AUSTIN (KXAN) — An Austin couple spends their days with a camera in their hands and their eyes behind a lens.
The Pearys have helped their clients remember some of the most special moments of their lives: the day they say, “I do.” They photograph about 100 weddings per year through their business, Peary Photography.
But what they kept to themselves at each wedding was a nearly deadly battle.
Bill Peary said they had just got done photographing a wedding: “I was getting a feeling like, “I just don’t feel right,” he explained.
After wandering into a health fair, a nurse performed a sonogram on his stomach. That night, he got a report that he had a mass.
Within two days, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “Everything was just right after another,” he said. “You hear the rustling of the white paper and you hear what he said and you’re just like, ‘what?’“
A diagnosis of multiple myeloma cancer for his wife, Karen, came years later in 2016 — rare for someone of the age of 53.
“I had the benefit of seeing that Bill had already gone through it and he came out and was already in remission so it was I guess in a lot of ways easier for me,” she said.
But despite the threat of how cancer could change their lives, one thing they were not ready to give up was their love for the business they’ve been in for 13 years.
“It was a distraction from feeling bad,” said Karen. “He didn’t have time to feel bad. He didn’t have time to worry about it.”
“At the end of the night, the bride and groom are gone and the sparklers have burned out and we’re getting in the car loading up and we’re just like man, ‘that was a good day,'” described Bill.
Their breakthrough came with a treatment worked on and developed by Dr. Michael Kasper, M.D. medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central. He allowed the couple to continue capturing the best moments of their clients’ special days, while fighting through some of their worst.
“How do you manage treatment with some very busy, active lives?” he asked, when coming up with a plan. He said his focus was making the treatment for each of them as most effective and least invasive and least toxic as possible.
Bill would spend his time at blood transfusion appointments editing wedding photos.
Survivor is a hard word for us. I don’t like using it myself I just like to say that we responded well to treatment. Our bodies responded very well to what happened here and we’re just very lucky that we had great treatment right here in Austin, Texas.
We’re just grateful that we have Texas Oncology.Bill Peary
For Bill, it meant never missing one wedding throughout the more than six-month treatment process. “Most people didn’t even know that he was sick,” said Karen. She however, missed a couple of months as she was being treated through a span of about a year. She didn’t have to take chemotherapy drugs, but during that, she endured a bone marrow transplant. Though her transplant was different because she didn’t need a donor, they were able to use her own marrow.
The successful treatments meant the Peary’s would still be able to live out their own love story, going strong for 27 years, while using their gifts to help others remember some of their milestone moments.
“As people hear the word ‘cancer,’ they automatically assume that it’s a life sentence and it’s not and I mean everybody knows somebody that’s had it and the survivors increase every year,” said Karen.
Dr. Kasper explained that while there is no clear way to prevent either of these types of cancers, he knows a main cause for lymphoma are herbicides and radiation exposure for myeloma. He also encouraged people to be aware of their bodies, take note of swollen glands or bone pain, and to have a conversation with a doctor if there is ever a concern.
It’s at times difficult being an oncologist because you cant guarantee an outcome but when you have patients who have done this well, it brings a smile to my face and is joy for me. I really feel honored to be able to care for them.
It’s a real treat, it’s the reason I’m doing what I’m doing.Dr. Michael Kasper, M.D., medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Austin Central.
The best part: they’re now able to say they’re cancer-free, which allows them to enjoy their three daughters, one who helps them with their business, and soon-to-be six grandchildren.
I think staying positive instead of focusing on anything that could happen. Positive for each other, positive for yourself, and I think that’s truly what pushed us through as we just never went down that other path partly because of running our own business. We didn’t have time to.Karen Peary