Feature for the NNL by Jacki Wood
Audrey Osborn had been engaged just four months when her husband, Joel, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2009.
They were both just 24 years old at the time.
“I remember I was in the athletic offices on campus,” Audrey said. “We were both graduate assistants at the time. And he came up and told me that they had found a lump and the doctor was pretty positive it was cancerous.
“He was very calm and positive about it. It honestly didn’t even hit me at the time because he was so optimistic about it. That was his attitude throughout his entire journey, always positive, never felt sorry for himself, he just knew in his mind that he would beat it and be fine. His attitude made it very easy on me in the beginning because we just went on with our lives like nothing was wrong.”
That was in November, and the following summer, the two were married. They found out on their honeymoon that Joel – the former Northwest Missouri State quarterback and current assistant coach – would need to start chemotherapy when they returned.
“He completed four rounds of chemo, and even after his first round, he was still going about life as normal,” Audrey said. “It really wasn’t until the second round that it started taking a toll on him.”
The caregiver role
Joel started losing his hair, his energy decreased, his appetite changed and there were times when he would get pretty sick.
And that’s when Audrey stepped in with her role as caregiver for her new husband.
“God works in mysterious ways,” she said. “I just so happened to be in between jobs at the time so I was able to go with him every day to chemo. What a blessing that was. I don’t know how we could have planned that any better. God was definitely watching over us during that time.”
She said her role as caregiver was to be his rock.
“We left all the drama out of everything and just did what we had to do when we had to do it,” she said. “We both always had the mindset that this is how it is now, but we’ll get past this and move on. I just did whatever he needed me to do. That’s part of the deal, ‘in sickness and in health.’ He would have done the same for me.”
As bad as Joel felt toward the end of his treatments, it was football season and he was a graduate assistant. Audrey said he felt he had a job to do and so he never missed a game.
“That just goes to show you how dedicated he is and how loyal he is,” she said.
His last round of chemo finished up around his 25th birthday in October of 2010, right in the middle of the season.
During that time, Audrey said they looked to their family, especially their parents, and their good friends for support.
“They did everything they could to help out and were always there to talk to, to lean on and give encouragement,” she said. “Our Bearcat family was awesome during this time, too. The coaches and their wives were nothing but supportive and helped out any way they could. They brought us meals and drove Joel to appointments if I couldn’t.
“We are honestly so blessed to be a part of the Bearcat family.”
Relay For Life
Since Joel’s diagnosis, the couple has walked with a team each year. His parents started a team in his hometown of Harlan, IA. They go up there and walk with them when they can, in honor of Joel as well as in the memory of his Grandma Osborn and his Grandpa Blum.
The Bearcat athletic office also has a team the Osborns have been a part of in the past. And they have also participated in the Survivor Dinner.
“Relay is a chance for us to take a break from our crazy schedules and remember what Joel went through and what so many others are going through,” she said. “It brings you back to reality and reminds us how thankful we are that Joel is still in remission four years later.”
And Relay is also a time for everyone to be on the same team, Audrey said.
“You realize that cancer affects just about every family in one way or another,” she said. “You get to spend the day with your community, maybe someone you see at Hy-Vee or someone that you run into at the Community Center, and it reminds you that in reality, we’re all here for each other.
“It also reminds you that you don’t always know someone else’s story, what someone else is going through. It’s just a great way to show your support for everyone in the community.”
The Nodaway County Relay For Life event will be held Saturday, May 17, at Bearcat Stadium. For more information, visit facebook.com/RelayForLifeOfNodawayCounty.