It’s been a year….

I know I haven’t written in awhile. There are a lot of factors that have gone into my extended hiatus. The main reason, I was simply burned out. I know that is a poor excuse for someone who blogs, but it’s my excuse. Within a matter of weeks I had a multitude of personal issues hit my family, and suddenly I found it very difficult to get in front a computer screen to write. However, because it has now been a year since we were diagnosed with a Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, or Breast Cancer, I decided it was too exciting of an event to not write.

We celebrated this momentous event by going on a small vacation last weekend. We went to a local hotel/water park for a day. We spent the weekend rolling through the lazy river, bouncing on the waves in the wave pool, cheering on our son as he tackled his fear of water slides, playing in the arcade, and running through the hallways playing a magic quest game. At one point we convinced our son to ride on a big slide with mommy and daddy. He was scared and apprehensive. I looked down at my son and told him that daddy would protect him. I promised him I would not let him get hurt. He reluctantly got in, took a tight grip on the handles, and we were off.

As we rushed down the water slide we all screamed, whooped, and hollered. My mind raced over all the things we have experienced this past year. So, I began to make a list in my mind of all the things we have learned over the past year as we battled Ole Scruffy.

The rest of this post is dedicated to those very things. Some of it is joyful, and some of it is very painful. Unfortunately, life doesn’t give us a choice about what lessons we are to learn, it simply hands them out as it wills. Some of the lessons make us stronger. Some of the lessons bring us hope, and some of the lessons leave us bitter, tired, frustrated, and absolutely angry.

  1. My wife is a fighter.
    •  A year ago I didn’t know the amount of fight my wife had in her. She is a feisty woman. She is very scrappy. She took the diagnosis of cancer and decided to not let Ole Scruffy get the best of her. She chose to fight. She chose to win. She chose to take cancer and curb stomp it in the face.
  2. Battling a life-threatening disease is lonely.
    • As much as some people care, no one is there all the time. No one understands the late nights of crying. No one understands the incessant fear of Ole Scruffy coming back. No one hears the cries in the dark as you fear it is really not over.
  3. Not all Medical Professionals are indifferent.
    • I have always had a jaded view of doctors and medical professionals. Cancer has shown me how a lot them truly care.
    • Our Breast Surgeon is kind, compassionate and empathetic. She has called other doctors on our behalf, attempted to make us smile, and even cried with us. She has been so kind, my bride and I joked about asking her to go on a double date with us. I know, I know, that is way too much. However, she has loved on us in a way many doctors do not.
    • Our Oncologist is a man who sees dying people every day. Somehow he manages to still tell jokes, talk about favorite audiobooks, and assure us that he is fighting with us.
    • We even had a special nurse assigned to us that went above and beyond her job description. One time, she talked with me for 30 mins while I cried on the other end of the line. I am sure I rambled. I know I did. She was still there. She still listened. For that, I am thankful.
  4. Christians can be some of the most distant people in times of crisis.
    • To be fair, we have had people in our lives go above and beyond to help us. However, there are people we expected to come close and walk with us who flat out disappeared after the diagnosis. Many of them are believers. Many of them treated us like we had the plague. Most of them made us feel like we were a nuisance or that they simply didn’t care about us.
  5. I get why Jesus tells us to touch lepers.
    • Jesus intentionally hung out with the “deplorable,” in society. He spent time with the sick. He touched the untouchables. I understand now why he did. People with life-threatening diseases don’t need buckets of compassion, or the right words spoken, they simply need people to be around. They need people who are not afraid to come near. They need people to sit through chemo, and just come over to watch a movie. Those small touches mean the world to the lepers in society.
  6. Some people don’t care about your situation, they are going to be jerks regardless.
    • I never asked to be treated differently. However, some people were flat our mean to my family. Some people used harsh language to share their opinions about choices we have made along the way. These harsh statements seem to always come after a hard decision we had to make. I get that people don’t understand. What I don’t get is the way people can talk to you without any compassion.
  7.   The church doesn’t have the market nailed on compassion.
    • To be honest, my wife and I talked a lot about how people who were not connected to church showed as much or more compassion for our situation. We had people we never expected to help shower us with love in a multitude of ways. My utopic view of the church as the place of greatest compassion in the world has been smashed over this past year.
  8. Life is short, love hard, long, and intensely.
    • Over the past year, I have learned how much I coasted through life. I realized that I loved my wife, but I didn’t love her with the intensity I should. Life tends to become melancholy until you are faced with losing someone you love. Ole Scruffy taught me this year how much more I needed to pursue my wife. He showed me the gift I have in her. He also showed me how far above my pay grade I married.

This past year has been hard. I don’t think I have fully come to grips with the emotional toll it has taken on me personally or my wife. I am grateful that our son is so young that this all will be a distant memory. He has been saved from the scars of walking through cancer. For him, this will be a story we remind him of one day. For that, I am grateful. For my bride and I, we will carry with us the scars both physical and emotional, that came from battling Ole Scruffy. The hard part is over. We now wait for a final surgery in the fall and are beginning to find a new normal in life. We certainly have learned a lot. Most of it I could have lived without. However, it has made us stronger. It has brought us closer. It also has given us a reason to keep our heads high and dream of the open water as we #LookTowardstheSea.

That Doesn’t​ Help

It’s been a while since I wrote a post. Over the past few months I have been rehearsing for a play and last week was the week before we opened. This means, for those who are not into theater, that I worked all day and then went to rehearsal during the evening. Most nights, I was there until around 11:30 p.m. I am not complaining, I love it. However, it did make it more difficult than I realized to get out a post. So, anyways, that’s my reason for the little hiatus.

Over the past few weeks, Andrea has been going every day to radiation. While it is frustrating that our lives are literally put on hold each day, the good thing is that she has not experienced some of the horrible effects that we were warned about. For the most part, she is just really tired, other than that, she is doing great.

In some respects, we are getting back to life as usual. That doesn’t mean that everything has been wonderful. One of the things we are plagued with during our cancer treatment is the constant commenting we get from people. Most people are genuinely sweet. However, there are those few who feel it is their job to offer their medical advice, comment on our own medical decisions, inform us of the problems with our eating habits with no knowledge of what we ingest, and some even try to help by telling their stories of pain, destruction and the ultimate death of their loved ones.

I get why people do this. The problem is that it does not help us out at all. Take for instance the conversation my wife had a few weeks ago. While in a store she came into conversation with a person while checking out. As is usual, this person commented on her hair. Most people assume it’s a chosen hairstyle. We normally laugh this off when we get into the car. Some people don’t stop at the complementing and proceed to ask, “why?” she chose the hairstyle. When this is asked, we are honest. It’s not for fashion, it’s Scruffy’s fault.

The individual who commented on Andrea’s hair began a long diatribe about a family member who lost their battle with breast cancer. I wasn’t there to hear the story, I just was at home when Andrea came in with tears in her eyes. I am sure the woman was trying to sympathize, but it only brought out the same fear that we have lived with since last June. The fear that the cancer isn’t really gone. The fear that Ole Scruffy will come back. The fear that my wife will still die.

As I have said before, one of the problems with battling cancer is that it is very lonely. A lot of people see the pictures of victory we publish on facebook. No one sees the tears we cry late at night. Conversations, like the one Andrea had, only exacerbate the issues. They only force us to relive the whole ordeal over again. I know people are trying to be kind, but instead of offering a balm for our souls they are wrenching a knife deep into our hearts.

That very same week I stayed late after a rehearsal to socialize with the cast. Andrea normally doesn’t care, she just goes to bed. When I called her on the way home I could tell something was wrong. As I listened to her talk I could hear in the tremble of her voice that she had been crying for awhile. I asked her why she didn’t tell me to come home. Her response was typical Andrea, she told me she didn’t want to bother me or rob me of having a good time with friends.

When I got home I found my bride curled up in bed. She was just staring out into the darkness. Her eyes were red from a long bout with fear. I had no words. I just got ready for bed, pulled her close, and let her weep on me. To be fair, I wept on her as well. We ended up staying up another hour. We didn’t talk much. We just wanted to feel the other person’s heart beating.

People are not privy to our pain. No matter how well I describe it, no one will ever be able to experience it on the same level that we do. Our story, our struggle, is unique to us. It’s unique to everyone who goes through any type of tragedy. I know personally the need to process what is being experienced. That’s the main purpose of this blog right now. However, at this point in our journey, the stories of loss or the constant reminding us that our diet is the culprit for Ole Scruffy, or that if we just drank the Koolaid from whatever cult practice that is revolutionary, just adds to the stress. It rarely helps us heal. Most of the time, it adds to the well of sorrow we are trying to replace with joy. I know most people are not vicious, but it feels that way. I know most people want to help, unfortunately, it just opens old scars.