COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Cancer is one of the hardest battles one can face, and for so many it is a fight that can’t be done alone, even for the bravest among us.
Firefighter, Doug Wortman, faced his own battle with cancer when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
His diagnosis came just two years after he married his wife, Stacie. For a man who is used to being a hero, accepting help didn’t come easy.
His wife, who is typically a worrier, had to put on a brave face. Together they made it through and they are better for it.
“I know what he’s thinking. He knows what I’m thinking.”
Frequently Stacie and Doug Wortman finish each other’s sentences. “I didn’t want to be someone accepting help from somebody,” said Doug. “Because you are always giving it,” Stacie chimed in. “I’m the helper here.”
Doug Wortman, a veteran with the Columbus Division of Fire is now cancer free. He and his wife Stacie are closer than ever; spending much of their time at Buckeye Lake Winery. The lake is a place where they hope they can retire.
Where they are now, though, is a far cry from where they were nearly 15 years ago.
“They said you couldn’t go three days without water. I didn’t get out of bed for five days. I slept,” said Doug.
“I was very depressed and cried a lot, and didn’t want to be that way because I didn’t want to worry him,” said Stacie.
For Stacie it was a time to be strong. For Doug it was a time to let someone else be the hero, which is something that doesn’t come easy. “Firefighters don’t like being victims,” said Doug.
The nurse in Stacie Kicked in.
She would change her clothes before walking inside and after work, and she would cook food in the basement where Doug hopefully couldn’t smell it.
“I just kind of policed everyone who wanted to come and see him,” said Stacie.
The couple had just bought a new home and Stacie was left trying to figure out what to do when issues popped up. “I think she had a lot worse fight then I did I think. It is easy to curl up in a ball and be sick for six months. To go and for her to do what she had to do,” said Doug.
Stacie gave up school and leaned on family and friends for support. “I went from being, feeling the way I was to, OK let’s do this.”
Doug didn’t give up. “I didn’t care about me but I cared about her. I cared about my children. I was very worried that I was going to leave people that weren’t ready for me to go yet.”
Of all the warnings they received there was one in particular they remember.
“The oncologist told us this will either make you stronger or drive you apart. He said it will make or break your marriage. He was right.”
Doug and Stacie grew as individuals and grew together. “Life is short. I think we used to take it for granted. I used to worry a lot. I was the worrier. He wasn’t. Now,” Stacie said shaking her head no.
It’s not always easy, however.
“There is just side effects that don’t go away; moodiness,” the couple said laughing.
When it comes to advice, the couple said communication is still key.
Doug continues to work with Columbus Fire in the department focusing on cancer prevention. He said they are actively researching various ways of keeping firefighters from being in contact with the toxic chemicals that can lead to cancer.
SKNLUV is an organization dedicated to spreading awareness of cancer in the fire service and helping those diagnosed. To donate or learn more head to http://sknluv.com/