Miracle stories

Normally I would have chemo this week, but it is school vacation for the boys so I’m skipping it.

When I first entered chemo world, I adhered strictly to the schedule. The doctors and I were gunning for a cure, so we all followed the most promising regimen according to the schedule that was tested in trials.

After a couple of recurrences, the doctors and I began to veer further from the tested path. The doctors focused on chemo cocktails and quality of life while I focused on living with cancer, which was a new idea for me.

As I researched, I read about and then began meeting people who were diagnosed with stage IV cancer (many types) and given only months to live, but years later, they were quietly going about their lives, not only feeling good but cancer-free. They provide powerful examples of what is possible.

I LOVE these stories. They literally keep me going. Some of you have shared them, about your family members or yourself, and I replay them in my mind and my heart like favorite movies. Thank you.

I am currently fully confident that I can live with cancer (something I couldn’t have said a few years ago). My next goal is to reach the place where I am that confident that I can be cured, and these stories help me to believe that.

Cameron Von St. James generously shared his family’s story with me and asked me to post on my blog, so that others can also know that there is always hope, regardless of what anyone else says.

My Struggle with my Wife’s Cancer Battle

My wife has remarked a number of times how she can never understand how difficult it must have been for me when she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. I talked to her briefly about this only once before, but through this writing, I hope to share my experience with people who may be going through something similar.

My wife and I had been experiencing unprecedented joy because our first child, Lily, was born about three months earlier.  Our joy was cut short all too soon. When the doctor gave my wife her diagnosis, she cried and asked me if I thought we would make it through this ordeal. We would learn a little more about mesothelioma in the doctor’s office that day, and what we discovered terrified us.  Mesothelioma is a rare and extremely deadly form of cancer, and we were told that most people who are diagnosed do not survive for more than a handful of months. But, my wife and I were determined that she would not be just another statistic.

Having a new baby under the best of circumstances is wonderful but also physically exhausting. Managing my wife’s medical appointments and getting up the learning curve with her diagnosis added to that. On top of this, I was mentally and emotionally exhausted because everything happened so quickly. One minute, we were excitedly preparing for Lily’s first Christmas, and the next we were being told that Heather would soon be fighting for her very life.  However, I knew that my wife and daughter needed me; therefore, I had to make sure I was prepared to be there for their support.

During this time, I was so angry with everyone.  I would often yell profanities at anyone who crossed me. I felt that my family was being cheated, and it wasn’t fair that we had to go through this. I knew that I could not continue to be as angry as I was, I needed to get my emotions under control in order to be there for my family.  Furthermore, I did not want my wife and daughter to see this anger.  I had to be their support system, especially my wife’s support system, and I knew anger would prohibit me from being there for them.  It took a lot to come to terms with our situation, but in the end I simply had to realize that fair or not, these were the cards that we had been dealt.  All we could do now was stay together and be strong, and fight as hard as we could for Heather’s life.

The additional responsibilities that I now had seemed to be much more than I could handle.  From driving my wife to her appointments, taking care of Lily, and taking care of the rest of our home needs, I truly felt overwhelmed.  I had never been one to prioritize things, but that soon changed. I knew that I needed to get organized and make a plan, or I would soon be consumed by all my responsibilities.  I started managing my time better, making lists and tackling the most important tasks first.  I also had to be willing to delegate certain tasks to others. Our friends and family stepped in to help, and I had to learn to let go of my pride and accept their kind offers.  Once I did this, a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders. However, even with their help, there were still times when I simply felt overwhelmed.

I can clearly remember how stressed I was when Heather flew to South Dakota to be with her parents and Lily. Heather stayed there for two months because she needed the rest to be able to handle her next round of mesothelioma treatments, which would include chemotherapy and radiation.  I had to stay behind to work, as the bills were piling up and the only way to keep our family above water was for me to stay at my job. Furthermore, Heather would require very attentive care during her recovery, and I would not be able to provide her with that while working full time.  I wanted to be by her side constantly, and being away from my family was torture, but I knew that the best thing I could do for them during that difficult time was allow Heather’s parents to step in.  They were incredible and we can never thank them enough for all the support they gave us.

One weekend, I wanted to see my wife and daughter so desperately that I drove through a snowstorm for 11 hours at night.  I knew that I could only spend a few hours with them before I had to turn around and make the same 11-hour trip back home, but it was worth it.

Being away from my wife and my daughter was so hard.  However, I know that it was for the best.  With them being away, I was able to continue to make a decent income.  If they were home with me, I would have had to quit work to take care of them.  These choices were so hard, but I am so grateful that life allowed us to have a choice in these decisions.

My wife’s mesothelioma diagnosis was hard on me emotionally as her husband and physically as her caregiver, but I learned that with family, friends, and the ability to make choices, we could get through anything. Through all of our struggles, Heather is still here and still healthy.  After her treatment and recovery, she has beaten mesothelioma and has been cancer free for nearly six years. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help to those currently battling cancer.