Wife, caregiver finds strength in “Believe” message

UPDATE: This story published on Aug. 11, 2011. Jim Huffman passed away on Aug. 28, 2012. You can read his obituary and the family’s guest book here.

Connie and Jim Huffman believe anything is possible.

Connie and Jim Huffman believe anything is possible.

Like an ocean wave crashing into shore, Connie Huffman knows the shock, disbelief and sense of injustice that washes over you when you’re told a loved one has cancer. Instead of letting it overcome her, Connie grabbed hold of a single word that has served as her buoy when she feels like she’s struggling in a sea of uncertainty.

“Believe,” she says. “I have to ‘believe.’”

She and her husband, Jim, had done everything right. She’s 49; he’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.

“There’s no cure,” Connie says. “All 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.”

Good news came recently, Connie says, when they learned that a new chemotherapy treatment had been approved for her husband’s cancer type. “We don’t know what effect it will have, but it’s good to know it’s available to him when he’s done with his current treatment,” she says.

When they heard about Jim’s cancer, family and friends recommended Dr. Jeff Sharman, medical oncologist at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute, who now oversees Jim’s treatment.

“He’s the best of the best, “Connie says. “And it’s not just him, it’s the rest of the staff as well. The women at the cancer center – the nurses we see every day – they are awesome. They always have smiles on their faces, which is so important. And they treat us so well.”

Connie initially heard the Believe Institute message on the radio and her ears perked up. That one simple word, “Believe,” resonated with her and has helped her cope with each new challenge she and Jim face.

“We were all amazed and humbled by the ‘believe’ décor,” says Erikka Alonso-Eakin, a registered nurse at WVCI’s RiverBend location, where the signs are on display.

“We were all amazed and humbled by the ‘believe’ décor,” says Erikka Alonso-Eakin, a registered nurse at WVCI’s RiverBend location, where the signs are on display.

“Sometimes, you feel like you’re alone in this. But you’re not. There are other people going through the same thing,” she says.

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 WVCI’s RiverBend location.

But Connie didn’t stop with the pennant. Artfully sketched and tattooed on the inside of her right ankle is the word “Believe,” the one-word that has seen her through to this point.

Joanna Middleton, a registered nurse at WVCI’s RiverBend location, says the enthusiasm displayed by Connie and her family has been contagious: “They are so gracious, and they have so much fight in them, as so many of our patients do.”

While tears still come easily for Connie at times, she remains focused on being strong for her husband. “I have a lot of will power, and it’s my job to keep him strong,” she says. Sometimes, that means encouraging him to eat when he’s not hungry or trying to work through her own emotions so she can be there for him when he’s feeling tired and worn out after chemo.

Connie Huffman and her daughter recently got matching “Believe” tattoos.

Connie Huffman and her daughter recently got matching “Believe” tattoos.

“Chemo is only part of the battle, and that spirit to fight is so important,” says Maria Haaby, a nurse at WVCI RiverBend who’s been touched by Connie’s positive attitude.

Afloat on what seems like a turbulent sea, Connie and Jim remain steadfast in the belief that anything is possible.

“Anyone who walks into the chemo room sees those signs – you can’t miss them,” Connie says. “I really hope they inspire other people like it has inspired me. We’ve got to believe in our hearts that there’s a way to beat this.”

Josh Kermisch


Posted August 11, 2011

Comments

  • J Jones August 11, 2011 8:41 AM

    Connie, your strength and positive attitude is so inspiring. Wishing you and Jim the best and many more happy days together :)

  • J. Wright August 11, 2011 10:29 AM

    Mom and Dad,
    The two of you are truly amazing! How you find the strength and courage each day to just push through everything is incredible.  Besides having each other, the only thing left is to BELIEVE and LOVE, as we all have so much of both.  I cannot express how much I admire and love you both with all my heart!

  • D August 12, 2011 4:49 PM

    You are both an inspiration to all of us. Thank you for sharing and BELIEVING!

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