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
  • Grant enhances library garden DANVILLE — This summer, more children will have the opportunity to experience wildlife in the Children’s Wonder Garden at the Danville Public Library.This is thanks to a $1,213 grant from the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Central Illinois. The

    July 25, 2014

  • Pet event to benefit area shelter HOOPESTON — Here’s your chance to help homeless animals while having a good time.

    July 25, 2014

  • 'Oz' event supports literacy, Danville Library Foundation DANVILLE — The Danville Library Foundation announces its From Page to Stage: Vol. IV “Oz.”This year, the event will take audience members to “Oz” with two special celebrations. There will be the “Oz” concert and Emerald Ball and concert preview.At 3

    July 25, 2014

  • librarygreeting2.jpg Library sends to others: 'Greetings from Danville' DANVILLE – Library officials are asking children and adults to be a part of two library programs that ask them to send greetings to other towns named Danville around the country and “How do you Library?”Through Aug. 15, Danville residents can tell ot

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • East Main Street study continues DANVILLE — With the East Main Street construction finished, local representatives continue to meet to discuss the future of one of the main corridors in the city.A stakeholders group, including representatives from Danville Area Community College, th

    July 25, 2014

  • Varying subsidies worry consumers MIAMI — Linda Close was grateful to learn she qualified for a sizable subsidy to help pay for her health insurance under the new federal law. But in the process of signing up for a plan, Close said her HealthCare.gov account showed several different

    July 25, 2014

  • Hoopeston man faces charges HOOPESTON — A Vermilion County man was arrested Wednesday after trying to set fire to his home with people inside.Josh Ferguson, 23, of Hoopeston, was taken into custody late Wednesday morning by Hoopeston police. He was booked at the Public Safety B

    July 25, 2014

  • Fun Fair on Friday

    July 24, 2014

  • Talent show entries due

    July 24, 2014

  • Library sells books

    July 24, 2014

E-edition
Spring 2014 Photos


Buy these photos and more via Smugmug

AP Video
Crashed Air Algerie Plane Found in Mali Israel Mulls Ceasefire Amid Gaza Offensive In Case of Fire, Oxygen Masks for Pets Mobile App Gives Tour of Battle of Atlanta Sites Anti-violence Advocate Killed, but Not Silenced. Dempsey: Putin May Light Fire and Lose Control Arizona Prison Chief: Execution Wasn't Botched Calif. Police Investigate Peacock Shooting Death Raw: Protesters, Soldiers Clash in West Bank Police: Doctor Who Shot Gunman 'Saved Lives' 'Modern Family' Star on Gay Athletes Coming Out MN Twins Debut Beer Vending Machine DA: Pa. Doctor Fired Back at Hospital Gunman Raw: Iowa Police Dash Cam Shows Wild Chase Obama Seeks Limits on US Company Mergers Abroad Large Family to Share NJ Lottery Winnings U.S. Flights to Israel Resume After Ban Lifted Official: Air Algerie Flight 'probably Crashed' TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans Raw: National Guard Helps Battle WA Wildfires
NDN Video
Bill Murray Continues To Be Just Bill Murray By Eating Some Free Bill Murray Ice Cream Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect Hillary Clinton Blamed Bill's Affair With Monica Lewinsky On Abuse He Suffered As A Child 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years LeBron James -- Dropped $2k On Cupcake Apology ... Proceeds To Benefit Charity Snoop Dogg Says He Smoked Weed at the White House Raw: Fight Breaks Out in Ukraine Parliament Chris Pratt Interrupts Interview To French Braid Intern's Hair Shirtless Super Mario Balotelli Dances While Ironing - @TheBuzzeronFOX Whoa! Watch "Housewives" Star Do the Unthinkable LeBron apologizes to neighbors with cupcakes Justin Bieber In Calvin Klein Underwear Shoot Samsung Pre-Trolls The IPhone 6 With New Ad Jimmy Kimmel Introduces His Baby Girl
Must Read