"When I say, "I love you," it's not because I want you or because I can't have you. It has nothing to do with me. I love what you are, what you do, how you try. I've seen your kindness and your strength. I've seen the best and the worst of you. And I understand with perfect clarity exactly what you are. You're a hell of a woman."
---Spike to Buffy
When Christina first asked me to do this I wanted nothing to do with it. I hate sharing my feeling or emotions, after all as Christina says, I am the strong silent type. You know, the kind of guy who likes to keep it all inside and not let anyone in? But I knew this was really important to her. Even if I don't say it out loud a lot I am really proud of Christina and all she does here on the Uniboob Club and the articles she writes over at http://www.fightpink.org/ . She is always chatting me up about this and that. I know there are many times she doesn't think I am listening, but the truth is I really do hear every word she says. That brings us back to my guarded emotions and writing them down for all the world to see. Not my cup of tea, but I both love and trust my wife. So here, on the world wide web are my emotions for all to see. I am not the best with words so I when I decided I would do this my only request was Christina help me write this entry this time around. So here it is... this is my story...
When I first heard the word cancer...breast cancer no less, I went into a mental and emotional shock. I basically shut down. How could this be happening to my family? Why God? I seriously wanted Him to answer me. Why would He allow this cancer to devastate my life, my wife and my boys like this? I could not wrap my mind around the why. I was not happy with the world or with God for that matter. I was shocked, angry and scared. Our world was falling apart. The sky was falling. Like chicken little I was afraid and so I began running around in circles within my own head.
Why was I afraid? I knew I was not as strong as I needed to be to deal with cancer and all it's punches. The only thing I really knew about cancer was it brought death. Not only had they confirmed she had cancer and removed her breast but they wanted to put her through 6 months of chemo! Now, she was a stage 2b and they were telling me this thing was moving into the rest of her body through her lymph nodes! I had already buried someone I loved once, I was not willing to do so with my wife! Honestly at the time I just wanted to slip away into my own world and hide from everyone. So over the next few weeks I spent a lot of time inside my own mind, pushing away from everyone I knew and loved.
I saw the storm brewing and the dark clouds forming above me. I didn't want the rain to come, no how no way. I didn't want to see my wife sick or weak either. I was afraid to see the pain and fear in my boys' eyes. I was afraid to lose Christina. After all if I just hid, I wouldn't have to affirm it all in my mind. (See no evil, hear no evil, kind of thing). I felt as if we were all caught up in the storm of breast cancer. It felt like I was in the middle of a hurricane with no shelter. I could feel the waters rising and see my family drowning. Yet I felt helpless to save them. I didn't want to stand there in a sinking boat while my wife and boys slipped under the waves. But for a while that's exactly what I did. I could not imagine what was about to befall her and how it would impact all our lives.
Every night my sleep was restless and my mind carried me to the same place. I was trying desperately to block out the pain of my wife's cancer. I felt as if I were surrounded by fog, living in a type of dream world for while. Then reality walked up and without an introduction punched me in the gut. Suddenly my dream world turned into a nightmare. In the state I was living in I could hear a voice calling to me, begging me to wake up, to open my eyes, grab my children and push towards the shore. I felt a hand tugging on my sleeve and then suddenly I was aware... if I didn't respond in that moment I was going to lose all that was precious to me. My eyes opened and right there in front of me was Christina sad, weak but still strong enough to hold onto the boat with one arm and both our boys in the other. She was pleading with me to pull them in, to rescue them. Right then and there I had to make a decision... allow us all to go down into the depths or rise up and be the man I needed to be. Suddenly my heart and my mind were awake. I could see her crying out for me to be the husband and the father our boys desperately needed in those moments. And so I tried my best.
But I was still left with questions. Where was my instinct to protect my family, especially our boys, Joshua and Micah? I am sad to say for a while they where the men of the house caring for their mother, hugging her, rubbing her bald head and responding every time she winced in pain.I watched them suffer right along side with her. There where many times I just could not involve myself in their inner circle. My boys, our boys where little men at the tender ages of six and nine. When I mentally woke up from my state of denial and saw my family clinging to each other begging me to embrace them I felt ashamed. Who was I becoming? What had I become? I loved and do love my family, my wife and our boys. I missed them terribly. I wanted to throw myself into their arms and back into their world. I saw my wife, beautiful, bald, ash white and I was terrified death was coming to claim her. But I knew she was a fighter, is still a fighter and determined to survive with or with out me by her side. Once my eyes were open the choice was simple... together, in sickness and in health... till death do us part.
OK let me tell you a bit about my wife Christina from my perspective as her husband... Christina and I met and married in six months time. Many thought we wouldn't make it because of this. But I've loved this woman for over 13 years now and I have no plans of going anywhere anytime soon. My wife is spunky, always has a smile and can find the silver lining in just about anything. Christina is passionate, funny, affectionate and stubborn as a mule. She laughs with a snort and sneezes with a squeak. Even though I know I disappoint her sometimes and I am not able to give her the affection she always wants or needs I love her and I never want to lose her. Christina is my wild flower, beautiful and surprising. She's not perfect. Believe me Christina has her moments when she is defensive and angry but I find her lovely even in her insecurities. She truly loves God and prays for me even when I turn a deaf ear. Christina absolutely wears her heart on her sleeve but truly this is the part of Christina I love the most. I love Christina for being my wife, for loving me, and for giving me our children, our boys...Joshua and Micah.
My children , well they are my life and my greatest joy. Have you heard the quote, "The laughter of a child is the light of a house?" Well those words describe my boys. Their laughter is contagious. No matter what is happening, if I hear them laughing anywhere in the house I have to join in with them. Our boys have always been a great source of joy in my life. With their births, they made me a dad, with their love they have made me a father. Joshua brings sensitivity and clarity into my life. He is my oldest, my first born and my fisherman. I love the fact the two of us can fish all night long, side by side. This is the time we have to listen without either of us saying a word to the other.
Micah, my youngest brings both humor and his mothers stubbornness into my world. There is nothing I can get away with when Micah is near. He will call me out if he feels I have wronged him or if he feels I have slighted his mother. The best part about Micah? Well is he will turn right around following the chaos and cuddle up with me afterwards. In all my life, the greatest joys I have ever experienced have been with my boys. I know to many people in the outside world I was a stone, hard , unmovable and uncaring, emotionless many times but the truth is I was falling apart inside. I was a sinking stone, scared and painfully aware I may be raising our children alone. I lived everyday with this fear. I went to bed every night wondering how I would live without my wife or how our boys would survive without their mother? I had moments as the worst of the chemo started to affect Christina's body when I knew I was going to lose her. I didn't want to think about burying my wife but I knew I had to come to terms with the possibility of her death, especially after so many ER and hospital visits. Just the thought of having to hold our boys hands through their mother's funeral was terrifying!
As a father, dealing with a wife with breast cancer, well it isn't the easiest thing to do. I tried and failed many times. But the one thing that never changes is my love for both my boys and their mother. Seeing both Joshua and Micah struggle with their mother's illness was painful. I wanted to cry with them and at the same time run away. I was hurt to see them growing up so quickly, having to endure the thought of living without their mother, without my Christina. It was heart wrenching. They became men in so many ways too early. I watched as they lost their smiles, concentration and gained more fear than children should have to endure. I saw them suffering, and in turn I suffered.
Our youngest, Micah was constantly bringing critters home, during that time, trying to surround himself with life. I cringed inside as one by one they died. It seemed as if death was reminding us she was near. As for Joshua? He was always wanting to go, go, go. I know he thought if he could keep his mom moving, life would simply go on. I know because I felt the same way. I tried to push her constantly, thinking our lives could be normal again if we could just pretend she was OK. But normal wasn't and isn't apart of our lives anymore. Sadly I have to admit my boys carried me through many of those times. Our whole world had come undone and it's still not all put back together again. There where times I knew they were just waiting for the world to fall and at the same time I knew I was holding it up for them. I was in new territory myself. I was learning just as they were learning how to navigate through this brave new world.
What I know now is this: Christina's breast cancer broke me as a man, a husband and a father. Her triple negative cancer, was a triple break in my life. Breast cancer shook me and what faith I had left to hold on to. Yet as I saw her struggling and as I watched our boys rise up from the ashes around them, I saw hope. I took in every moment I had with all three of them. In the process I found redemption.
I still keep those moments close to my heart. Yes, our world did come crashing down, but we survived it. I know there are still times I seem caught up in my work and I may not seem to be aware, but truly I don't take life for granted anymore. I know Christina's cancer may come back eventually. After all it made it's way into her lymph nodes, but we are ready now, prepared. Cancer may have changed our course forever, I have to say we're the stronger for it. We are a unit, strong and still here. Let me say it again...we are still here.
Before breast cancer death was a dismissive thought, now we live knowing our lives can change any day in a moments notice. Joshua, Micah and myself have come to understand one day we may be minus one at the table. We do not dwell on this fact, but we know it to be true. In many ways I am still afraid and reserved, but the one thing remaining the same is my love for my family.
As a man I am constantly trying to be strong. But one of the lessons this cancer has taught me is I am only human. Absolutely I still have days when I want to run away and hide my head under the sand as Christina puts it. I mess up, upset the good vibes in the home, but deep down I want to be here, cancer and all. I do not want to miss a moment with my family or a chance to spend time with Christina. I am proud of my family. I love my family. I'm still not sure where God and I stand. I have never been one for second chances. I know I have slipped away from His graces, yet I know I am still under His care. Kinda like Christina's love for me while I was running around (silently) screaming the sky was falling. Truth is I still question His motives, but I do know my families' love for me and through their love I know God's love. Bottom line: I am still a work in progress.