“You have cancer” are three words that will turn your life upside down. It takes every ounce of energy from your body and is like getting smacked across the back with a two-by-four. It leaves you breathless, and numb, and you feel like you are living in a dream state. But you do wake up and realize that it’s not a bad dream. It is a nightmare that hasn’t gone away and it is something my family is forced to live with every day.
Michelle and I have been together since the late 1990’s. When we were dating, we used to talk about our future together and what we wanted out of life. That future included two kids and a long healthy and happy life. She wanted to be a full-time mom focused on every aspect of raising our kids. I supported that desire believing it would provide a safe, stable and healthy environment for our children.
We were married in April 2000 in a beautiful ceremony outside of Austin. Life was good and we were having fun. In 2003, we decided to start trying to have a child and Michelle got pregnant immediately. We were blessed with a beautiful healthy baby boy and we were very proud parents marveling in the miracle that children bring to the world. It seemed as though life was perfect and our dreams were coming true.
During her pregnancy, Michelle noticed a lump in the lower right quadrant of her right breast. She mentioned it to me and I told her to make sure she showed her doctor during the next appointment. The doctor said it was nothing to be concerned about and that her breasts were changing due to pregnancy. The lump continued to grow and the doctor insisted it was nothing to be concerned about. We trusted his judgment and hoped he was correct.
The mass finally settled in the middle of her right breast and had the consistency of a racquetball. We knew at that point this was something to be concerned about and pushed to have a mammogram. She was told on a Friday afternoon in September that she did, in fact, have a massive tumor in her right breast. A biopsy the following Monday confirmed it was breast cancer and she was told she had to immediately begin chemotherapy, followed by intense radiation and surgery.
Our son Reid was 14 months old and our perfect life felt like it had come to an abrupt end. We had no idea what we were facing or the probability of a cure. We found the best possible medical care and started treatments without delay. We also had to be strong and confident that this was beatable. That was four years ago this month.
None of this is easy for any of us, but most of all for Michelle. Watching the love of your life walk through the depths of hell is crushing. If a mammogram had been allowed or Michelle’s young age had not trumped proactive medical care, we wouldn’t be here. However, there’s no point in being angry, as that just wastes good energy and accomplishes nothing. I choose to focus my energy and time on ensuring Michelle has the best medical care and everything else she needs to be healthy.
The only thing I can affect is Michelle’s well-being and ability to fight. I support and stand by her to ensure that her self-image and mental strength is in its best possible condition. Fighting cancer is as much about medical science, as it is about a positive attitude, and a belief that you’re going to beat the disease. A cancer diagnosis is the lowest point in a person’s life and they need to know their family spouse and friends are also in the fight.
At the end of the day, what’s important is being alive to fight and continue to utilize Michelle’s breast cancer as a teaching tool for others. She is amazingly strong and continues to fight under the worst of circumstances.
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