Couple grow closer through adversity: Remission after chemotherapy

PORT ANGELES — Jessie and Dan Spicher look like any happy young couple: carefree, glowing, in love.

They met while working the night shift together in the Peninsula Daily News mailroom. A friendship turned into romance, and they married on a summer day in 2010.

Their first year and a half as husband and wife has brought them closer than they could have imagined.

This Christmas season, Dan and Jessie are gifts to each other — gifts neither takes for granted.

Dan, 22, is beginning to feel like himself again after the hell of chemotherapy treatments.

From July into November, he endured 12 of them for stage-four Hodgkin’s lymphoma and is now in remission.

Undergoing chemo — “it’s poison they’re pumping into you,” Dan said in an interview last week — was beyond anything he’d imagined.

The mental and physical sensations are like having a case of the worst flu, then piling stomach flu on top of that, “and it’s tax time, too,” he said, flashing a wide grin.

Diagnosis in June

Dan was given his diagnosis in June, soon after he’d landed a job at Westport Shipyard.

He wanted to keep working — and needed the medical insurance coverage — but the chemo sessions hit him too hard.

Dan’s doctors at Olympic Medical Center gave him the news of remission after just four treatments.

But he had to go through eight more, every other week, to “make sure and knock it out,” as he puts it.

For Jessie, watching her beloved suffer was excruciating, a six-month siege with Dan in chemo while Jessie worked — she has her own house-cleaning business, Maid to Perfection — and took a full load of classes at Peninsula College.

She’s taking general education courses to earn her associate degree; Jessie has been too focused on other matters to choose a particular career path.

“It’s been really stressful,” Jessie said, adding that seeing her husband so ill broke her heart — again.

At 26, Jessie has already been through more loss than most women her age.

In 2000, when Jessie was just 14, her mother died. Then, in August of the same year, her father, Clallam County Sheriff’s Deputy Wally Davis, was shot to death in the line of duty.

Jessie is as steely as she is pretty. She and Dan agree that their struggles have strengthened their bond as well as their faith in God.

As they see it, the people who have come to their aid — the congregation of The Crossing Church of Port Angeles, Olympic Medical Center’s staff, friends who have become family — are messengers of God’s love.

The Spichers’ supporters appeared when the horizon seemed exceedingly dark.

Angels for Dan

A group that dubbed itself “Angels for Dan” put on a fundraising dinner and auction in August and has continued to gather donations for the couple’s living expenses.

Going through this, Dan said, has made him a better and stronger man. But there were times when he felt like giving up.

“That’s where my wonderful wife came in,” he added.

Now the Spichers are facing yet another trial.

Three weeks ago, Jessie’s doctor informed her that she has a chiari malformation, a defect that causes her cerebellum to press on her skull.

It causes intense headaches and can grow progressively worse.

Jessie plans to see a specialist in Seattle next month; she may have to undergo brain surgery.

Looking at her husband seated beside her, she’s philosophical.

“We’ve been through the worst part,” Jessie said.

“At least this isn’t an emergency. It’s not as traumatic [as Dan’s illness] . . . with the cancer, he was on his deathbed,” while the chiari malformation is not life-threatening at this point.

Dan, for his part, hopes to return to work at Westport in early 2012.

He said his position there is being held for him, and he’s eager, of course, to get back to earning some income.

On Christmas weekend, the Spichers spent time with family — including one of their guardian Angels for Dan.

She’s Michelle Maike, who first met Jessie when she was a teenager.

Jessie dated Maike’s son David when they were both at Port Angeles High School; Jessie and Maike’s family have been friends ever since.

Maike and her husband, Steve Waugaman, also have a daughter, Elissa, who lives in California.

Neither Elissa nor David, who works in Las Vegas, could make it home for Christmas.

But the Maike-Waugaman household has been filled with cheer this weekend.

The Spichers came over for Christmas Eve dinner, to celebrate the cancer’s remission, the end of chemotherapy and the bonds that have grown stronger this year.

“They are my family,” Maike said of Jessie and Dan. “They have been a blessing, and a great gift.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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