honest in exploring the pair’s unfathomable situation. “What am I fighting? It's a ghost,” she continues. “I'm fighting a ghost. It's lurking in my body, but I can't grab it by its throat and punch it and kick it and yell it and punch it some more. It's a part of me. It's embedded itself in me.”

Compounding an already terrible situation: Elisa and Nathan have a daughter, Sadie, who is only eighteen months old and far too young to understand the gravity of her parents’ situation.

“This can't be Sadie's story,” writes her mother. “There can only be one ending to this, because I didn't go through a horrendous pregnancy, thirty-nine hours of non-medicated labor and delivery, a broken vagina for nine months post-delivery, and no sleep for the past seventeen months not to get to watch this beautiful child grow up, graduate, travel the world, speak six languages, win So You Think You Can Dance, solve the Middle East peace crisis, cure ALL cancer, invent an app for teleportation, find the perfect partner, have kids, and grow old.”

It will be a statistical miracle if Elisa and Nathan both live to see her seventh birthday.

If this story is not the stuff of heartbreak, I don’t know what is. The thought of two parents undergoing aggressive chemotherapy at the same time, wondering what will happen if they both succumb to the disease, is enough to bring a stranger in North Carolina to her knees ... which is exactly what I did when I heard Elisa and Nathan’s story.

I closed my laptop, got down on my knees, and I prayed right there in my living room for two people that I’d never met. I prayed for their daughter, a beautiful baby girl that I know only in pictures and brief descriptions in news stories and on the Bond’s family blog. I prayed for their family and friends. And with each prayer, my heart broke a little.

People sometimes ask me why I share so much of my own life on my personal blog. The mundane stuff -– recipes and workouts, daily musings and unique YouTube videos – -well, these things are just for fun. But I’m drawn to sharing and reading about the real stuff, the stuff that heartbreak is made out of, because it reminds me how closely connected we all are. Our experiences are so different, but the emotions are the same. Who cannot identify with the tragedy that the Bonds are going through? I have no idea how it would feel to be in their position, but I can certainly empathize –- and I can pray.

I am not the only one drawn to the Bond’s story. Thousands of supporters from all over the world have visited to their blog and Facebook page, offering words of support and monetary donations to help pay for medical expenses, transportation, and extra child care. As of late March, the couple had received more than $25,000 in donations from Internet "friends."

The truth is simple: Our ability to feel heartbreak and act on it, selflessly and undying, is a beautiful thing. To lift each other up, to pray for strangers, to search for the positive in the face of so much negative -– this is the best part of being human. It is truly, truly beautiful how we come together, as families and as strangers on the Internet, in the face of heartbreak.

“If I had the choice for Nathan and I not to have cancer, I would take it. In a heartbeat, I would take it for Sadie's sake, for our parents, and for all those people who love us and worry about us,” wrote Elisa. “We didn't choose our diagnoses, but we do choose to be in a state of gratitude.”

To read more, check out Elisa and Nathan’s blog and the Team Bond Facebook page, which is run by their friends. You can make a donation to Elisa, Nathan, and Sadie via this page.

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