MILTON — Army veteran and Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Deputy Nic Hubbard wants the community to know how important they have been to his family as they face an uphill battle with Nic's rare diagnosis.
"I don't think we could ever express or will ever be able to repay the community," Hubbard said. "The people that have put their needs aside to help us, I don't think we'll ever be able to repay them or say 'thank you' enough.
"That six dollars that you donated to us last week really meant a lot. That helped us pay the bills up here. That helped us buy those groceries."
Hubbard and his wife, Lauren, had life hit them all at once.
Within a year, the family had moved to Florida and bought a house in Navarre. Nic got a job with the Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office. They had their first child together, a boy they named Logan.
Only two weeks after making their first mortgage payment, Hubbard was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called primary refractory Hodgkin's disease, which places him among 3 percent of patients that cannot be helped by chemotherapy.
"We just got a big ol' punch in the stomach and got knocked on our backs with that," Hubbard said. "It has been hard. It's definitely been a learning process."
The first diagnosis came last May. Hubbard was treated for what he assumed was a bad sinus infection, but it turned out to be stage 3 Hodgkin's lymphoma.
He entered chemotherapy from May to October. Only a couple weeks after his treatment ended he began to show the same signs of lymphoma again.
"What we thought was the end of it actually wasn't," Hubbard said.
Doctors did a scan in November, and he was diagnosed with the aggressive primary refractory Hodgkin's disease.
"Hodgkin's lymphoma is rare within itself, and the primary refractory is even more rare," Hubbard said.
Due to his rare diagnosis that would likely require a bone marrow transplant, doctors in Pensacola could not treat him locally. So the Hubbard family packed up their belongings and moved to Baltimore after he was referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Hubbard was accepted into the Johns Hopkins clinical trial for his diagnosis, which he's been going through since December.
Having a young child, Hubbard and Lauren were unable to secure housing within the clinical trial so the family is renting a home in the area.
Hubbard said he's not sure how long they will have to stay in Baltimore. Much of the timing depends on how he reacts to the treatment and when he can get the bone marrow transplant.
"We've still got a long road ahead of us," Hubbard said.
But he said he has shown signs of improvement, and in a best-case scenario the family hopes to be back in Santa Rosa County by Christmas.
"I'm feeling a little bit more like myself," Hubbard said. "Obviously, I am still humbled a lot with the fact that I am still sick."
While the family faces this battle, Lauren is wearing multiple hats: wife, mother and caregiver of a cancer patient.
"It's a fine line that I have to find a lot of days," she said.
Lauren said she's balancing several roles while trying not to let one role affect another.
"With Logan, I try to walk through the door and remind myself Logan has no idea what's going on," Lauren said. "Logan doesn't need to know that I'm stressed out about this or that this transplant may not be covered by insurance. That's been the hardest part."
Hubbard said he looks forward to being able to come back to the Santa Rosa community.
"It's encouraging that we're coming back to a community that does give a damn about us," he said.
For those who want to help with the Hubbard family, the First Responders Appreciation Rally on April 6 at the Navarre Best Western will donate all the money raised to the Hubbards.
Raffle tickets will be available at the rally for a chance to see Jimmy Buffett in concert at The Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama, on April 23. The money from the tickets will be donated to the Hubbards.
The family also has an active GoFundMe page, https://www.gofundme.com/deputy-hubbard-srco-cancer-expenses.