I never expected to be seven months pregnant—nine days shy of celebrating my wedding anniversary—leaning over a hospital bed praying over my husband, begging God for my best friend’s life to be spared. This was my reality, though. My husband had just been diagnosed with stage III colon cancer, and I did not know if he would even be given the gift to meet his first-born son.
After my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer, we immediately took the option to have a total colectomy of Joe’s colon. After realizing the significant family history of colon cancer through Joe’s family, we were hopeful that the removal of the colon would mean the cancer would not come back in the future, and that we would move forward with our growing family. What we didn’t know is that life would be harder, a lot of unexpected and unworthy news would continue to follow us. We were certain the timing of this cancer and the arrival of our son was the most inopportune situation that could have never been foreseen. We were also wrong about that.
Nearly two months after Joe’s diagnosis, right before we started chemotherapy treatments, we were told Joe’s cancer had spread to his liver. This was less than one week before our son, Porter, was born. Standing beside me, on a fanny-pack full of chemo that was constantly infusing him, Joe helped me deliver our son into this world. What I could have never known, never imagined, is that our son would be better medicine than even the greatest doctor could prescribe. There was no medicine for cancer, for pain, for all the ailments that came along with it that eased our pain and hearts more than the beautiful blessing of our son. He was pure, joy, happiness, and most of all hope in our world that seemed to constantly be bleak, sad, and broken. He still is.
After many rounds of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, second-opinions, and hospital floor camp-outs with a newborn baby, never leaving my husband’s side, Joe’s courageous battle was won when he gained his wings to the greatest gift of Jesus’ arms in October 2014. Joe’s pain was immense, and yet, many days and nights I thought my pain might have been greater watching him scream, beg, and cry out for relief when there was nothing I could do. Home videos of Porter and his daddy in the hospital are yet in other ways the happiest memories I have. Joe was comfortable, and Porter was happy, silly, growing, healthy, and above all the light of his Daddy’s eyes. He was hope. And we needed him, more than we thought we did before he was born.
And that is the thing. Our most traumatic, unfortunate, and pain-filled days were the happiest, most beautiful of my life. Those days had all I had ever dreamt of in them— unconditional love and family. We were together—not in an opportune way—but we were together. We laughed; we cried, oh so many tears; we played; we snuggled and cuddled; we talked; above all, we loved.
To this day, I cherish those days at Mercy Hospital. I cherish the nurses and doctors who cared just as much about me, pregnant, and later playing with an infant child in the hospital floors, for days on end, as much as they did about my wonderful husband. I have deep, loving, caring friendships with nurses that took care of us on long chemo days. They were, and are, light to our lives.
As I continue to try to figure out how to grieve as a young widow and honor our beautiful love story that exemplified courage, strength, sacrifice, and unconditional love, I stop at nothing for others to find the beauty in their storm. To take a second and love, unconditionally, in the very moment that hurts so deeply. But most of all, to never forget the love and the strength those moments hold.