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The Pink Ribbon
Husband of Breast Cancer Survivor
30 years of age I had it all and felt I'd done it all. Three
kids, beautiful wife, strong faith in God, good health, great
parents and brothers, and a small business that was taking off.
Being self-employed I had a lot of time with my children and
wife. I was doing everything I wanted to do. I could solve any
problem that came my way. My life was going to be great.
Then in November, 1999 my wife had a painful lump in her breast
very close to her sternum. I told her, "don't worry about
it." Our third child was only 5 months old, she had just
stopped breast feeding, it must just be an infection. Besides
breast cancer doesn't hurt. We are young and healthy. Cancer is
for older people that don't take care of themselves.
But the lump persisted. Finally, my wife went to her
gynecologist. He was not happy with what he felt and suggested
she have a mammogram. The mammogram was negative. I told her,
"see you worry to much." Her doctor, still not being
satisfied, ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound didn't look
good at all.
I don't know the day, month or for that matter I can't always
remember the year, but I will never forget the day of the
biopsy. I can hardly write about it now without crying.
Something I rarely if ever did before that day. What started as
a nice beautiful day, turned dark and terrible with two words
from the surgeon, "it's malignant." My heart sunk like
it never did before.
Suddenly all at once I wanted to hold my wife, I wanted to see
my children, I wanted to cry, but there were too many people in
the room. We all just looked at each other in disbelief for what
seemed like 20 minutes but couldn't have been more the 30
seconds. The next feeling for me was one of action. What do we
do now? Where do we go from here? We can't just go home. Can I
break something? What can I do to take care of this?
Slowly the answers came to me. I couldn't fix it. I couldn't
make it go away. What am I supposed to do? I have
little kids who need and love their mother. I loved and wanted
my wife. She was supposed to live longer than me. I always
thought I would be the one to die young, not her, she's young,
vibrant and beautiful.
The biopsy had no margins. There was cancer cells from end to
end. As far as treatment, there was no question for each of us.
She was going to do it all. Having recently questioned my dad's
decision to have his prostate removed after finding he had very
contained and minimal prostate cancer, I now understood his
decision. When it's your own body or your spouse's, you just
want it out. Who cares about side effects of surgery when the
main side effect of cancer is death.
My wife is a nurse and works the night shift. The first night
she went back to work after her biopsy seemed just another night
until I put the kids to bed. There I was, all alone, a time I
once greatly enjoyed. Now, everywhere I looked, there was a
reminder of her, but she wasn't here and she may go away
forever. There alone in the dark, the thought of my wife dying
became excruciating. I cried and prayed until 2 or 3am asking
God, "why her and not me?" I promised God that I would
love her forever if he would just let her live. When my wife
finally got home in the morning I begged her not to go to work
again. She called her boss and was put on leave until her
surgery was done and she had recovered.
The time from diagnosis to treatment seemed to take forever. We
were shocked when lab work, appointments and surgery were not
days, or weeks away, but months. When making appointments my
wife felt like yelling, "what do you mean you can't see me
this week, I have cancer? What part of cancer do you not
Luckily my wife was a nurse, we don't like to pull strings and
ask for favors, but for this we would do it. My wife got busy
making phone calls to friends and friends of friends and got her
appointments moved up in almost all cases. We can't imagine how
others feel not being able to do this.
The outpouring of offers to help with our children, finances,
cooking, etc. was just phenomenal. Before this we hadn't a clue
of how to deal with or help someone with an illness. Now we
know. Every little act of generosity is amazingly helpful. We
received gift baskets loaded with great stuff, like books, food,
gift certificates to grocery stores, video rentals, movie
passes, etc. My problem was that I felt we were not thanking
everybody as well as we should. I felt we should somehow
reciprocate the gifts. It was very hard to accept all this help
with a simple thank you, knowing that at the moment I simply
couldn't return the favor. I could only promise myself that, in
the future, I will have more compassion and offer to help others
Chemotherapy was not as bad as we thought. Having a bald wife
was also not a problem. I told her that if I was bald I would
want to look like her. I wanted her to get a tattoo on her head
that said, "What are you looking at?" and the best
part, no one would even know it was there when her hair grew
back. (This, we learned, would have been a very bad idea, due to
risk of infection during chemo.) She bought a wig but hardly
wore it. She chose caps instead. She even had one that said,
"Cancer Sucks!" She knew the stares and looks were
only because people were concerned and, "Cancer
Sucks!" answered their questions. It's amazing
what being bald can do. The best part was we were now finally
recognized at our favorite restaurant where we had went for
My wife has now gone through a biopsy, mastectomy, chemotherapy,
radiation treatment and is in the process of breast
reconstruction. She has not cried and has rarely complained. I
never knew how strong and resilient she is. Her body has been
cut, sewn, chemically assaulted, radiated and left bruised and
draining, but she is just as beautiful and positive as ever. I
see now why God chose her instead of me.
Note: We now have a fourth child. My son! We
thought my wife could no longer get pregnant after all her
treatments. My boy decided he was coming anyway. He
is now a healthy, vibrant three year old and the love of our family's life.
There were no problems with my wife's pregnancy or our
son. God has
blessed us once again!