It was such a cold spring that the family dog’s water bowl would often freeze over during the night the year that Lynnette Richey, her husband and their small child lived in a 26-foot camper outside Rochester, Minnesota. Chad Richey remembers a struggle with faulty Internet connection, which was imperative to run his business, and lots and lots of rain. Lynnette remembers watching countless movies from Blockbuster on a small TV and eating lots and lots of mac and cheese. Parker was only two at the time and doesn’t remember any of it.
Minnesota and Rochester and living in a campground for five weeks were never part of the plan for the Richeys, who hail from Nebraska and Iowa, but cancer doesn’t let you call the shots. That’s where the Mayo Clinic was, and if that’s what it took to make her breast cancer go away, then so be it.
The one thing they could control was their attitude. The couple smiles thinking about the funny memories from the camper that year. Lynnette can’t even recall the rain.
The quiet yet friendly 38-year-old completed radiation therapy in February and confirmed, three days ago from a PET scan, that she does not currently have cancer.
“I won’t have that on my shoulders when I’m climbing to Mount Everest,” Lynnette Richey said of her upcoming trip with a group of fellow cancer survivors. “One less thing to carry around.”
She’s had to lug it too long, too many times. Richey was first diagnosed in 2003 and developed recurrences in 2005 and then again in 2009-2010.
“I’m always finding things,” she says with a mixed-emotion expression.
“Quit lookin’,” her husband Chad jokes.
After cancer became part of her personal life, she took it one step further and made it her profession. It’s even in her email address now. Richey pursued a position as an executive assistant at the American Cancer Society, a “dream job” in which she supports volunteers and tries her best to contribute to the cause any way possible.
“I truly hope this young scientist out there is gonna find a cure,” she said.
The couple seems happy as can be. An intelligent, adorable, healthy 8-year-old son and the fact the are traveling together to Nepal this week for an 18-day excursion to the base camp of Mt. Everest likely contribute to their light moods. Yes, they will be in tight quarters. Yes, any water bottles left outside may freeze overnight. But they will be living in a basic, natural setting for a difference reason this time around. It’s not to fight cancer. It’s to celebrate the fact that it’s disappeared, hopefully for good.
Parker will not be joining. He will stay with grandparents while his parents travel to the other side of the world. The clever boy did, however, strike perhaps the best deal an 8-year-old has ever managed. For every day his parents are gone, they must bring him back a present.
“We’re back peddling trying to figure out how to get out of this one,” Chad jokes of the promise to haul 18 gifts back to the U.S.
Parker didn’t understand why he couldn’t go but his father gets to. “Dad doesn’t have cancer,” he reasoned.
The boy will settle for the multitude of knickknacks, which he expects will be, “Nepal stuff.” And when it boils down to his true desires, Parker admits he doesn’t want to go to Nepal. Where would he like to go?
“Maybe the Bahamas. My grandma told me about it there. Or the Florida Keys.”
He will miss his parents, he says. And they’ll think of him often, too. At least 18 times.