Donald Hartung: A story of faith and medicine
WEST BATON ROUGE - Donald Hartung was just 26 years old, when he received the news no one wants to hear. The West Baton Rouge resident was in Cambodia on a mission trip with his wife when he got diagnosed.
"Well I started having pains but I was just like 'uhh sometimes you experience pain when you get older'. But then it got to where I couldn't stand for more than five minutes and then my wife was like, 'we should probably go to the doctor,'" said Donald, who had been living in Cambodia for three years.
Doctors there, told Donald he had five years to live.
His original diagnosed with non-seminomas testicular cancer.
"We were talking to them and they were just like 'yea we're just going to do chemo we're not going to remove the tumor first'. And we said we're going back to the states to get the treatment done because that just doesn't make sense to me,” said Donald.
The couple hopped on a plane and headed to the states for a second opinion, where more troubling news was waiting.
"When I got back to the states it rapidly moved through the lymph nodes and the lungs. I started feeling pain in my lungs and head,” said Donald.
There were 18 masses on his lungs and nearly five tumors on his brain. A day after arriving stateside, Donald found himself on the operating table.
"He was just strong, like this is what we have, this is our circumstance so we're just going to walk through them,” says Jennifer, Donald's wife.
For some, it would be a test of faith but for Donald, it was part of a promise. "The Bible promised trials and tribulations and I'm not going to start being down on myself and asking why," he said.
After one tumor was removed, doctors at Our Lady of the Lake’s Mary Bird Perkins Center found that it had grown back. Surgeons went back in with full force with a gamma ray knife.
"The gamma knife does a procedure called stereo-tactic radiosurgery. And that technology allows us to formally and very accurately treat these areas that show those small tumors with less, minimal radiation to the surrounding brain,” explained Dr. Daniel Bourgeois.
After surgery, Donald endured months of chemotherapy, which took a toll.
"My occupation got taken away because we were working in the field and that got taken away because we had to come back. One of my hobbies, or passion, got taken away," said Donald.
And then a miracle happened.
"We treated every tumor that he had before he started his chemotherapy and now he's finished that and is without any evidence of disease,” said Bourgeois
Now, Donald is focusing on the future, learning Spanish and hoping to start a family before hitting the mission field once again to spread the good news. His test is now his testimony.
"Whether you're walking through this or not you still have a call in your life, you're still a child of God. And you have to remind yourself of that. You're still a son or daughter. And you just have to remember that to really get you through it. Then the why doesn't matter as much as just knowing how loved you are," Donald said.