GTPulse: Traverse City Couple Hopeful for Healing 100 Days After Stem Cell Therapy

Love conquers all in the movies, especially when it involves young love. Nate and Caroline Silveus are a picturesque young, married couple, aglow with a prospective future full of happiness and adventure. Nothing will stand in their way from enjoying a beautiful life, including Nate’s battle with leukemia.

Theirs is a love story as old as time. I’m partial to stories where the couple grew up together. My parents lived down the block from one another, so did my great grandparents. Nate and Caroline met in their hometown of Constantine, MI, a village of just over 2,000 on the border of Michigan and Indiana. 

They grew up as best friends, and in the last few weeks before parting ways to college six hours apart, began dating.

They stuck together for three years apart while in college. Nate was living in T

raverse City and attending Northwestern Michigan College’s Aviation school. Being a pilot had been a dream of his since childhood when his church was visited by a missionary pilot who talked of the ways that he served people around the world. 

Summer of 2018, after being a student for two years Nate was offered a job at the school as a flight instructor. He was excited and honored to work alongside those who had supported him while he was a student. The year after Caroline moved to Traverse City to be with him.

“Nate moved to Traverse City for school, and I moved there in 2019. We had been long distance for 3 years at that point, and we were beyond excited to finally be together in such a fun city,” Caroline said.

They got engaged, Nate had a job that he loved, and everything was coming together. 2019, felt like a precursor to a wonderful new decade. As we’ve learned, the start of this new decade has been anything but. Nate and Caroline were impacted right from the jump.

“Nate was diagnosed with leukemia in February of this year,” Caroline said. “He had been sick off and on through December and January, and heading into February we thought he had the flu. I took him to urgent care in Traverse City for a second time, a week or so after they diagnosed him with the flu. They did bloodwork around 4:30 pm and told him he would get a call in the next few days, but at 12:30 that night he woke up to 3 missed calls from the hospital. I drove him to Munson and about an hour later we were in an ambulance, heading to Spectrum in Grand Rapids with a leukemia diagnosis. He was admitted and we stayed there for 28 days. We’re so grateful for the timing, as the hospital cut off visitors due to covid just days after he was discharged.”

It had all happened so fast that the only word Nate could use to describe the feeling was “shock.” The scary prognosis clouded life’s trail that stretched before them with uncertainty. There were so many unanswered questions hanging in the air.

“Driving to the hospital that night, we prayed together the entire drive, but neither of us could really find words. We went from the flu to a cancer diagnosis in just seconds. The first 48 hours after his diagnosis are still such a blur for both of us; there’s not much either of us can really remember. Even now, it hits us from time to time all that he has been through this year and hurts just as much as the news did that first night.”

Four days later he began a rigorous schedule of chemotherapy. The treatment exhausted his mind and body, but Caroline stood by his side to care for him. She shaved her head in solidarity with him and has proven to be a tireless cheerleader throughout the process, including, a stem cell transplant.

Chemotherapy has side effects on the body that make it impossible to use at very high doses, one of those effects being that it can severely damage bone marrow. A stem cell transplant, otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant, can be used to administer higher amounts of chemotherapy. Nate and Caroline are happy to report that he has just passed his 100-day milestone since undergoing a stem cell with cells provided by his older sister Andrea Silveus.

“Day 100 is a huge milestone, as it marks when the time for the greatest risk of critical graft-vs-host disease [GVHD] has passed. Typically, patients are home long before their day 100 mark. The average hospital stay for a stem cell transplant is about 4-6 weeks, but since Nate has experienced so many complications, we’ve been in the hospital for over 4 months.”

100 days is a turning point for many SCT recipients because they’re at a lowered risk for side effects at that point, and the stem cells have begun production on making new cells. It’s been a long year for both of them. Caroline has been living at the hospital with Nate, and with each day past the 100 mark strengthening hope and Nate’s body, they’re grateful for their faith and each other. Although they don’t know what comes next, they are hopeful for more exciting improvement, and to be home by Christmas. 

“We both have our days and moments where we’re overwhelmed and sad and angry, but having each other to lean on and talk through it all with is helpful beyond words,” Caroline said. The support from our friends, family, and community has been overwhelming, as well, in the best ways. Ultimately, we’ve truly given this all to God. We know He is in control and he is working to heal Nate and working through his medical team. We keep praying and looking for even tiny blessings throughout all of this, and He continues to show His faithfulness! We believe and trust healing is coming.”

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Categories: GTPulse