Watching the Filson family play outside on a beautiful fall day, you see a lot of joy. That joy of simply being a family is what propels them forward through an uncertain future.
Brooke and Josiah Filson were married only a year when life got complicated.
"Right about our first anniversary, I started not feeling well," said Josiah.
The new husband was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Josiah battled through and made it almost five years cancer–free when Brooke became pregnant with their first child, Jonah.
"It was right about that same time that I started having the symptoms again," Josiah remembered, "night sweats and weight loss, a new lump on my collarbone."
The cancer had returned. But still, the Filson's felt joy with a baby on the way.
"It was almost a saving grace for me," said Brooke, "because having Jonah inside me was hope, you know, a new baby is hope."
But for the whole of Jonah's young life, the family has lived with cancer. Jonah was born seven weeks premature and the very same week Josiah was also hospitalized. Shortly after, Brooke was laid off from her teaching job and fell ill with pneumonia. A she recovered, Josiah ended up back in the hospital yet again.
The couple remembers feeling the financial stress piling up. Josiah received a stem cell transplant and had his spleen removed, yet the cancer persisted.
Now, more than a year and a half later, a lot of time is spent at home.
Josiah's current treatment is a sort of last resort. It's an experimental medicine that leaves his immune system extremely weak and keeps the entire family from venturing too far out in public. Together, the couple has been out of work for more than a year as Josiah is too weak to work and Brooke is left to care for both husband and son.
Any thoughts of Brooke returning to teaching or little Jonah being sent to daycare are thwarted by the risk of the germs they would bring back to the home.
"I've been so thankful and blessed to be able to be home with Josiah and Jonah," said Brooke, "but it's – we're really suffering financially. People have done so much to help us out already it's really hard to even talk about being in this place."
Now the threat of foreclosure looms over their Crystal home. The generosity of friends, family and their church try to keep the bills paid and the joy alive. Hope Church in Minneapolis is planning a benefit dinner for the Filson's. The church hopes to raise enough donations to cover the Filson's mortgage payments for one year. Meanwhile, the family tries to appreciate what they do have.
"Just living in the day to day," explained Brooke, "and that's all we can do, is just do the best we can with today and enjoy today and love each other and just keep going."
Learn more of the Filson's story at www.caringbridge.org/visit/fillysfriends.
FILSON FAMILY BENEFIT - spaghetti dinner, silent auction, kids games & bake sale
Saturday, November 13, 2010
4:00 - 8:00pm
5200 Emerson Avenue North, Minneapolis
Tickets: $10 donation; $50 maximum per immediate family
Jennifer Anderson reporting
November 8, 2010