In 2009, after he was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer and starting chemotherapy treatments, Daran Landry asked his wife to pull out a camera and record his medical journey.
Dawn Landry said she felt uneasy about it at the time, because she did not want to end up documenting her husband’s final days. She feared the worst but honored the request anyway, posting periodic videos on Facebook while Daran underwent chemotherapy and then radiation treatments and eventually recovered. They ended up serving as inspiration to their family, friends and other followers.
A decade later, after Daran went through another health ordeal in the form of a stroke, Dawn took the lead in sharing the experience with others. She wrote a book about coping with unforeseen medical obstacles and caring for a loved one with methods some might consider unconventional, and the Oak Forest couple hopes it provides inspiration, encouragement and roadmap of sorts for others.
“It was just me living the legacy he had already created,” Dawn said. “This guy is like the inspiration of all inspiration.”
“Armored,” a 220-page memoir that Dawn said “poured out of me” in a matter of three weeks earlier this year, was released Thursday. Copies can be purchased by visiting dawnflandry.com.
Daran and Dawn, who are 49-year-old Louisiana natives who have lived in Oak Forest for more than seven years, set out to show that obstacles can be overcome by remaining positive, leaning on others as well as faith and setting small, daily goals instead of dwelling on the big picture. Dawn said the book also demonstrates how there is not a one-sized-fits-all approach to care and recovery, with individuals needing to rely on their own personal armor – a mix of learned experiences and innate traits – to navigate a crisis.
For example, she said she is not the “mothering or smothering” type, which would not have been effective with Daran. Dawn has her own consulting firm as a business-to-business growth strategist and described herself as analytical and detail-oriented, which she applied to her role as a “care coach” for Daran, who she described as tough, grounded, funny and unfailingly optimistic.
Daran, who is on medical leave from a career in the banking industry, was a multi-sport athlete in high school and became an amateur body builder in college. Dawn said his eating habits are healthy, he has never smoked or drank alcohol, and he was a frequent exerciser who worked out the morning of his stroke last November, which forced him to be hospitalized for nearly a month and to be temporarily paralyzed on the right side of his body.
“It never enters my head, to question why I’m going through it,” Daran said. “I just roll with it.”
Daran had his first major medical episode when he was 31, before he and Dawn were married, when she said a reaction to asthma medication caused stroke-like symptoms. He then had the bout with cancer seven years later, undergoing chemotherapy for six weeks and radiation for another seven, during which he time lost about 85 pounds.
Then came the stroke last fall and subsequent surgery to correct a blocked carotid artery. Dawn said they are thankful for a quick response by the Houston Fire Department station at West 43rd Street and T.C. Jester Boulevard as well as the subsequent care Daran received from Memorial Hermann Health System.
Dawn said he started wiggling his fingers within a few days after the stroke and has gradually improved. Dawn put photos of themselves up on the wall to motivate Daran and remind him what he had to look forward to during recovery, and also came up a “milestone of the day” to measure his progress.
Although Daran continues to struggle with dexterity, stamina and speech, he has taken pride in being able to do work around the house, lift weights and take care of their two rescue dogs.
“I’m so thankful for many things – the fact that he can hug me again, being able to hear his laughter again when he’s downstairs and I’m upstairs in my office. I can hear him laughing at something on TV, and it just warms my heart. It’s the smallest of things. I’m just grateful for every single day that I have with him.”
Daran said he’s thankful for his wife, their Christian faith and that the longtime Lakewood Church members can share their story with others and help them prepare for unforeseen obstacles and then tackle them head-on.
And while Daran can’t take credit for writing the book, he’s still proud of it.
“The book came out fantastic,” he said. “I’m very grateful that I helped her write this book about me and her and everything we went through.”