UPDATE: This story published on Aug. 11, 2011. Jim Huffman passed away on Aug. 28, 2012. You can read his obituary and the familyâ€™s guest book here.
â€œBelieve,â€ she says. â€œI have to â€˜believe.â€™â€
She and her husband, Jim, had done everything right. Sheâ€™s 49; heâ€™s 51. At their ages, they both needed regular cancer screenings and had them. But nine months after an all-clear screening, Jim was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had rapidly spread to his bones.
â€œThereâ€™s no cure,â€ Connie says. â€œAll we can do is treatment to help extend his life. But I have to hope and believe that tomorrow there will be a new drug or treatment that will change everything.â€
Good news came recently, Connie says, when they learned that a new chemotherapy treatment had been approved for her husbandâ€™s cancer type. â€œWe donâ€™t know what effect it will have, but itâ€™s good to know itâ€™s available to him when heâ€™s done with his current treatment,â€ she says.
When they heard about Jimâ€™s cancer, family and friends recommended Dr. Jeff Sharman, medical oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, who now oversees Jimâ€™s treatment.
â€œHeâ€™s the best of the best, â€œConnie says. â€œAnd itâ€™s not just him, itâ€™s the rest of the staff as well. The women at the cancer center â€“ the nurses we see every day â€“ they are awesome. They always have smiles on their faces, which is so important. And they treat us so well.â€
Connie initially heard the Believe Institute message on the radio and her ears perked up. That one simple word, â€œBelieve,â€ resonated with her and has helped her cope with each new challenge she and Jim face.
Inspired by the message, Connie created handmade signs, including a colorfully embellished pennant with the letters B-E-L-I-E-V-E that now hangs in the chemotherapy suite at WVCIâ€™s RiverBend location.
But Connie didnâ€™t stop with the pennant. Artfully sketched and tattooed on the inside of her right ankle is the word â€œBelieve,â€ the one-word that has seen her through to this point.
Joanna Middleton, a registered nurse at WVCIâ€™s RiverBend location, says the enthusiasm displayed by Connie and her family has been contagious: â€œThey are so gracious, and they have so much fight in them, as so many of our patients do.â€
While tears still come easily for Connie at times, she remains focused on being strong for her husband. â€œI have a lot of will power, and itâ€™s my job to keep him strong,â€ she says. Sometimes, that means encouraging him to eat when heâ€™s not hungry or trying to work through her own emotions so she can be there for him when heâ€™s feeling tired and worn out after chemo.
Afloat on what seems like a turbulent sea, Connie and Jim remain steadfast in the belief that anything is possible.
â€œAnyone who walks into the chemo room sees those signs â€“ you canâ€™t miss them,â€ Connie says. â€œI really hope they inspire other people like it has inspired me. Weâ€™ve got to believe in our hearts that thereâ€™s a way to beat this.â€