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U-M doctor plays cupid to help patient wed

Thanks to an eloquent letter from a U-M doctor, Ivan Maillard, M.D., an engagement ring was within reach of his patient Robert Wood, who is now planning an October wedding with his fiancée Becky.

Dr. Maillard, a hematology oncologist at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center, treats Robert for relapsed refractory Hodgkin lymphoma. At one appointment, Dr. Maillard learned that his young patient’s chance encounter with an old friend had sparked romance, leading to love, a marriage proposal and plans for a future together.

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Robert, 28, confided to Dr. Maillard that the financial burden of his cancer care put a beautiful engagement ring – the kind he felt Becky deserved – out of his reach.  Dr. Maillard quickly realized he wanted to do something to help Robert reach his goal of providing Becky with an engagement ring and wedding. His letter to Dearborn Jewelers in Plymouth was the result, and the foundation 3 Little Birds 4 Life helped with the balance, enabling the couple to plight their troth in the traditional American way, with a diamond.

Robert, who is a Chelsea, Mich., native, has had his share of ups and downs since his diagnosis in 2007. A computer engineer by training, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma three weeks after starting a new job which required a waiting period before benefits kicked in. However, the company compassionately activated Robert’s health insurance coverage immediately. Robert was able to work until last October, when a collapsed lung and recurring hospital stays left him too tired to continue employment.

“I was in the U-M hospital for Halloween, and Becky’s co-workers brought a delicious home-made Thanksgiving dinner to us in the hospital, but thank God I got home for Christmas,” he recalls.

Now, the couple is figuring out how to have a wedding on a shoestring budget. The date is set for October 12, which is the anniversary of their first date in 2010. Their plan was to have a potluck reception until a couple at their Fowlerville church offered to provide catering very close to free, while another church member offered his DJ services. Their photographer – a family friend – is also providing a good package discount. Currently, Robert and Becky are weighing what kinds of honeymoon options their shoestring budget can provide.

Looking to the future, the couple says they would like to have kids and continue living in Fowlerville on the farm that has been in Becky’s family since the 1800s.

“We want to enjoy life to the fullest while I’ve got the chance. After all, just because I have a disease doesn’t mean I can’t be happy,” Robert says. “Also, years ago, I wouldn’t have heard myself say I want to go back to work, but now I do. It would give me a sense of usefulness.”

Robert and Becky credit the amazing support from their families, and an unshakeable sense of faith and hope, for the strong bond between them and their ability to work as a team for Robert’s cancer care.

“I have my down days, but then who doesn’t?” Robert says.

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blood cellsThe Multidisciplinary Lymphoma Clinic at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center provides diagnosis and treatment to patients with newly-diagnosed and recurrent lymphoma. The clinic follows a team approach to care. Patients have their situation discussed not only by our hematologist oncologists, but also by radiation oncologists, surgical oncologists, registered nurses and social workers. By having everyone involved, a personalized treatment plan is developed. In most cases, this discussion happens the same day as the appointment.

CCC 25 years button150x150The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.