Marywood alum fighting brain tumor with faith, love

Marywood alum fighting brain tumor with faith, love

Bill Loughney, Correspondent

Seven years ago, Dustin Rhodes and his wife Rebecca were seniors at Marywood. The week before graduation, they cooked dinner together in Bethany Hall and Dustin proposed to her. They eventually moved to Florida where their son, Michael, was born in March 2012.

On Nov. 29, 2012, Rebecca took Dustin to an emergency room after he fell at work. He had also been complaining of fatigue, loss of balance, forgetfulness, slight numbness in his left fingers and foot, and difficulty typing with his left hand.

A CT scan showed that Dustin had several tumors in his brain. A biopsy done two days later revealed that the tumors were part of a brain tumor pattern called Glioblastoma Multiforme. Dustin has stage 4 of the disease.

Glioblastoma Multiforme is a fast-growing glioma, or tumor, that develops in the nervous system from glial cells. These cells support the nervous system and help the main nerve cells, called neurons, better perform their functions. Gliomas are the most invasive type of known glial tumors as they are rapidly growing and commonly spread to surrounding brain tissue.

 Dustin and Rebecca have spent many days and nights on the road traveling to doctors’ appointments around the country. He has had several surgeries to remove parts of the tumors in his brain and treatments to prevent them from growing again or spreading. Several weeks after his diagnosis, Dustin and Rebecca left their jobs and home in Florida to return to Pennsylvania.

Rebecca has been constantly at her husband’s side through surgeries, treatments, and recovery. Her parents have been taking care of Michael for the past few months while Dustin has been receiving treatment. The Rhodes’ have had to sacrifice greatly to fight this fight, at timesbeing able to see their son for brief periods at a time.

“This was probably the hardest part of going through something like this, the fact that our family was separated,” said Rebecca.

While this experience has been trying for the family, some silver lining has been found to this dark cloud.

“While this has been some of the worst of times we’ve ever had to experience, and it has certainly tested every ounce of strength and faith we have both physically and mentally, it has really brought Dustin and I closer together in our marriage,” said Rebecca.

Rebecca recalls spending a few nights in the hospital right after Dustin began his treatments, staying awake all night talking to him.

“Looking back on this, I realize I felt closer to Dustin than ever before,” she stated.

A source of strength for the family has been their deep faith and prayer, a strength they nurtured during their days at Marywood. While students, they were involved with Campus Ministry and participated in several service trips. The Rhodes recall serving a Navajo parish in Chinle, Arizona, and celebrating the Eucharist at sunrise with former university chaplain, Fr. Jim Rafferty, on top of a canyon while there.

Fr. Rafferty remembered the young couple that came to Mass every week and often participated in services.

“I remember Dustin and Rebecca being very much in love with each other,” he said, “and very much concerned for the well-fare of others.”

Dustin celebrated his 29th birthday on March 11 by enjoying the day out with his family. On March 19, he successfully received his last dose of radiation and chemotherapy for the six week trial and is currently out of the hospital.

Family and friends have been rallying in support of the Rhodes holding fundraisers and other events. Rebecca runs a Facebook page, “Dustin Rhodes- the Fight against Brain Cancer,” and a website “,” where she posts updates about Dustin’s condition and where donations can be made.