By Steve Blanchard
Just before the dawn of 2018, Andrew and Laurie Vos started a new life in the Tampa Bay area, leaving behind the tranquility of rural Virginia with a plan to enjoy a warmer climate and spend more time with their family. They never imagined what would happen three months later. That’s when Laurie was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells and bone marrow.
“Like all cancer patients, I was shocked,” Laurie said from her bed at Moffitt Cancer Center. “You want to feel sorry for yourself, but when you arrive here and see all of the other patients, it’s humbling. You realize you are not alone in your fight.”
During the first week of September, Laurie underwent a stem cell transplant. Andrew has remained by her side, and the couple even rented a nearby apartment to remain as close to Moffitt as possible during treatment
“You have to keep a positive attitude,” said Andrew. “I’m thankful we happened to move close to one of the best cancer hospitals in the country. We moved to Tampa for a reason, we just didn’t realize it was because of Laurie’s diagnosis.”
Unfortunately, their rollercoaster ride had just begun. The couple was in local headlines earlier this month when a depression — the precursor to a possible sinkhole — opened under their New Port Richey home. While news cameras and reporters asked about their dream home and their possessions, Andrew stayed focused on his wife of 17 years.
“All of that can be replaced,” he said, before looking at Laurie. “This is something you can’t replace.”
Multiple myeloma treatment plans vary depending on each patient’s diagnosis, symptoms, medical history and overall health. Treatment can include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and bone marrow transplants.
In Laurie’s case, the best option was a stem cell transplant, which requires her to remain close to Moffitt for regular treatment and check-ups.
“It’s not exactly what we had planned, but life throws you curveballs a lot,” Laurie said. “We’ve learned that what you do is just put one foot in front of the other."
Eventually, the couple hopes to return to their home, which is currently supported by fill dirt, while geoengineers determine the next steps. County officials say the hole was 40 to 50 feet in diameter and almost 25 feet deep.
“It was literally the day I was having my transplant,” says Laurie. “I can’t imagine a stronger double whammy than that.”
The Voses don’t know when — or if — they will be able to return to their dream home, but since they have an apartment nearby for Laurie’s treatment, they feel fortunate and safe for the time being.
“Laurie is the priority and what is the most important right now,” Andrew said. “Multiple myeloma we can actively battle. We don’t have much control over what happens to the house.”