I remember vividly the day we were told that John had cancer. I remember my feelings, my fears, and the tears. But mostly I remember my husband’s tremendous optimism and how sure he was that God was going to carry us through this, refine us and make us stronger in the end. Granted we are not at the end yet, but I often find myself wondering if we have, in fact, gotten any stronger.
Physically my husband is far from strong. He cannot walk more than a hundred yards without having to stop and rest. He has lost a tremendous amount of weight. He is in a lot of pain and he has no energy. Emotionally, he is spent as well. He has very little patience with the children. Not that I blame him, I often have little patience and I am perfectly healthy. He and I rarely talk. When we are together we stare blindly at the screen or busy ourselves with whatever else may be going on. It is as if there is nothing left to discuss. We have accepted that this is life. His job is to get better. Mine is to make sure the family unit stays in tact. After that, there is little else to discuss.
Oh how I miss what we once had. When we were dating we’d talk for hours about our dreams and our future, what our kids would be like, where we’d travel, etc. Then once we had kids we threw ourselves into being the All American Family. We had a decent home and decent cars. We attended church on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. In fact John was the worship pastor and I was the children’s leader. The girls were in dance classes and art classes. They took piano, gymnastics, swim lessons and participated in the community theatre (not all in the same semester of course). We were involved in what they did. We loved watching them and being a part of their activities. We homeschooled. John would come home for lunch almost every day and we would eat together. The girls would hold onto his legs as he tried to go back to work. They made it a ritual to stand outside and wave good-bye to daddy when he went back to work. We laughed. We loved. We enjoyed.
But this thing called cancer stole all of that from us. First the material was taken. We moved out of our house and into my parents’ home. We needed to come home so we’d have help with childcare and getting John to his medical appointments. And well, until that decent house nestled in a quiet neighborhood in Louisiana sold, we had to come home because financially we were strapped. We left almost everything we had with the exception of some electronics and clothes and moved from Louisiana to Oklahoma. We gave away our pets and much of our furniture. We said good-bye to as many friends as we could and we loaded up in the van and we moved. Cancer stole our home, our pets and our livelihood.
But the worse was yet to come. At first, we were strong. We were going to beat this. But the weeks wear on you and after awhile cancer began to steal our uumph. We no longer laugh. Instead we cry. We no longer play. Instead we hurt. We no longer enjoy. Instead we survive. My husband cannot go to much of my children’s activities. He often can’t even get out of the chair. He can’t spend time laughing with us anymore because he is recovering. My girls move through life without questions. There is really no reason to ask. The answer is always “because daddy is sick.”
Finally cancer stole my dreams. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and a stay at home mom. I wanted to be the one to do the daily raising of my girls and watch them grow up beautifully inside and out. I wanted to help guide them so that they’d make wise decisions and hopefully one day the ultimate decision to follow Christ. But cancer stole that as well. It took away my husband’s ability to work. I am so very thankful that I have a marketable skill and could find a good job but every morning when I head off to work, I leave behind that which I want most, my ability to be there for my girls, to experience life with them and to guide them and help shape them.
Of course I do not blame my husband. I love him. I miss him. He would not have chosen this path for himself or his family. But it is the path handed to us. Gone are the days of enjoying life. Replaced are the days of surviving life; working to pay bills and have health insurance. This is perhaps, my biggest regret, the life that I feel has been stolen from me in returning to work full-time. I miss my babies like you would not believe. I think sometimes I do blame John for taking that one thing from me. I know it is not his fault but I have to lash out at something.
I am curious to see if this cancer will steal all that we have or if it will slowly creep away, as it crept in. One day will we wake to find the cancer gone and my husband returned? Will the laughter and the childish ways of our girls return to our home on a regular basis? Will we enjoy each other as a family once again? Will there be anything left of our marriage? All questions I cannot answer with certainty. For now we hold onto the only hope we can grasp and try as hard as we might to protect our little ones from the harsh reality of life.
The answers will all come, one day…