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Stefanie Hurt, now 25, and her father, Stephen Doll, 59, are battling cancer together.

A family worth fighting for

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From the moment Stefanie Hurt gave birth, she looked forward to the experience of being a mom.

From where she sat, her near-future schedule was jam packed with the joyous duties of changing dirty diapers and snuggling with her new little man, Trygve. And while it did start out like that, it didn't stay that way for long.

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Just four weeks into her motherhood experience, her family was rocked with the news that her father, Stephen Doll, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer.

In the midst of her struggle to accept her father's condition, she was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, at age 24.

She was the youngest to be hit with the disease in the St. Cloud area.

The case was so unusual that it took doctors a while to inform Hurt of her diagnosis. A sample of her tumor was sent to Mayo Clinic, where it was confirmed there that, yes, a 24-year-old had breast cancer.

The news hit Hurt like a ton of bricks. Although she knew cancer ran in the family in her great-aunt's generation, she'd never expected to hear the news so early. No one did.

The nine month journey that ensued consisted of a half dozen surgeries and more than 20 sessions of chemotherapy. The side effects from chemo hit her hard - so hard, in fact, that taking care of her newborn was nearly impossible. She could hardly walk and, at times, lost feeling in her arms and legs.

While Hurt said nothing could really provide comfort through the course of chemo, it did in some way help to know that she and her father were there for one another in a unique way.

"We would call each other after chemo treatments," Hurt said while sitting next to her father in an interview. "We became each other's bedside nurses."

When together, they'd make light of the situation, counting their mounting number of pills to see if they had any matches.

"We'd compare our Skittle pack of pills," Hurt said jokingly.

The experiences the two went through together were more than they ever thought they'd encounter. But, through it all, they say they've come to really realize the true value in life: relationships, their faith and life itself.

"I think people don't realize the value of their life until they have to fight for it," Hurt said.

Doll said there are plenty of times he thinks about how priorities are managed, and how 'the almighty dollar' can so easily take hold of people's lives. Although he valued his family before, he said now, more than ever, he sees how truly blessed he is. He has a loving wife and three children, all of whom have created families of their own.

"Who could ask for more," he said.

Hurt said the way she and her husband will raise their son will now be much different than it would have been before. Their priorities have shifted - a bad hair day is now seen by Hurt as a non-problem.

Hurt also stands by the importance of preaching the message to women of all ages: get a breast exam. She's been known to approach people at random, and isn't ashamed to say it. In her mind, if the reminder changes one person's life, then it's worth it.

Aside from the strengthened bond between Hurt and Doll, the two say the support their family poured out was the most important of all.

"You couldn't have asked them to be more supportive," Hurt said.

While Hurt has finished her chemotherapy treatment, she now lives with the possibility that it could come back. Any pain from here on out will serve as a sort of stress for Hurt, who says she'll now listen to her body in a new way.

As for Doll, he's scheduled to undergo a new round of chemotherapy, which he's not looking forward to. But with his daughter by his side - and the rest of his family - he knows he'll have plenty of love to make it through.

The family members are so supportive, in fact, that a number of the aunts have agreed to shave their heads if they raise enough funds at an upcoming benefit, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 28 from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Mulligan's in Perham. The public is welcome to attend the benefit; freewill offerings will help offset costs related to medical expenses not covered by Hurt or Doll's health insurance.

Check donations may be addressed to the Doll/Hurt Benefit, United Community Bank at 155 Second St. SW, Perham MN 56573-0249. Donations may also be dropped off at Thrifty White Drug, attention Doll/Hurt Benefit, at 125 First Ave. South, Perham.

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