It could not have come soon enough.
An early Christmas present?
"Yes," said Terri Adams, quietly. "Yes it is."
Prior to this moment of relief, Terri didn't know if this might be the last Christmas she'd share with her 36-year-old husband.
Chris Adams was diagnosed five months ago with stage 3 Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphoid tissue, which includes the lymph nodes, spleen, and other organs of the immune system.
In July, Chris finally went to the doctor after months of trying to ignore the pain he was feeling; the tender, swelling lump near his groin area. The young, working father of two, Kelsie, 15, and Keaton, 3, had convinced himself the knot was a hernia, and like many, a trip to the doctor was low on his priority list.
"He was scared, that's why he didn't want to go to the doctor," said Terri. "He finally went and the doctor thought it was an infection and gave him an antiboitic."
When that didn't help, Chris went to a specialist. A biopsy revealed the cancer -- there were cells from his neck down to his waist. Chris seemed less affected by the words his doctor told him, almost as if he weren't hearing them, but Terri's life was turned upside down.
"It was a kick in the stomach, not something I was expected," she said as she wiped the tears from her cheeks, her words suddenly paralyzed by the memory of that trip to the doctor. "We weren't expecting it. He's only 36."
The pain and swelling in Chris' leg had made it nearly impossible to work, much less get his boots off after a long night at work. He lost his job and with that came big changes for the Adams family.
"Not having the second income made it hard," said Terri, whose salary was simply not enough to carry the family. "You barely get by and then you have to cut back and decide what to pay," Terri said. "You pay this bill one week and that bill another week, and just hope your lights don't get turned off."
Chris' spirits remained pretty good on the surface, and Terri wept in private as she watched her husband suffer the side effects including nausea, fatigue and insomnia from the medications and chemo (which he started in September) to combat the advanced cancer. She constantly wondered if her husband was going to make it while managing things around the house, working full-time and nurturing her children, especially the 15-year-old, who struggled terribly with the diagnosis.
Then, a simple visit from a friend of Terri's provided some much-needed relief for the family. The friend gave Terri and Chris of Unionville an application for the Bedford County Cancer Foundation, a local non-profit that helps local families struggling with cancer on things like utility bills, gas, groceries and other needs.
"It helped out a whole lot," she said. "It gave us money to pay some bills. The two ladies I met on the board were so nice to us, it was wonderful."
The Bedford County Cancer Foundation is able to provide up to $2,500 a year to families in need, and board member Virginia Stewart says resources are available.
"We think there are more people out there that need help that don't know we're available," Stewart said.
Early last week, what Terri described as the early Christmas present came when Chris' first PET scan revealed the tumor had shrunk nearly 85 percent. He'll continue chemotherapy and follow that up with radiation, but doctors are optimistic Chris will be healed.
"I just want to thank everyone who's helped us," Terri said. "And I want people to know there's help available."
For more information, visit bedfordcancerfoundation.com/home or call 680-9860.