Cancer survivor to renew vows with bride of 16 years
Adam and Julie Bogart are retying the knot next month, but it means more to them than a celebration of marriage. It’s a celebration of life – life without cancer.
Adam, 39, is a colon cancer survivor.
His bride of 16 years, Julie, won a wedding through a Relay for Life of Lake Stevens essay contest. They’ll be renewing their vows at the Lake Stevens Relay May 19-20.
“I’d do it all over again,” Adam said of marrying Julie. “I look at her and she’s still my lovely little bride.”
Oct. 24, 2010, Adam checked into the Providence ER with severe abdominal pain. Because of his age – the average age of colon cancer diagnosis is 72 – doctors figured he had irritable bowel syndrome, gallstones or appendicitis.
His pain was excruciating, and it was only getting worse. Doctors ordered a CT scan and discovered there was an 8-inch tumor blocking his large intestine.
On Oct. 26, Adam was diagnosed with stage 3B colon cancer. He was 37. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes and surrounding tissues. His diagnosis had been missed for three years.
“He’d had some symptoms, and had complained about them at two physicals, but when you’re not even in the right age for a test, they don’t even think of it that way,” Julie said. “And so his tumor had grown for three years.”
The doctors told Julie to go home and tell their four children that their dad had cancer.
“Within minutes, the nurses that thought we were normal ER patients, looked at me with such sadness, I wanted to scream,” Julie said. “They put tubes down Adam’s nose while I went out to call my mom.
“He ripped those tubes out, got dressed and came to find ‘his bride’ to make sure I was OK.”
According to the American Cancer Society, colon cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths in the United States. However, early diagnosis often leads to a cure. It originates in glands in the lining of the colon or rectum. There is no single cause.
Adam had emergency surgery to remove the tumor. He has had four more operations, more than 50 days in the hospital and 16 months of chemotherapy, all in an effort to extend his life.
“After that first surgery, I was still just in complete denial,” Adam said. “I’ve never been sick. I was going to get better, I was going to go back to work, and everything was going to be fine.”
A materials manager at Boeing, Adam insisted on working during his treatment. At Providence, he ran meetings from his hospital bed and studied textbooks during chemo for his MBA. Home from the hospital, he worked his way back up to full-time.
He refused to take nausea or pain medication. He started eating healthier and exercising daily. He supported his children – Madison, 14, Payton, 12, Carson, 6, and Emerson, 5 – in their school and extracurricular activities.
After six months of chemo, his cancer was in remission. Life was going back to normal.
But on Aug. 6, two months later, Adam’s tumor markers were back up. Doctors ordered an emergency PET scan. The cancer had spread to his liver. He had two tumors on his right liver – and possibly there the whole time. He was told he had a 25 percent chance to live.
“The doctor said to me, ‘Mrs. Bogart, we’re not talking about your husband growing old with you,’” Julie said. “That was unacceptable. He promised me forever, and we’ve got a long ways to go.”
On Sept. 2, Adam had an operation to remove his liver. When he woke up from surgery and Julie told him the cancer was gone, he cried tears of joy, tears of relief.
“I was just so happy to get a chance,” he said. “My goal in life is to watch my grandkids graduate college because if you can get to that milestone you must have done something right in your life.”
After Adam was diagnosed, Friends on Facebook formed Team Bogart, now with about 270 members. The team cooks them meals, looks after their kids, and does their household chores when they need the help.
“We had people I hadn’t seen in 20 years watching our kids,” Julie said. “Team Bogart was doing everything.”
Help from the community doesn’t stop there. Mukilteo Family YMCA gives Adam a 75 percent discount off of his gym membership. The Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club charges them $50 a month for child care.
As contest winners, the Bogarts will get to enjoy a renewal ceremony with flowers, cake and hundreds of guests, all donated by sponsors of Relay for Life. Mukilteo’s Moments to Treasure Bridal donated Julie’s dress and Tropical Tan and Nails is doing her nails for the ceremony.
The Lake Stevens Relay will be held at Lake Stevens High School only six days before the Bogart’s 16th wedding anniversary, which is May 25. The Bogarts will be writing their own vows. They’ll also lead the survivor lap.
“We’ve always wanted to renew our vows at our 15 year anniversary, but he had just finished chemo, and there was no way to do it,” Julie said.
“We’re setting an example for our kids that we really love each other. We’re broke, he’s been sick, we’ve been through everything together. He’s my best friend. I don’t want to live without him.”
Adam’s wish, since he started chemo, has been to take his family to Disneyland for the first time. Now, that wish is to go for a “family moon” after the Relay wedding.
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