When real love is involved, parents can face some of the toughest challenges imaginable and still come out on the other side stronger, tougher and wiser.
By Danielle Braff
Nine months after they got married, Laura and Steve Lutarewych's vows were put to the challenge. Laura-in her 20s and always healthy-was diagnosed with skin cancer. Doctors gave her a 40 percent chance of surviving.
"I thought my life was over," she says. "I thought that this was my death sentence and I was terrified. I was so sad. I had just gotten married, and I had my whole life in front of me."
A partial finger amputation, the removal of her lymph nodes and a year of treatment saved her life, and just a few months after being declared cancer-free, Lutarewych was pregnant.
"I was so over the moon. It was everything that I had worked through my treatment for. I had done it, and now I was getting the greatest gift. I got my life, and now I was getting my child," she says.
But her baby, Atia, would face her own crisis. At 17 months old, she crumpled to the floor and screamed in pain when Lutarewych changed her diaper. Three trips to the emergency room in 1½ weeks finally left them with an official diagnosis: Atia had Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and she had to start chemotherapy immediately to save her life.
"I couldn't catch my breath," Lutarewych says, remembering the utter nightmare that her life became once again. "Is my baby going to have to die?"
Atia would undergo daily chemotherapy for 2½ years until July 2011.
"When I was weak, Steve was strong," Lutarewych says of her husband and their family survival technique. "When he had his breaking points, I was strong. And we had tons of family surrounding us. It's kind of like the old days, where it takes a community. Our mission as a family was to get our daughter through this."
Now, Atia, 6, has two younger siblings. The cancer, which once took away her ability to walk, didn't stop her for long. She is now on her gymnastics pre-team and she wants to be a doctor.