The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

May 14, 2013

Couple remains hopeful after rare cancer diagnosis

DANVILLE — Ryan and Tammy Irby of Georgetown are cautiously optimistic about their future, even after their world was turned upside down by cancer nine months ago.

Last Aug. 10, Ryan, 37, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma — a rarebone marrow cancer that’s similar to leukemia, but has no known cure. Before his diagnosis, Ryan spent a couple months seeing various doctors to determine the cause of his extreme tiredness and 30-pound weight loss.

“By the time the cancer showed up in my blood I was already into stage three — which is the worst,” Ryan said. “This type of cancer is so aggressive; it moves very fast.”

“This was the worst news that we had ever received,” Tammy said. “It was real punch in the gut that changed our entire life. I’d never known Ryan to be sick before this happened. He was always the strong one who was supposed to take care of me. There is no cancer in Ryan’s family. It’s my family that’s full of cancer.”

Tammy has remained strong for her husband throughout the ordeal, taking family leave from her job so she could accompany him to his chemotherapy sessions and doctors’ appointments, and otherwise caring for him.

“I would never let Ryan fight something like this alone,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I think it would be easier to be the one who’s sick than to be the spouse. It’s so hard to watch someone you love go through this.”

Ryan continued to do his job in the Radiology Department at Presence United Samaritans Medical Center throughout his first chemotherapy sessions at the hospital’s cancer center. He finally decided to take medical leave in January.

“We are very pleased with our Cancer Center here in Danville,” Tammy said. “We’d drive 100 miles just to get to it, if it wasn’t already located in town.”

Ryan hopes to get confirmation in June that he’s in remission and cancer-free for the present time.

Ryan explained that from the very beginning of his illness, the goal was for him to receive a stem cell transplant that used his own stem cells after they were treated to kill the myeloma.

“Because of my young age and the fact that I was fairly healthy, the doctors felt I was a good candidate for this procedure,” he said.

Since high doses of chemotherapy destroy both the bad and the good blood cells in bone marrow, a person needs to replenish his own stem cells so they can create new, healthy bone marrow. In February, Ryan underwent the stem cell transplant procedure at Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis.

“It will take a while for the good cells to create new bone marrow,” Ryan said, “so we just have to be patient.”

Ryan is participating in a case study of multiple myeloma, and he can only hope that a cure will be found someday that will prolong his life. Right now, if all goes well, doctors tell him that his life expectancy could be another 20 years.

In the meantime, Ryan has very little immunity to germs, so he can’t be exposed to crowds or people with colds. He has to get his childhood immunizations all over again, and he will be on antibiotics for the rest of his life.

Ryan has good days and bad days. Now that his wife has returned to work, he tries to do small jobs around the house. He also spends considerable time with his Masonic lodge activities.

Support system

Ryan and Tammy’s primary support system right now consists of Tammy’s mother, Cindy Sowers, and her two brothers. Her brother Todd Sowers, who lives with them and works as an accountant, helps the couple with the yard, groceries and general maintenance.

Other supporters include Tammy’s co-workers, their church family at Westville Church of Christ and the Masonic chapters Ryan has belonged to for the past seven years. He is a member of the Valley of Danville Scottish Right Masons and the Further Light Lodge 1130 in Danville.

“When any one of us in trouble, our brother Masons are always there to help,” Ryan said.

“The girls at Walgreens Accounting [where Tammy has worked for 16 years] have been more than wonderful,” she said. They have held fundraisers, brought the Irbys prepared meals, and organized a benefit for Ryan to help raise money for expenses not covered by insurance.

Tammy said, “It was so wonderful seeing all these people come together to help us in a time of need. We just want to say thank you to Ryan’s doctors and caretakers, and everyone else who has helped us.”

Ryan said, “When I first got sick, I was angry with God. But as time went on, I realized that we would have never made it this far without God’s help.” For the most part, he maintains a good attitude about his illness and even injects a little humor once in a while.

Second wedding

As a special gift to Tammy, Ryan is planning an authentic “second wedding” ceremony in June for the two of them.

“We never had a traditional wedding the first time around, and I want to do this for Tammy,” he said. Their second wedding will have all the special touches — wedding dress and formal attire, music, a wedding cake, pictures and flowers.

How they met

Ryan is from Georgetown, and Tammy was born in Newport, Ind. The couple met when Tammy was Ryan’s instructor at Danville’s Concept College of Cosmetology.

“That was my first class to ever teach, but I must have done OK in Ryan’s eyes,” Tammy said, laughing. They dated only six months and were married in December of 1995.

The couple always wanted to have children, but found out they couldn’t have any. As an alternative, they tried four different times to adopt privately, but unfortunately none of those adoptions went through.

“The last time that we tried to adopt — in 2009 — was horrible,” Tammy said.“We already had the baby home with us for a few weeks before we had to give her back. At the time, we thought that was the worst thing that could happen to us, but when Ryan got sick, we knew his disease was something even worse.”

Tammy added that they are very grateful to have three nieces and one nephew to spoil since they will never have children of their own.

A bank account has been set up at the First Financial Bank in Westville under Ryan Irby Medical Fund to help defray medical expenses that are not covered by his insurance.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Kindergarten roundup nears

    April 20, 2014

  • Head Start services offered

    April 20, 2014

  • City to discuss chicken ordinance, animal control DANVILLE -- Residents love their pets -- ranging from the furry to feathered kind -- and let city officials know about it. Mayor Scott Eisenhauer said two of the biggest issues he's received phone calls about since he's been mayor have been about the

    April 20, 2014

  • NWS-CN0420 - Vignette2 image Danville thrift store glass gets a second life Chris Moore of Danville admits he's never been known as an artistic person among friends and family. But after seeing some glass garden decorations at a landscaping business about a year ago, something clicked and he decided to try his hand at creati

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Three injured in shooting on east side DANVILLE -- Police have made one arrest in connection with a triple shooting incident Friday night on the city's east side. Police and emergency personnel responded around 6:30 p.m. Friday to the 1000 block of Moore Street to reports of shots fire. T

    April 20, 2014

  • NWS-CN 0420 - Vignette3 image Odds and ends turn into great useful objects Four Danville Area Community College students took some wooden pallets, a used tire, two broken clocks and a fallen tree limb and created four completely usable objects that will be entered in the college's Trash to Treasures repurposing challenge on

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS - CN0420 - Repurpose5 image Trash into treasure What started out as an idea for a class project quickly snowballed into a campuswide initiative at Danville Area Community College, with the results being on display this week. To mark Earth Day this year, the Biology Department and the Sustainabilit

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • NWS - CN0420 - Rock Church cross image Floral cross celebrates Easter DANVILLE — A cross at The Rock Church is blooming with the beauty of spring and the promise of Easter.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • NWS-CN 04-20 Vignette1 image Couple creates rustic salvaged furniture Kim Hannah of Danville has been salvaging and reusing materials -- most notably barn wood -- for close to two decades. Hannah has sold her handmade crafts and primitive, rustic furniture made of salvaged barn wood at shows around the Midwest for 18 y

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Auxiliary buys ‘Wagons for Warriors’ Auxiliary buys ‘Wagons for Warriors’

    A benefit last month raised $771, which was donated to Wagons for Warriors.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

E-edition
AP Video
Raw: More Than 100,000 Gather for Easter Sunday Raw: Greeks Celebrate Easter With "Rocket War" Police Question Captain, Crew on Ferry Disaster Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite Ceremony Marks 19th Anniversary of OKC Bombing Raw: Four French Journalists Freed From Syria Raw: Massive 7.2 Earthquake Rocks Mexico Captain of Sunken SKorean Ferry Arrested Raw: Fire Destroys 3 N.J. Beachfront Homes Raw: Pope Presides Over Good Friday Mass Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Superheroes Descend on Capitol Mall Man Charged in Kansas City Highway Shootings Obama Awards Navy Football Trophy Anti-semitic Leaflets Posted in Eastern Ukraine Raw: Magnitude-7.2 Earthquake Shakes Mexico City Ceremony at MIT Remembers One of Boston's Finest Raw: Students Hurt in Colo. School Bus Crash Deadly Avalanche Sweeps Slopes of Mount Everest
NCAA basketball
NDN Video
Jabari Parker's Top 5 Plays From Duke Career Kourtney Kardashian Is a Bikini Babe More Manpower Than Ever Expected At 4/20 Rally Debunk'd: Miley Cyrus AIDS, Cheeseburgers Cause Cancer, Military Warning Bill Previewing the NBA playoffs Raw: Orthodox Christians Observe Easter Rite My name is Cocaine Raw: Space X Launches to Space Station Lohan Gets Candid About Her Sex List The 2014 New York Auto Show Meet Johnny Manziel's New Girlfriend Chelsea Clinton Announces Pregnancy Funny: Celebrating Easter with Martha Stewart and Friends Man Accuses 'X-Men' Director Bryan Singer of Sexually Abusing Him As a Teenager Man hit with $525 federal fine after he doesn't pay for soda refill Lea Michele & Naya Rivera Feuding? Jabari Parker declares for the NBA draft Singing Nun Belts Out Cyndi Lauper New West, Texas Explosion Video Swim Daily, Throwback Thursday
Must Read