The symptoms began in 2019: weight gain, bloating and swelling in my abdomen, pain in my lower abdomen, nausea, shortness of breath. On Sept. 5, 2019, I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s follicular lymphoma. My oncologist said to me, “This is treatable, not curable; you will not die from this.” I walked out of her clinic with a smile and a positive attitude. God gave me a form of cancer that was giving me a second chance. October 2019, I started my first of six treatments. In May of 2020, I started maintenance chemo, and I go every eight weeks through May 2022.
words + photographs HEATHER PRIEBE
The morning of June 9, 2020, the defendant texted friends, “I am going to run over a cop I think.” This person circled Springfield Police Department headquarters multiple times, just waiting. He caused a disturbance that led to officers coming out of the building. With his foot on the gas, he turned his steering wheel and went right for a cop. That cop was my husband.
Mark was pinned underneath the vehicle. The other officer on scene fired at the suspect, stopping him from killing the cop, my husband, Mark. I was escorted to Mercy hospital and then escorted to the emergency room Mark was in. It was there SPD Chief Paul Williams took me to Mark’s bedside.
Mark looked at me and said, “I am sorry. I am sorry. I am sorry. I can’t feel my legs.” At the same time he was saying those words, the doctor tapped me on the shoulder and said, “He has a spinal cord injury and will likely never walk again.”
With my left hand, I touched Mark’s head, and with my right hand, I grabbed his right hand. It was at that moment I said to him, “Why are you sorry? There is no need to be sorry. You are alive; we can get through this.” I had to pause for a moment and thank God. I did not have to walk out of that room and tell our 15-year-old son and 9-year-old daughter their dad was dead. Mark had use of his arms and no injury to his brain. Mark was given a second chance, and we were going to go forward with a positive attitude and thankfulness.
Wife and mom are the greatest titles I hold. Being a wife and mom has definitely challenged me over the years. But nothing prepared me for the title of caregiver to a paraplegic. Some days are harder than others for me to stay positive and not let the negative challenges take over. When Mark is struggling, I struggle. The mental struggle of his injury for us both is overwhelming some days. The physical challenges, the frustration and anger of how it happened, the realization this is our new life — it is hard. Each day is still a learning process.
The journey our family has been on the last two years has been the most challenging years of our lives. With each bump in the road, I have focused on the positive and refused to let the negative take the lead. I have prayed in ways I never prayed before. I sought counseling and continue to go monthly. I try to journal daily. Some days I talk about our journey and other days I privately write about the day. Every morning I read a daily devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. As crazy as this sounds, going to work gives me normal in my day. I am an esthetician at a spa in Republic, Missouri. When I walk through the doors, I find peace. The first thing I do in my room is turn on my diffuser and diffuse one of my favorite Young Living oils. Next stop, “Alexa, spa radio on Pandora.” Our spa is filled with happiness, from the decor, to the smell, to the music and the clients. It truly gives me peace.
As a family we have embraced this journey. Mark and I have always been honest and transparent with our kids. We truly believe this has helped them and us to keep a positive attitude and outlook through our journey of second chances. HP
Heather Priebe is married to Mark, and they have two amazing kids, Conner and Chloe. Heather grew up in Aurora and is a licensed esthetician at Arabella Day Spa in Republic. Follow the family’s story at Facebook.com/prayersforpriebe. They utilize the hashtags #Prayersforpriebe #priebestrong.
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