Family battles adversity on two fronts during deployment

By 446th PAO on February 10, 2011

On the same day his deployment orders started, his wife's own mission was defined. His mission was to support Operation New Dawn as NCOIC of air freight at Kirkuk Regional Air Base, Iraq and her mission was to survive breast cancer in Oregon.

Tech. Sgt. Chris Currier, 86th Aerial Port Squadron, and his wife Candice learned of her breast cancer diagnosis Aug. 27, 2010. He departed for Iraq seven days later.

"I knew in my gut it was breast cancer," said the 22-year Air Force Reserve veteran. "I found the lump a few days before when my hand brushed by her breast as we cuddled in bed that morning. It was the size of a pea, but as my hand brushed by it, I knew what it was."  

That was Aug. 14. 2010.

Within 13 days of discovering the lump, Candice received the news from her doctor.

"It scared me and I cried for hours," said Candice Currier, a mother of four. "But I knew how strong I was and the support I had from my family and best friend gave me all the strength I needed to get through."

Together, the two decided that Chris would go on the 120-day deployment. Before making the decision, conversations were held with his family and his squadron leadership.

"We knew that their sister-in-law and family friend would give her the support she needed, like watching their children while he was gone," said Chief Master Sgt. Christopher Dietz, 86th APS air transportation manager. 

Other factors going into the decision were the less emotional, practical aspects of deploying.

"We knew the tax-free income, along with the TRICARE benefits, would be needed to get through this," said Sergeant Currier.

Knowing they would be able to stay closely in touch also helped.

"I knew that being able to communicate with my husband through e-mail and Skype would help me feel like he wasn't as far away," said Candice.

Over the course of Candice's seven chemotherapy treatments, Chris felt her pain during the harder moments, but also her relief when she was doing well. 

Candice even infused the situation with some light-hearted fun.

"She had a hair-pulling party with the kids," said Sergeant Currier, referencing the hair loss that often comes as a result of chemotherapy. "Then she went and had her head shaved."

Candice made note of her intention to shave her head in one of her many e-mails to Chris, but seeing her on Skype after the deed was done still came as a surprise.

"Hearing her on her down week was the hardest part," said the Intel contractor. "Knowing how defenseless she was, was hard. But when I found out she was pulling through, it was a great relief. Knowing that the people I deployed with were there for support was also a relief."

Chief Dietz showed his support by taking a trip to Oregon to check on the family and making sure Candice was doing okay.

"I went down there on Candice's birthday, Oct. 25, to drop off some truffles and check on her," said the Olympia, Wash. resident. "The commander (Lt. Col. Tim May) and the first sergeant (Senior Master Sgt. Anthony Mack) also called her a few times. We were relieved to find out she was going to be okay, not only for her sake, but for her family." 

According to Candice, all the support was a huge factor in getting through her treatments.

"Tech. Sgt. Tracy Sheridan (86th APS) called four times a month to talk for hours," said Candice. "And Chief Dietz would call regulalry to check up on me."

Sergeant Currier's supervisor from his civilian job, stopped by at Christmas to check on the family and drop off gifts. 

"That was a nice surprise. People say they'll stay in touch (during tough times), but often times they don't as their own lives interfere," said Sergeant Currier.

Throughout the entire process, the couple never doubted her strength in getting through her illness. In fact, it made their relationship grow stronger.

"I knew from the start she was going to pull through," said Sergeant Currier, the veteran who's been through four deployments, including Operation Desert Storm. "She will not take 'no' for an answer. Without a doubt, this has made me a better husband, a better (noncommissioned officer), and has made us stronger."

Candice sums up their relationship through the troubled time.

"Most certainly it has made our relationship stronger," she said. "I had to let Chris see the raw side of me by letting my guard down and trusting that his love would still stand. He showed me his true feelings every time we talked and no matter what my insecurities about my looks or feelings were, he didn't waver in his love and desire for me as his wife."

Although a biopsy confirmed Candice is cancer free, she'll begin radiation treatment at the end of February. Sergeant Currier returned from Iraq Jan. 21 and he plans on sticking with the deal he made with his family - no more volunteer deployments.

For both, the missions they embarked on last fall come to a close in 2011 - mission accomplished.