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Video: Young family faces double cancer diagnosis

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    >>> we're back now with a story of heartbreak and hope. in a cruel twist of fate this year the parents of a toddler each got life-threatening diagnoses within days of each other. we'll meet the bonds in a moment. first janet shamlian has the story. good morning to you.

    >> reporter: matt, good morning. this is every parent's fear, that you and your spouse may not be around to take care of the most precious person in your life, your young child. once you meet the bonds you see this is a story of hope, not despair. as alisa and nathan bonds saw it, life was just about perfect. their 18-month-old daughter sadie delivered joy beyond what they had i mann ma'magined. a fairy tale wedding in 2005 , they felt they had it all.

    >> we were in a good place. i had no complaints. well, i wanted to lose 20 pounds. that was it. but, you know.

    >> if that's the worst of it --

    >> that was the worst of it.

    >> reporter: valentine's day this year delivered heartbreak and turned their world upside down. during a colonoscopy, doctors found nathan had a malignant tumor , stage three rectal cancer . just as they were coming to terms with the devastating diagnosis, nine days later alisa was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer which is considered incurable.

    >> that made me angry. i don't ask really why we have cancer but i was angry at my tumor that it was going to get in the way of takening ca itaking care o f her.

    >> reporter: he wouldn't have to go it alone. in a testament to just how much they are loved, friends from all corners of the country showed up at the bond home in brooklyn. they divided up the work from taking nathan to chemotherapy to girl time with alisa . because of the treatments alisa quit her job and nathan is on leave. with mounting medical bills their friends created a website for donations. al llisa is blogging about their journey through cancer.

    >> it is strange to me that something so horrible could bring about so many blessings.

    >> reporter: while the future is uncertain what has never been in doubt, the bond between them and their unflappable spirit.

    >> we are determined to get through this. if you envision our circumstance, don't envision the cancer. envision the healing. envision us playing with sadie when she's 5, when she's 10, arguing about the keys to the car when she's 16. that's what we ask.

    >> reporter: unimaginable heartbreak that a young family is facing with infinite grace. and the same can be said for their close circle of friends who are tackling their nonmedical need with military-like organization. they are in great hands. matt?

    >> janet, thank you very much. alisa and nathan bond are with us this morning. good to see you both.

    >> good morning.

    >> good morning.

    >> i was reading this last night and i was thinking, why are you sharing this? i can imagine this must be hard enough to deal with in the privacy of your own home and the privacy of your own thoughts. why do you want to talk about this publically?

    >> i didn't actually. i just started blogging for our family and friends because people didn't want to be intrusive but wanted to know what was going on. for me i thought it was cathartic. so it covered a couple of bases. and then my friends got organized. they created a website for us. and then someone in the media picked it up. we thought, okay, it's a local human interest story . it is strange.

    >> in some ways you must be fwaning strength off of the support of other people.

    >> without a doubt. that's one reason we continue to be open in sharing. it's inspiring to us the outpouring of love from everybody else and for some reason we are inspiring other people as well. all we have done is get cancer.

    >> well, let's mention mention that janet came to your home a week ago. you had a long flowing head of hair and i understand the day she got there because of the treatment your hair decided to fall out so you decided to be proactive here.

    >> yes.

    >> how are the treatments impacting you physically other than the most obvious ways?

    >> the first week owas terrible. really sick. lost a lot of weight. just in bed. since then it's gotten progressively better. i think your body finds a new normal. there is a lot of fatigue. he had to go to the hospital the other night for a fever. i didn't sleep that night. the baby woke up early. so it's tiring.

    >> you said you feel your body has bestrayed you.

    >> yeah.

    >> you have both side you don't spend a lot of time asking why me or in this case why the two of us. how do you avoid that?

    >> i think if you spend time worrying about what's happening today you're going to miss out on what's actually going on during the day or worrying about tomorrow. for us, it's about trying to enjoy every moment we have together.

    >> how much time do you spend trying to -- and this is a hard thing to ask you two. but if you're in your position, you've got to spend some amount of time preparing for the future for your daughter. how much of your time does that occupy?

    >> very little. we did it up front. we tried to handle it right away so we could let it go. so we knew we had a plan in place and then we could get on with the business of healing.

    >> i need your help on this. i don't want this segment -- i thought about this this morning. i don't want people at home to just simply find despair in this and i know you don't want that either. so help me out. what is the -- where is the humanity here? where is the piece of this that people can walk away with and take a deep breath and feel better this morning as opposed to feeling very sorry for the two of you?

    >> well, it's not a done deal. i mean, we have a lot of time. we have the best medical resources available to us. and we have a lot of love. i think love gets you through -- not just the love we have for each other but for our daughter and all of our family and friends . if you operate on the love, you get to enjoy every second of every day.

    >> maybe that's the gift of this. you have learned a lot about friends, family and humanity in general.

    >> and perfect strangers . i think we'll take away not so much when we are well, which we will be, is not the illness but the outpouring of love from perfect strangers literally all over the world. that's what we're going to tell sadie about when she asked about our cancer later on.

    >> we wish you the best. i think you will teach people important lessons. thanks. good luck to you both.

    >> thank you so much.

    >> appreciate it. 16 minutes after the hour. find out more about the bonds' journey on the link to their blog that can be found on our website at today.com. we're

By TODAY.com contributor
TODAY
updated 4/6/2011 10:02:59 AM ET 2011-04-06T14:02:59

Elisa and Nathan Bond’s life seemed perfect. Not long after their fairy-tale wedding, they had a beautiful baby girl who was growing into a happy toddler. Outside of a few extra pounds Elisa wanted to shed, she couldn’t think of a single thing wrong with their lives.

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But on Valentine’s Day, the fabric of their existence started to unravel. Nathan, 38, learned he had Stage 3 colon cancer and only a 65 percent chance of surviving the next five years.

They were still absorbing the news when, just nine days later, 36-year-old Elisa received an even worse diagnosis: the lump in her breast was malignant and her cancer had already spread. She had Stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, and her chances of surviving another five years are just 16 percent.

The Bonds try not to dwell on their dire situation. “If you spend all your time worrying about what’s happening today, you’re going to miss out on what’s actually happening,” Nathan told TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “For us, it’s about enjoying every moment we have together.”

Still, with so much devastating news, some people might have sunk into depression. The Bonds’ spirits have been buoyed by their 18-month-old daughter, Sadie, and the outpouring of affection and offers of help from family and friends – some from across the country, some, just around the corner from their Brooklyn, N.Y. home.

Friends and neighbors have stepped in to help with the everyday chores, taking the couple to doctors’ appointments, watching Sadie when Nathan and Elisa cannot, raising money to help pay the bills.

Elisa told Lauer she wants people to think of their story as hopeful, not sad. “It’s not a done deal,” she said. “We have a lot of time … And we have a lot of love. I think if you operate on the love you get to enjoy every second of every day.”

To fight their cancers with aggressive treatments, Elisa had to quit her job as a real estate agent, while Nathan took a leave of absence from his position as a teacher at Parsons School of Design. Friends and family saw a financial crisis looming and to help the couple stay afloat, they created a website where people can learn about their story and donate money.

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Elisa and Nathan also blog regularly to keep family and friends up-to-date with their progress. “People didn’t want to be intrusive but they wanted to know what was going on,” Elisa told Lauer. “And also I started to find it was cathartic.”

Once local news media picked up their story, people around the world started reading the blog and responding to it. The Bonds were amazed at the outpouring of love and concern, much of it from people they didn’t even know. 

“What we’re going to take away from this, when we are well -- which we will be --  is not the illness, but we’re going to think about the outpouring of love from perfect strangers all over the world,” Nathan said.

Elisa has only one request for those following her family’s story, she told TODAY: “If you envision our circumstance, don’t envision the cancer, envision the healing. Envision us playing with Sadie when she’s 5, when she’s 10... arguing about the keys to the car when she’s 16. That’s what we ask.”

Web site: Friends of Nathan and Elisa

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