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“Along with the spring comes the rain. And rain it has, off and on all day. One of my favorite smells here on earth is the smell in the air after a long rain. In my mind, it’s as if …
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“Along with the spring comes the rain. And rain it has, off and on all day. One of my favorite smells here on earth is the smell in the air after a long rain. In my mind, it’s as if everything has had a bath...has been cleaned up, renewed. _Winter brought bitter cold (bad news and pain), it brought slick roads and slippery paths (this journey our family has walked), it appeared as if all that had color looked ‘dead’ (what the enemy would try to convince me of along the past 3 months)._Then came the rain...._It has washed away the last of the dirty snow that has been trampled on for months and under it all lays green grass. Yes, there will still be storms, the showers will come and go, but the worshipping to my Father (much like my birds) will continue on as the newness of His creation comes to life. Color will come back, life will be renewed, strengthened. And the hopes of a miracle will forever continue on until I’m healed.”
- Diana Hummell, March 11, 2010
The seasons didn’t stray far from their archetypes this past year for Diana Hummell.
Winter was gloomy, cold, painful and short days echoed by doctor’s assertions that her own days were growing shorter.
But spring brought a sense of renewal and optimism and hope that she is defying bleak expectations.
Diana Hummell is not dying.
Not today, not tomorrow, and she doesn’t believe a second before the Lord has finished his work in her.
She is audacious in her faith. She is bold in the face of daunting odds.
And it’s not hard to believe cancer got a bigger battle from this plucky Brighton mom than it ever imagined.
Drawn together for a purpose
The fact that Diana, 27, would take a terminal cancer diagnosis with a dose of equal parts of humility, positivity and faith didn’t surprise husband Cameron at all.
It was her upbeat outlook on life that drew him to Diana nearly a decade before as they enjoyed vacations on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Diana, a California native, was wrapping up a month-long stay with a friend. Cameron, a Brighton High School grad and football team captain, was enjoying a comparably shorter one-week stay with his family.
The two stayed at the same resort and met one night amidst a group of others in the hot tub.
“We talked a lot about God and where we were going with our lives,” Cameron recalls.
Their conversation was enough to convince Cameron, 19 at the time, he’d met the one.
“I went back to the suite, woke up my dad and told him, ‘Dad, I just met the woman I’m going to marry,’” Cameron says.
Diana, 18 and fresh out of high school, ended her night with a similar call to her mom in California.
“I just knew the moment I met him and he opened his mouth and started talking,” Diana says. “I knew without a shadow of a doubt.”
The two were nearly inseparable for the rest of their vacations.
Cameron’s sister, Havilah Hall, says it wasn’t hard, once the family met Diana, to realize why her brother was so smitten.
“The next morning, we went out and met her,” Hall says. “And she was just beautiful, smiley and loved the Lord. Our whole family was taken by her right away.
“By the time, we had gotten back to Colorado, we knew they were serious and they really pursued it,” Hall adds.
Diana and Cameron maintained a long-distance relationship for two years before they married. They made their home in Brighton, where Cameron worked for a local construction company and Diana worked at Valley Bank & Trust. Diana became pregnant with their first of their two children shortly after they got married.
“It’s been a crazy ride every since we got married,” Cameron says.
But life took a stunning twist for the couple and their family in December.
Diana’s journey – as she is apt to call it – started last year when she began experiencing stomach pain. Doctors thought it was gallstones and removed Diana’s gallbladder. Her gallbladder was healthy. Doctors tested for elevated cancer antigen levels and found Diana’s levels well above normal. A biopsy detected liver cancer. But, because cancer of the liver is normally the result of cancer elsewhere in the body, the search for the originating source continued.
It was devastating news for Diana, her family and friends.
Donna Petrocco likens her relationship with Diana more to a mother-daughter bond. With Diana’s mom in California and Cam’s parents living in southern Colorado, Petrocco filled a void for Diana.
Petrocco, originally a friend of Cameron’s, met Diana at the couple’s Colorado wedding reception. Diana’s charm didn’t escape Petrocco.
“We hit it off right away, and I offered her a job,” she said. “I said, ‘If you ever want to work at a bank, give me a call.’”
Diana took Petrocco up on the offer and they hired her as a teller, where she worked for about a year
“I said, ‘You can consider me your mom here,’” Petrocco remembers. “’If you ever need anything, you let me know.’”
It meant lunches together. It meant when Petrocco’s daughter left for a study-abroad program, she let Diana borrow her daughter’s car.
And it meant that the news of Diana’s illness crushed Petrocco. Diana e-mailed her to tell her she had “troubling news.”
“I went over to her house right after work that night,” Petrocco remembers.
Petrocco hadn’t seen Diana in a couple of months because she was busy with work. She was surprised by how much weight she’d lost.
“We embraced. We held each other,” Petrocco said. “I didn’t really want to talk to her. I just wanted to hold her. I just wanted to be with her and love her and support her however I could.”
Doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor in Diana’s colon during a colonoscopy in December. They removed the tumor during an emergency surgery, as well as her appendix, about 5 percent of her stomach, lymph nodes, and reconstructed her intestines.
The diagnosis was terminal cancer, with six months to live.
Petrocco received the news during a business meeting.
“I got a phone call saying it was stage 4 cancer,” Petrocco said. “I had a Christmas party that night but I didn’t go. I just went home and cried.”
It was Diana who tried to uplift family and friends as they struggled with the news.
“Every single day I went to her hospital and there she was, sitting there, smiling,” Petrocco said. “I never saw her cry at the hospital. She was smiling and visiting with anyone who came in. Some days, she was so tired because so many people came to see her. She was always the one giving back to us. She was always the one making me feel like I was doing something great, just by going to see her.”
That optimism was grounded in Diana and Cameron’s faith and their next planned steps.
A remedy of faith and natural healing
Those steps didn’t include the suggested traditional route of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. If her body held up, an oncologist told Diana and Cameron that it could give her up to two years.
The couple viewed it as a “death sentence” they weren’t willing to accept and instead chose to pursue alternative cancer treatments in Michigan.
Hummell traveled to Vandalia, Mich., two weeks after her diagnosis to begin treatments that mixed a strict, no-sugar diet with a bevy of all-natural supplements. Cameron and their two sons joined them a few weeks later. Cameron’s work granted him a leave of absence. Family and friends credit him as the rock of the family as he deftly balances Diana’s needs with the endless energy of two rambunctious boys. The family took up residence in a 650-square-foot, lakefront cottage – a far cry from their larger Brighton home.
“We came out this direction, knowing that was really our only choice,” Cameron says. “It was either accept the death sentence or really just pray, trust God and run out here and try natural methods. That’s what we did.”
Diana had seen family members before deal with the effects of chemotherapy and decided, even before she became ill, she wouldn’t go that route.
“Based on what the oncologist told me, if I had truly only three to six months to live, I would never ever go that route,” she said. “Every day since that diagnosis has been a miracle. Every day for the rest of my life will be a miracle.”
Friends supported their decision.
“I was a little nervous about it,” Petrocco said. “But it’s totally something Cam and Diana would do. They’re really very healthy people. To pursue natural methods seemed logical. I don’t think the chemo would have given her any quality of life, and it wouldn’t have given her sustainable life for very long.”
Surviving the difficult times
It has not precluded Diana from the pain of cancer or the unpredictability of fighting a life-threatening illness.
“There are times where I scream and yell and wonder, ‘What in the world, God? What are you doing?’” Diana says. “’How is this ever going to produce any good?’”
“There’s up and downs,” Cameron continues. “There’s times when she’s just weak and she feels like the pain is going away. All of a sudden, there will be some massive, excruciating pain that comes back for three or four days.”
The pain can prompt questions.
“Is it because she’s getting healed? Is it because it’s growing?” he adds. “Nonetheless, because she’s so focused it helps me. And, because I don’t really have a choice, we just do what we need to do.”
In the difficult times, Diana says she finds relief in the Psalms of the Bible, particularly Psalm 139. She finds strength in the faith of the author, David, even in the midst of his own struggles.
“It’s a step in the dark,” she admits. “Sometimes there’s just a little light shining on the next step. But in God’s plan, you just need to reach out, grab His hand and go.”
There has been little time for pity, regret or self-doubt.
“God is a good God and I’ve always known, whatever the outcome, He’ll take care of us,” Cameron adds. “He’s brought us through a lot in the past and this, by far, is the biggest.
“It’s torn our family’s hearts out,” Cameron’s sister, Havilah, adds. “But, at the same time, all of us are strong in the Lord that we believe in His purposes and His plans. We know that He has a special plan for Diana and He’s going to carry it out. We all have joy and hope, no matter what the circumstances are, through our faith.”
They’ve been buoyed by their faith in the Lord and the many friends and family who have offered up weekly, daily, hourly prayers.
An outpouring of support
Since Diana’s diagnosis, cards have poured in, along with financial donations to a medical expense fund set up at Valley Bank.
“There have been churches I’ve never even heard of, don’t know anybody from, that have financially donated,” Cameron says.
The money has helped support Diana’s alternative medical treatments, which have not been covered through medical insurance. The money will help continue her treatments when the family returns to Colorado this week.
Cameron adds they have received hundreds of cards, including several from different countries.
Much of that support has been drawn from Diana’s blog (www.caringbridge.org/visit/dianahummell), which she has used as a rallying point for not only those friends following her journey but fellow cancer victims in need of inspiration. The site has drawn more than 7,000 visitors.
The ground swell of support for Diana and her family culminated with a benefit April 11, where there was a silent auction and concert, and both Diana and Cameron spoke.
“It’s been amazing to see the outpouring of people wanting to support them,” says Havilah, who helped plan the event.
Cameron’s mother and father, Ralph and Susan Hummell, moved back to Denver for three months when Diana first became ill to help care for the boys.
Diana’s parents, Ken and Drue Little, who live in California, also lent their support. Drue flew in for weeks at a time to help.
The couple’s faith has been inspiring to their parents as well.
“We watched as they ran out to meet this “giant” against insurmountable odds, not retreating or letting it have its way, but met it head on in the battle for Diana’s life,” Ralph and Susan shared in an e-mail. “Their unwavering courage and steadfastness in facing an unrelenting opponent will stand the test of time and remain in the hearts of many for a lifetime.”
The Littles were equally impressed with their daughter’s tenacity and Cameron’s support.
“We have truly appreciated how, in this difficult season of life, Diana chose to demonstrate her great faith by living her life selflessly, as a blessing to others more than to herelf,” Ken and Drue said via e-mail. “And how Cameron has done the same, standing like a rock by her side giving her strength to lean on in her hour of need.
The support has been big. It has also been found in small things.
Winning the battle
Petrocco has sent a text message to Diana every night she has been in Michigan. The message is simple, often to the effect of, “Good night, angel, love you, thinking about ya.”
“She tucks me in every night,” Diana says as her voice breaks.
“I just wanted her to know the last thing I do at night is pray for her,” Petrocco said. “I wanted to send her a text every night, let her know someone is thinking about her and praying for her.”
Diana believes the many prayers on her behalf are being answered.
“I feel great,” she says. “I have my good and bad days, and it goes through cycles. But I never would have thought I would have felt this good at this point. I’m able to home-school my kids. I’m able to run errands. I just feel like everything is melting away. For every bad day, I have probably eight, 10, 12 good days.”
Cameron believes his wife’s strong spirit has steadied her so far and will continue to bless her.
“I couldn’t begin to explain the difference between her and the typical response you would get (from a terminal cancer diagnosis),” he says. “And it’s not that there’s not a fear or was fear at one time of the unknown. When you’re given six months to live and you’re 27, that doesn’t exactly make you feel warm and fuzzy. She is one of the most incredible people, not only because she’s my wife. In general, her faith, her trust, her attitude is what’s going to take her through this whole thing.”
Did cancer get more than it bargained for with Diana Hummell?
“It definitely did,” she laughs. “It definitely did. God has put a fight in me that it’s just not going to win. Despite what goes on, whether I die from cancer in a week or anything else 50 years from now, it will never win.”
A fund has been established at Valley Bank & Trust, 4900 E. Bromley Lane, Brighton, Colo. 80601. Learn more Diana, her family and her journey at www.caringbridge.org/visit/dianahummell.
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