Interview by Mégane Luquiens
For a different perspective on their stories, Dennis and Kathy were both interviewed by Megane Luquiens, a college student from Switzerland who is also their exchange daughter who lived with them during the 2015-16 school year.
Can you tell me, in a few words, who you are?
I am Dennis Fry, Kathy’s husband. We’ve been married for 39 years and have been together for 46, since meeting and first dating in high school. We have two grown kids of our own and three grandchildren, as well as a large family of exchange students all around the world.
What was your experience with Kathy’s cancer journey? What was your part as husband and family caretaker ?
Wow…it was a whole range of thoughts and emotions: shock, fear, confusion, hope, and more than I can put words to. There were some hard times and some very good times. We talked through all of it and went to all of the doctors appointments, tests, and treatments together. The only real thing I could do was to be there to support Kathy and keep the day to day of our household working. I tried to keep things as positive as I could and keep Kathy focused on a good outcome. By sticking close together and managing outside stress we have been able to do just that.
Going to Puerto Rico must have been good for you too. Did that trip also help you? In what way?
Our trip to Puerto Rico in January 2007 had two parts to it. It was to give us a chance to celebrate our 25th anniversary which we had missed during treatments, and also to have the opportunity to just get away from all that had been happening for the previous year. I had been very worried about Kathy’s state of mind and seemingly depression. That trip was an amazing turnaround. It took us out of cold Wisconsin in the dead of winter to a tropical island where everything was new and different. It gave us the chance to reconnect and share all of those new things. I got my life partner back again! We would just start each day with the only goal being to explore a new beach with no expectations or schedule. We took lots of pictures, and after the trip even did a little day by day log of what we did and saw. I could see a huge change in Kathy’s mood and outlook as the week went on. It also lifted a great weight from my shoulders as we were back to taking on the world as a team again.
What does this project represent to you?
After most people experience a life changing event such as cancer, what they want to do is get back to normal. Many people do this and are happy if they can find normal again. We went back to our ‘normal’ routine for a very short time, and then realized we wanted to return to Puerto Rico – we had found a ‘new normal’. We started looking for property there so that we could return often. About six months after returning from that first trip, we found a place in the mountains in the southwest corner of the main island of Puerto Rico that is just a short drive to the beautiful beaches of that corner of the island. We started building our own house (cabin). We were talking with a friend about all of this a short time after the cabin was finished. When discussing all of our experiences there, we came up with the description of that first trip as a “Restorative Escape”. That set us on a whole new path – taking our life changing cancer event and working to make this kind of escape available to other cancer survivors. Renewed Hope / Esperanza Renovada was created to do just that. So now for us there is no going back!w We ‘re going forward with making these escapes a reality for more survivors. This gives us the chance to again work together on a common goal and fill our lives with the work of helping others find renewed hope in their lives, after their experiences with cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Thank you for your time!