Until death do us part. Do you ever seriously think about these important words you say to each other? Or do these words come to mind only when you are faced with death? I have had the opportunity lately to think heavily on these words. And another word.
Cancer. And all that implies.
I have been touched by cancer many times in my life, as many have. Father, both grandmothers, many friends, my niece.
Every time it hurts. Every single time it is scary. Some have won the battle, thankfully, and some, sadly lost.
Cancer. Cancer is scary. Cancer is like a curse word. It is like a four-letter word, only it isn’t. It is, however, a bad word. You never think happy thoughts when you hear it, or you say it.
My husband has cancer…
In October, my husband had blood work for additional insurance. The blood work came back with an increased PSA level. He was told it was probably no big deal. “Go to your doctor” and so he did. The doctor told him it was most likely an infection. More blood work and more tests. An antibiotic and “come see me in a few weeks.”
November comes and he went back to the doctor. More blood work. His PSA level rose again. He was sent to a urologist. More tests, blood work, biopsy, and now, fast forward to the day after Christmas.
December 26 has been a blessing to us for twenty-six years because our son was a late Christmas present, in 1991. Now, we will remember this day a bit differently.
It was hard to say it that day, and it is hard to say it now. My husband has cancer. My husband has Prostate Cancer.
While not brain cancer, cancer is cancer. We learned this fast. It changes you. It scares you. It puts this evil doom in your head, no matter how positive you are.
My niece had cancer at 15. She is now 25. When she was going through this horrible stage in her sweet life, I prayed. I cried. I was scared for her and her parents. I didn’t truly understand the horror until now. I get it now. Really get it.
When my father had an enormous tumor in his kidney, I was only 17. A very selfish time in my life. I didn’t understand what hell my mother was going through. And of course, I didn’t understand what my father was going through. He is now almost 81. And I now understand a bit more. A lot more.
Being faced with cancer—face to face with the c-word—your world changes. You are never the same again. This is a fact.
We had several appointments with different doctors, and a lot of waiting after my husband’s diagnosis. There was a lot of time to let it sink in. No matter how heavy a load cancer is, it seemed to sink slowly.
It took many days before I could utter the words. Saying them to myself was hard enough. My husband has cancer. My husband has cancer. The tears were there, too. But I couldn’t cry in front of my husband. I couldn’t let him see me sad or scared. I didn’t want to bring him down, I wanted to lift him up. And, I know he held in a lot of fear, too. I know he hid it from everyone, as well as me.
When you must be positive during such a negative, it comes with a price. Being upbeat is hard when you are scared for your husband. Scared for your future. Until death do us part becomes real. And heavy. I wasn’t ready for any of this. I wasn’t ready to start thinking about all the things you start thinking about when faced with this word.
But I did what you do. You stay positive. You force the fears out with prayer. A lot of prayer. And you spread the word, hoping everyone prays with you (which they did) and you hope by spreading the word, possibly you will help someone else.
Three people we love went to be tested. All negative. I am hoping others did as well and they are telling others to be tested.
You need to tell any man you love, over 50, to go get a simple blood test. This could save their life.
Prostate Cancer is a slow growing cancer. It takes five to eight years to show up, to cause damage and to change lives. It is common for older men to have Prostate Cancer. They stop testing for it at age 70. They assume the men will die from something else before the cancer kills them. But in younger men, like my husband, you must prepare to fight.
It starts in the prostate and grows to the lymph nodes. From there, the cancer travels to the bone.
We were basically given a choice—radiation or surgery. Surgery seemed the better possibility for my husband, to get rid of the cancer and to know, for sure, if it was gone.
On February 26, Mark had his prostate and lymph nodes removed. The surgery took almost six hours and was assisted by a robot. They must be extremely careful due to the colon and bladder being attached to the prostate.
I sat in a hospital waiting room with our three kids, my parents, Mark’s parents, Mark’s brother and his wife. They entertained me, hugged me and fed me. We laughed and nervously watched the clock all day. At one point, at 7:00 p.m., the surgery, was extended another hour. I was told the surgery could take up to five hours. When it extended beyond the five, my mind and heart went crazy. What was wrong? What happened? What did they find?
Until death do us part. These words were getting real.
I spent a lot of the extended hour thinking about how I would react in front of my children. My three twenty-year olds were just as scared, I am sure. And Mark’s mother was terrified, as well. Could I be strong for them? Would I be selfish and lose my composure? Would I have any control?
That was possibly the longest hour of my life. The longest six hours. But the last one was unbearable, until the surgeon came in and told us it was a success. And it appeared the cancer was contained. (Amen. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, God, and thank you for all the prayers going up for my husband!)
After an extremely stressful six hours, I was so relieved to hear the news. I hadn’t felt this happy since before October when the first thought entered my mind. Husband and cancer is not a good combination. Cancer doesn’t belong with anyone. It is never a good combination.
The happiness I felt after the surgery was soon replaced with more fear.
Eight days after surgery, we learned the results of the biopsy. The good news is the cancer did not travel to the lymph nodes. The bad news is it was not contained. The cancer was on the outside of the prostate and Mark is now Stage III.
He could start radiation as soon as his body heals from surgery. Or he can wait.
It’s a gamble, but Mark has always been a gambler.
He will have a PSA test every three months. If the cancer begins to grow, the PSA levels will return. He will then have radiation.
I will stand beside him, waiting, and respecting that this is his body. My faith will continue to until we know he is 100% cancer-free.
We will laugh again. After he has healed and feels more like himself, the laughter will continue.
Laughter never left us during the months before his surgery. In fact, every smile, every moment and every laugh out loud seemed to be sweeter. Loving each other, living our life together, and laughing will be in our future. And for that, I am eternally grateful.
I am still praying for him to be cancer-free. I believe I will pray this everyday, until death do us part.