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Heartbreak and hope: Family faces two devastating cancer diagnoses

Mom and dad were both diagnosed with serious cancers within two weeks of each other; now, fighting for their lives, they stay positive for their 18-month-old daughter... and count their blessings.
/ Source: TODAY

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.

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.

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.”