Guest Column by Jean Rounds, wife of SD Senator Mike Rounds.
The past ten months have been the hardest challenge we’ve faced as a family, and that I have faced personally. In May of 2019, I was diagnosed with a malignant, high-grade, aggressive tumor near my sciatic nerve—a sarcoma. Prior to the diagnosis, I had been experiencing a lot of pain and was visiting the doctor frequently. We knew something was going on but weren’t sure what exactly we were dealing with. After we got the diagnosis, Mike and I sat our kids down and told them about the sarcoma. We were all devastated. While it was hard for the kids to hear, they were incredibly supportive. As a family, we talked about our plan of action to beat this cancer diagnosis. This involved chemotherapy, surgery and radiation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester.
We have now gone through all the treatments recommended by my team of doctors. This month I was able to “ring the bell” at the Mayo Clinic, which signifies a successful end to the treatment. I’ll continue to go back for monitoring to make sure the cancer is totally gone, but I’m feeling good and we’re optimistic.
When you go through a difficult time like this, you really think about what your priorities are. For us, our number one priority is our family. Mike has been with me every step of the way—from the biopsies when we didn’t know for sure what the diagnosis was, to the chemo treatments, to caring for me post-surgery and through radiation. He never complained and he sat with me in that hospital room at Mayo Clinic for days on end. Many times he came straight to Rochester after the Senate finished voting so he could be with me during treatment and drive me the six hours back home to Fort Pierre afterward. He was my rock during this whole process. When you get married you promise to stick with your spouse in sickness and health, through the good times and the bad. Mike has been by my side throughout the most difficult time of my life. Just knowing that he was sitting in the chair next to me during my treatment helped me to know that I wasn’t fighting this battle alone.
Our family and friends have also been incredibly supportive. When you receive a cancer diagnosis, the most devastating thoughts go through your head. But our kids and grandkids, neighbors, friends and entire South Dakota community lifted us throughout my cancer treatment. I was humbled by how many people reached out to us to offer assistance. We are fortunate to have such an amazing community in Pierre and Fort Pierre, and around the state. So many people have contacted me to let me know they’re praying for my recovery. Their prayers and our faith in God got us through this hard time. Many have also shared their own stories with cancer, and how it affected their families.
We know we aren’t the first family to fight a difficult health battle, and we won’t be the last. Many South Dakotans have been in a similar situation. I understand what they’re going through, and it’s not easy. Mike and I are praying for them.
I’m so grateful to those who have included our family in their prayers. When times get tough, South Dakotans come together to help each other out. I’ve seen it firsthand, and I can’t thank everyone enough for their support.