Family crisis offers lessons to young medical student

Emily Casterline learned about testicular cancer as a second-year medical student.

A few weeks later, she encountered the disease in a very personal way. Her husband, Micah, was diagnosed with it in February.

Her coursework at Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine taught her that if caught in time, testicular cancer has a 95 percent cure rate.

But Micah’s cancer gave her an insight her textbooks couldn’t.

"I didn’t know how it turns your life upside down even if your loved one is going to survive," Emily said. "I’ll be a better doctor because I’ve been through this with Micah. I’ll know how to talk to patients. I’ll know what they’re facing."

But in the midst of disease and upheaval, affirmation of life awaited.

Micah, a U.S. Defense Department auditor, and Emily had always planned to have a baby. But they knew his disease and its treatment might render that dream impossible.

On the day after Micah’s tumor was removed, Emily had a doctor’s appointment.

"On Feb. 26, I found out I’m pregnant," Emily exulted. "A miracle baby. We’ve been on quite an emotional roller coaster."

Over all the ups and downs, devoted supporters have buoyed them. Emily’s TCOM classmates were among those who brought dinners, mowed the grass, walked the dogs, cleaned the house.

"There were times I really wanted to give up," said Micah, whose last treatment was May 27. "I don’t know how we could have gotten through it if not for all the support."

Emily agreed. "Now I’ll know in detail what my patients are up against."

And she’ll relate well to those she cares for in her first rotation, beginning July 7. Expecting a boy on Oct. 24, she’s a natural for the OB/GYN patients she’ll see at John Peter Smith Hospital and the UNT Health Patient Care Center.

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