STANFORD — Destiny Armstrong finished up some work Wednesday as a homebound student before getting some needed rest.
The next day, the eighth-grader at Lincoln County Middle School would check into the University of Kentucky’s Children’s Hospital in Lexington to receive her second cycle of chemotherapy since being diagnosed with cancer just a month ago.
The Armstrong home sits back off a country road in Crab Orchard in a sweet spot of land just beginning to peak with the green promise of spring. The property is neat as a pin, inside and out. The very orderliness speaks to how the events of the last month must have been for a family so secure in its place in the world.
“I¿am still trying to get my head around it all,” said Amy Armstrong, Destiny’s mother.
Amy looks small sitting beside her husband, Arthur, but the fear in his eyes makes them both seem hardly older than their young sons, Bradlee and Daniel. The boys are both younger than their “Sissy.”
It is remarkable that the center of strength in the neat room is Destiny Armstrong, sporting a new wig to cover her baldness and resting up for her trip to the hospital where she would be filled more than 10 times in three days with drugs designed to aggressively attack Stage IV Hodgkin's lymphoma.
One month ago, “Hodgkin’s lymphoma” wasn’t even in the family vocabulary.
One month ago, Arthur took Destiny to Mount Vernon to their family doctor, Dr. Callie Shaffer.
“I really wasn’t very sick or anything,” Destiny said. “I just had a cough.”
“Amy has a preschool here that she runs out of the house so I took her, Destiny, to her appointment,”¿Arthur said. “She had been coughing for a couple of weeks — two or three by then — but not really bad and, you know, considering the time of year and everything, we weren’t worried.”
“I thought I¿had a cold,” Destiny said.
The family has nothing but praise for the doctor for what happened next.
It is the cold and cough season, after all, and everyone agrees Destiny wasn’t very sick, but the doctor was concerned about her lymph nodes and decided to send Destiny next door to Rockcastle Regional Hospital for an X-ray.
“She sent us over to the hospital for the X-ray,” Arthur said. “And by the time we got back to her office, she told us what it was and had us scheduled to go to Lexington first thing the next morning.”
He said he was too upset to even talk to his wife so the doctor called Amy.
“She told me she had done the X-ray and what she had found,” Amy said. “I had never heard of Hodgkin's lymphoma, and she had to tell me it was cancer. I really don’t remember anything she said after that.”
Destiny said that while her dad was very emotional, she just had a calm come over her. She comforted him, telling him, “God’s got it.”
Early the next morning, the scared young parents took Destiny to the Kentucky Clinic in Lexington for bloodwork and a CT scan. The day after, it was a PET scan. A couple of days later came the biopsy and official confirmation of what her doctor already knew.
The Armstrongs, according to Destiny, are fortunate to have two churches. One is Watts Chapel Baptist Church in Crab Orchard and the other is Journey Community Church in Stanford. Amy says their churches, Destiny’s school, neighbors and friends have rushed forward to shore up the family and meet needs they didn’t know they would have.
“I¿really still haven’t been able to wrap my mind around it,” Amy said. “But people are just doing so much. People come by and we are getting calls and so many are praying for us. I am amazed by it all ... by God’s blessings on our family.”