CANARYVILLE — When Dale Mitchell dropped down to one knee and popped the question inside a packed grade school auditorium Sunday, his future wife didn’t answer with a yes.
Instead, Dana Fogarty retreated into her burly fiance's arms without saying a word.
Fogarty, 28, was diagnosed last year with Stage III Squamous Cell Carcinoma, a form of cancer that has required intense chemotherapy — twice a day for three months — and the removal of her tongue.
Yet the cancer has come back.
Already, the newly engaged couple face a mounting stack of medical bills that they say has topped $20,000 — and that’s before the bills for the first chemotherapy sessions and the 11-hour glossectomy have even arrived at the couple’s Canaryville apartment.
Fogarty, an Illinois Institute of Technology employee, has been on long-term leave since her treatments began last year. She's been paying upward of $240 each month for painkillers and medicines for nausea and anxiety.
"I have resorted to purchasing all my meds on credit cards because what little long-term leave pays barely covers my share of rent and utilities," she wrote in an email.
To help out, family and friends have organized a “Kissing Cancer Goodbye” fundraiser, scheduled for 6-11 p.m. April 13 at De La Salle Institute, 3434 S. Michigan Ave. Tickets are $25 per person, and organizers have said donations for raffle prizes have already began streaming in.
They've also set up a page accepting one-click PayPal donations.
That’s left her feeling crestfallen.
“That’s the hard part. I felt like I was on top of it,” she said.
As she braces for more intense chemotherapy, Fogarty is taking speech and occupational therapy sessions. Soon, she hopes to able to eat and swallow again — right now, she gets nutrition, hydration and medicine through a
feeding tube in her stomach.
And she's confident her speech will improve over time.
Her fiance, Mitchell, a 34-year-old engineer who works the graveyard shift, has been by her side through the whole ordeal.
Before the engagement, which took place during a performance of St. Gabriel's annual St. Patrick's Day play, Mitchell said Fogarty was feeling especially good and relatively pain-free.
He thought it was because she'd been tipped off to the engagement. She wasn't.
"God must've given her a day off," Mitchell said.
Fogarty said Sunday's surprise engagement "doesn’t change anything" about her outlook on life or her battle with cancer.
"But I told [Dale] I feel safe now.”
The next round of chemotherapy is scheduled to begin within weeks.