PARKERSBURG - Angie Bussey did battle with thyroid cancer, then leukemia, and through it all she just wanted to get back home to be with her sons.
For the active mom of two boys, hearing about her youngest son's latest track meet, or spending this Mother's Day with her sons Ethan, a student at West Virginia University, and Jacob, a Parkersburg High School student, will be extra special.
"I missed so much over the past year - anniversaries, birthdays. I had to look at my son when he was leaving for prom out a window. It's been so hard on everyone, but I couldn't be prouder of my sons and the way they handled it all," Bussey said.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Sandie Smith, left, is shown with her daughter Angie Bussey, a cancer survivor and bone marrow recipient. The women are holding photographs of Angie’s two sons, Ethan and Jacob. Bussey said throughout her battle with cancer, all she wanted to do was return to normal living and get back to her sons.
Sandie Smith, Bussey's mom who was with her daughter throughout the ordeal, is pretty proud of the way her daughter handled her nearly two-year struggle with cancer.
"She really is a miracle," Smith said.
In November 2012, Angie was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. She had her thyroid removed, but a growth returned in her neck and she underwent radiation therapy that required being completely isolated from everyone for a period of time.
She made it through that, then she began having other symptoms, including vomiting, joint pain and unusual bruising. After having her blood tested, she learned she had leukemia.
She went to Morgantown, where over the next 18 months she had treatment and ultimately a bone marrow transplant.
"It was terrible, at one point she was taken in a (lifeflight) helicopter and we were told she probably wouldn't make it. I can't tell you what it felt like to look up and see that helicopter with your baby in it, and not know if you were ever going to see her again," Smith said.
"She really is a miracle, I'm sure God has something in mind for her" Smith said.
"I went from being PTA president, Little League booster, soccer coach, football boosters, working, to not being able to do anything," Bussey said.
"Jacob was just starting high school, my oldest son Ethan was a senior, and I was here today and gone tomorrow. They had to take over the housework and basically take care of themselves so my husband and I could concentrate on my treatment. I felt guilty putting them in that position, but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn't be more proud of the way they handled everything. They are just wonderful. They had to become independent, I'm so blessed to have such good kids," she said.
Bussey's husband is Sgt. David Bussey, a veteran Wood County Sheriff's Deputy.
Angie Bussey said she couldn't be more grateful to the entire community for all the support she received through her illness and, now that she's back home, with her recovery.
"So many friends, family, neighbors, church members, people we knew from school groups, organizations, booster groups my husband and I belong to, kids on the high school football team, the Wood County Deputy Sheriff's Association, local police, firefighters," she said.
"They all turned out when they had a Swab-a-Thon for Angie," Smith said.
After family members did not prove to be a match, the family set out to find a bone marrow donor.
"You would think a family member would match, but it's rarer than you think," Smith said. "There were people lined up around the block to be tested, over 600 people turned out," she said.
A match was found with a 37-year-old man who was not related to Bussey and in June 2013 she had a transplant. Bussey doesn't know her donor, but after one year can ask to meet him; and if he consents, she could have a chance to give her thanks in person.
The mother of two has been on life support and suffered numerous reactions to various types of medication. At one point she weighed less than 90 pounds, suffered setbacks, brain bleeding, seizures, had to constantly wear a hospital mask because her immune system was compromised, and several times was given a very negative prognosis. Through it all Bussey said she never believed she was going to die.
"I lived through the death of a child, my oldest son was a twin and his twin died in my arms, that's the worst thing a mother can live through, the loss of a child, so I knew I wasn't going to let cancer take me," she said.
"I just wanted to get through it so I could get back to a normal life and be with my kids. It has been a humbling experience. But seeing my kids take on the challenges and seeing what they were able to do, watching them shine, I'm so proud," Bussey said.
Bussey has been home since January, but still gets tired and has some problems with her short-term memory. She also had the blessing of learning that as a result of her Swab-A-Thon, matches for other cancer patients have been found and more lives may be saved.
Bussey said she'd like to work with the donor program, local oncologists and other cancer patients to help as much as she can, and she's looking forward to spending precious time and making new memories with her sons this Mother's Day.