I am a pessimist. Leave it to me to always find the darkest cloud in the brightest sky. As the saying goes, “I always think the worst and I’ve never been disappointed”.
Of the many differences in Lisa and myself, my pessimism and her optimism may be the most glaring. We balance each other with those opposite viewpoints. But, more often than not, her fearlessness and belief that something good can happen by taking a crazy chance against the worst of odds, overrides my gloom and doom. And thank the Lord she wins those battles.
Her fight with breast cancer has been yet another episode in our lives that exposed my negative thoughts against her optimism. Perhaps it is understandable that I would be worried. In fact, I know that she has been worried. Our family and friends worried. Cancer does that. But, there is a silent understanding when battling cancer to never voice those worries to each other. Despite my dark outlook of things, I could not or would not ever announce my fears to anyone, especially Lisa. Rather, we have talked about healing and beating the disease and victory and health and better days. An atmosphere of support and positivity has been palpable in our home these past weeks. Friends and family have come in and shared meals and gifts and, more importantly, encouragement. That has been the greatest weapon in fighting this disease.
But, here I need to express something not easy. Perhaps someone will understand who has endured a serious illness. Perhaps someone reading will be better prepared for their own battle yet to come. The real truth is this: I’ve never been more scared in my life.
The day Lisa was told she had breast cancer, was the day before we were to travel with her job to Kingman, Arizona. Although her mammogram had shown an abnormality, we were absolutely convinced it was not cancer. Our minds were on the four day trip west, getting our truck and RV ready for the journey, saying our good-byes. Our stop to get the report of her biopsy was one of several we had planned as we tied up loose ends before leaving. It was just another task on our long list of things to do. I had called a friend earlier to tell him I needed to drop something off for him and would be there in the next thirty minutes – after our doctor visit. That never happened. The shocking news sent us and our plans into a tailspin. Lisa had cancer.
Upon returning home, I knew I needed to call my friend and explain that we would not be stopping by. And I would need to tell him why. My heart started racing as he answered and then I did something for the first time in my life, something I never thought I would ever have to do. I told him that Lisa, my wife, had breast cancer. The words caught in my throat and I broke down and cried trying to explain. I once had to tell my parents that my older brother, Gary, had died suddenly in Frankfort, Kentucky where he lived at the time. That was an unbelievably hard thing to do. Voicing the words, “Lisa has cancer” may have been harder. There comes with those words all the possibilities and they are horrible. Thoughts like chemotherapy, loss of work, long term sickness, life disruption, and, as hard as this is to admit, losing my wife, all went through my mind. Though the atmosphere at home was very positive and cheery, I have spent many nights lying in bed with the nightmarish possibilities of what we all know this God-damned disease can do. I admit I tend to think the worst. But, it is my hunch, the greatest of positive thinkers lie in dark places with the same nightmares when it comes to cancer.
Lisa’s surgery and post recovery has gone amazingly well. The joy of knowing the tumor is gone and no sign of cancer exists (to this point) is beyond words. If there is any benefit to being a “half-empty glass” type of person, it is that when things work out beyond your expectations, that half empty glass runs over in rivers. That is what we have felt these last few days. As we wait for radiation treatments to begin, we do so with greater confidence than ever before. The nightmares are subsiding.
It is beyond my ability as a writer to express our gratitude. How do we thank our family and our friends for the support they have shown? The “body of Christ” has been very much alive in our lives these past weeks as it has rushed to Lisa’s side offering a prayer, a healing touch, an encouraging word, a laugh, and a hope for better days. And, we thank the medical community that did its job and did it well. Nurses, doctors, surgeons all God’s instruments – for which we can never thank enough.
And, personally, I am thankful for that empty glass – that overflowed.
Love and live! Steve and Lisa.