ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla. - A local Marine has transitioned from the battlefield overseas, to battling cancer here at home.
After recovering from aggressive treatment that took away his ability to speak, Sgt. Brian Lowe of Boynton Beach and his family had the blessing of a lifetime when they were gifted with a new place to call home.
"It means so much more than just a house," said Viviana Lowe, Sgt. Brian Lowe's wife.
Sgt. Lowe and his family were welcomed into a beautifully renovated, mortgage-free home in Royal Palm Beach during a ceremony on Wednesday morning. The home was donated through the Building Homes for Heroes program, which partnered with JP Morgan Chase Bank.
"It feels unreal. It's overwhelming, humbling and unbelievable that someone can do something this amazing for other people," Viviana said.
After his final tour in Afghanistan, Sgt. Lowe was diagnosed with terminal tongue and throat cancer at the age of 31. Exposure during his tour deteriorated his body, causing his cancer to progress quickly.
A few years later, his treatments were unsuccessful and he made the difficult decision to remove his tongue and voice box in 2016.
"There were times where we didn't think that this life would be worth living like this because it's so difficult and challenging, emotionally and physically. So seeing something like [the house], it just really gives us more hope and more power. And like Brian said, it gives him more of a purpose to keep on fighting," said Viviana.
Complete with spacious rooms, new appliances and a backyard with a hammock, Sgt. Lowe's new home has been modified to fit the needs of he and his family.
"I think it's the most beautiful home I've ever seen," said Viviana. "They asked Brian for his favorite colors, what kind of things he would like. It's such a beautiful surprise."
Sgt. Lowe is now cancer-free but he's still undergoing chemotherapy treatment to prevent the disease from coming back.
"The doctors say there is a very high chance of it coming back, so we have to be very prepared for that. So, we are in active treatment," said Viviana.
Since Sgt. Lowe cannot speak, so he shared a special message during the ceremony through a letter read aloud by his wife.
"It was a difficult pill to swallow so to speak, when I learned I will never be able to speak or eat again. To lose the capacity to communicate effectively to everyone I've ever known...to lose so much, so fast made it seem as if my world was crashing down around me," he said. "But this type of phenomena isn't quite unique to me. Plenty of veterans have had everything they've spent their life working towards irrevocably altered within the blink of an eye...It can seem overwhelming and hopeless. It can feel like the end. But not quite.
"This organization specializes in the business of providing opportunities, normalcy, and hope. Along with their supporters, they take overwhelming burdens and make them more manageable," said Sgt. Lowe. "We want to thank everyone who has been there for us. We have felt so much love and support. And without it, we wouldn't have made it through the worst time of our life."
His family hopes to move into the new home next week from their apartment in Boynton Beach.
Building Homes for Heroes is a national nonprofit that builds and modifies homes for wounded veterans and their families. Over 900 homes have been gifted since 2011, with 220 of those homes in Florida.
The organization is gifting 33 mortgage-free homes for veterans this year.