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This week, the Environment Report is taking an in-depth look at the connections between cancer and the environment.When somebody gets cancer, one of the first questions is usually "why?"Does this kind of cancer run in my family?Was it something in the water, or in the air around me?Did I get exposed to something?What would you do, or where would you go to answer these questions? We'll explore how much we really know about the connections between cancer and the chemicals in our environment.We'll also meet both regular people and scientists trying to figure out if certain towns around Michigan are struggling with more cancer cases than other places because of current or past pollution.You'll hear about whether or not turning to the courts makes sense when it seems a company might to be blame for putting people at risk of cancer or other illnesses.Finally, we'll look at where we go from here. What do researchers know, and where are they looking next?

Your Story: A devoted husband and his wife's 30-year battle with cancer

Steve Humphrey with his wife Ruthann
Steve Humphrey with his wife Ruthann

As part of the Environment Report's week-long series, Cancer and Environment: Searching for Answers, we'll be highlighting some powerful stories of hope and loss in the words of those touched by cancer in Michigan. You can read more Michigan cancer stories here. How has cancer affected your life? Tell us your story.

My wife battled serious recurrent spinal meningiomas for over 30 years (she died in 2008). She lived with intense unrelenting pain that worsened as she became progressively more handicapped.

Her disease took an enormous toll on me emotionally. I felt helpless against this devastating incurable disease and hated seeing her suffer so badly. I knew the disease would kill her, but I couldn’t stop this slow-motion disaster.

This is the last, best photo I have of us together. We’re at our youngest son’s July 2007 wedding in eastern Germany.  Remarkably we both were able to smile. 

In 2007 it had been about 30 years since undiagnosed hip and leg pain took control of her life, and 20 years since the spinal meningioma was first diagnosed. We were glad that over the same interval both our sons were able to complete middle and high school, college, and graduate school with academic honors, and then went on to marry loving understanding wives. 

It is a testament to the expert neurosurgeons at the University of Michigan, Borgess, and Bronson hospitals that she was able to stave off the unrelenting neoplasm long enough to allow us to share a rewarding 40-year marriage and to enable her to hold our first grandchild. 

I wish everyone could have known Ruthann, her incredible courage for coping with a devastating disease, and the pride and love that she had for our family.

-Steve Humphrey

*This story was informed by the Public Insight Network. Share your story here.

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