Yeah, I guess we can file this under “not a newsflash,” but I needed to say it. Found out this weekend that a longtime friend of my husband and mine (no, Colby, you don’t know him) has been battling Stage IV stomach and esophageal cancer since September. I was crushed to hear the news. He is one of the kindest, most decent people I know. One of the The Good Ones. Married to a wonderful woman and the father to two kids under the age of 8. Going through intense chemo now with hopes to shrink the tumors enough to be able to follow up with surgery sometime next year.
As Colby well knows, my husband had cancer as a teenager. Stage III Hodgkins Lymphoma with a grim prognosis. Actually, Colby knows about it even better than I do, since she was friends with him at the time and I didn’t meet him until he was 4 years past his final treatment. Cancer hits home for everyone, but especially for us. It is like a punch in the stomach every time we hear of someone going through this horrible disease – one of the few diseases where the treatment is almost worse than the disease itself. The good news is that my husband can stand as a beacon of hope for others – he is now almost 24 years past his final treatment, despite having been given a 30% chance of survival when diagnosed. I always remind cancer patients and their loved ones that HE IS STILL HERE!! HE IS STILL HERE. And despite how devastating and grim your prognosis may sound when you are diagnosed with cancer, you never know.
I saw our friend and his family at church today and was happy to see him looking well and in good spirits, considering. He gave me a nice, strong hug. I teared up seeing him and his loving family in the middle of our Church’s Santa Breakfast and cookie sale. I thought about how difficult it must be to be brave for his wife, for his kids, while suffering through this terrible illness and horrible treatments. How hard to get up and go to work, go through all of his regular routines and celebrate annual traditions while also engaging in heavy duty battle on a daily basis. I recalled being at my husband’s oncologist’s office a few years ago, and while we were waiting at the appointment desk, a gentleman ahead of us asked to reschedule his next chemo treatment because he was a lawyer and was due in court on the same day as his original appointment. How unfair that the world doesn’t stop when you are stricken with something like this! Work needs to get done, bills need to be paid, life needs to be lived. Truly, life needs to be lived like never before, but it takes a strong person to do it in spite of difficult odds and debilitating side effects. I thought of how courageous, how hopeful, how faithful people have to be to get up each morning and engage in all the mundane activities of an ordinary day while carrying such a huge and often invisible burden. I am awed and I am humbled by their strength.
For the millionth time (and it is only December), I feel so grateful to be in a position to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge next August. I don’t have the scientific or medical skills to further the fight against cancer, but I have legs and now a bike and can- and will – do whatever I can to help fund research. Colby, I can’t thank you enough for leading the way and encouraging me to join you on the ride.