A love stronger than cancer: Upstate family surprises breast cancer patient

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GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) — It’s not every day you see a love like the one shared by Dennis and Diana Cockrell. They finish each other’s sentences. They steal quick, loving glances at each other when the other person is speaking.

The two have made it through a lot together in their 23 years of marriage. They are now navigating a frightening situation: Diana was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2019.

“You’re thinking the worst,” she said. “Nobody there is willing to tell you anything, to venture a guess as to how bad this is.”

The stressful situation was only complicated when hospitals were forced to restrict visitors because of the coronavirus. Dennis can no longer go with Diana to her chemotherapy treatments, which are stressful, taxing affairs taking six to eight hours apiece.

On Monday, Dennis and the couple’s three children hatched a plan. Carly, 17, created yard signs with sharpie while Kate, 20, and Collier, 15, kept Diana from getting suspicious. Monday morning, they sneaked the signs into the car as Dennis and Diana headed to the St. Francis Cancer Center.

Dennis, knowing Diana likes to request rooms with windows, set out the signs and sat in the middle of them.

Dennis Cockrell waits outside St. Francis Cancer Center while his wife, Diana, undergoes chemotherapy. He had arranged the signs so she would not feel so alone. Photo courtesy of Dennis Cockrell.

“He texted me and said, ‘Can you see me?’” Diana said. “I didn’t know anything about the signs or anything like that so I just went to the window and there he was with everything he had brought.”

Nurses in the building helped her fashion her own sign: I <3 U.

Sarah Batson, a breast nurse navigator at St. Francis Cancer Center, said staff has stepped up efforts to offer extra support to patients at a time when family members cannot enter the building.

“We’re trying to go a little bit of the extra mile with them,” Batson said. “I feel like we do that anyway but now it’s even more important.”

Dennis Cockrell praised the staff for all they have done so far for his wife. He said he does not feel he did anything extraordinary for Diana, only that he did what he hopes any husband would do in a similar situation.

“When life is rough and you go through troubles or life closes one door, you look for a window,” he said. “So that’s literally what I did. I looked for a window.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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