It’s the kind of patient “good-bye” that feels great

After two bouts of testicular cancer, Stephen DeVoie recently made his last trip to IU Health Simon Cancer Center.

Just minutes before sharing their story, Stephen and Jennifer DeVoie had received an “all clear” from IU Health Simon Cancer Center oncologist Dr. Lawrence Einhorn.

It was the words that they had been waiting four years to hear.

Kim Baker has been an IU Health medical care social worker in integrated care management for the past three years. She’s known the DeVoie’s since before they were married. And she shared their happiness with them when they got their good news.

“Jennifer and Stephen went from dating, to an engagement, to marriage, and to an active lifestyle now that Stephen is better,” said Baker. “With my role as a bone marrow transplant social worker, I was able to provide continuity of care throughout their medical journey – before, during and after transplant. Simultaneously, I was able to enjoy their growth as a couple throughout their personal journey.”

It was a journey that began in the spring of 2015. Stephen felt severe pain in his left flank. As soon as Jennifer pulled into the driveway from work they drove to ER near their home in Boubonnais, Ill. – about 55 miles south of Chicago. Tests showed he had testicular cancer. He had testicular swelling the size of softball, was hospitalized for an orchiectomy, and began chemotherapy in June of 2015. He has also been diagnosed with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder (CMT), a rare hereditary disease that damages nerves in the arms and legs His father also has CMT.

“I initially just thought the aches and pains were associated with the CMT,” said Stephen, 31. He and Jennifer met in October of 2013. Their first date was to a local gaming store. They knew right away they were compatible. They both love playing board and video games. They were married Dec. 23, 2017 in a private ceremony officiated by a friend.

“We have a lot of opposites that kind of mesh rather than clash,” said Jennifer. The couple bought a two-bedroom home with a fenced-in backyard and just enough room for all of Jennifer’s collectible bunnies.

Stephen is an only child; Jennifer has two older brothers. Her parents Marge and Ken Love live in Hawaii. Stephen’s parents Don and June LaVoie, along with their extended family have supported them throughout their relationship and Stephen’s diagnosis.

One of the first people they met at IU Health was Kim Baker.

“Kim is phenomenal. She was our main support. With family so far away, we depended on the staff here beyond medical support,” said Jennifer. “The nurses were fantastic.” Baker displays the couple’s wedding picture in her office and she wears beaded jewelry handmade by Jennifer – a testimony of their bond.

Stephen DeVoie first became a patient at IU Health Simon Cancer Center in the spring of 2017.

“Everything seemed calm and we thought the cancer was gone and then he started complaining of pain again,” said Jennifer. Tests showed the cancer had spread and was compromising the vena cava. Stephen had another surgery closer to home and then his oncologist referred him to IU Health and Dr. Lawrence Einhorn – known for his successful treatment of testicular cancer – germ cell tumors – using a mix of high dose chemotherapies and peripheral stem cell transplant.

“Dr. Einhorn is just easy going and obviously knows what he’s talking about. No question is too weird. He’s just great,” said Stephen.

Stephen completed his bone marrow transplant and the couple was on their way back to Illinois when their red Toyota Camry was struck by a semi on I-65. It was 4:30 in the afternoon and they weren’t even out of Indiana when they ended up back at the hospital.

“We’ve been through more together in our six years than most people have been through in decades,” said Jennifer. They hit a guardrail and walked away from their totaled car with bumps, bruises, scratches, and nothing but the clothes on their backs.

Since completing his treatments, Stephen says he feels great.

“In April of 2018 Dr. Einhorn said he didn’t want to see us again until 2019,” said Stephen, “We came back and we’ve pretty much graduated from IU Health,” said Jennifer. “It’s the kind of ‘good bye that feels great.”

–By T.J. Banes, Journalist, IU Health. Reach Banes via email