My wife, Dana, has always told me that I’m the strongest person she knows. She told me that before I had cancer and continues to tell me every single day. Somehow, I don’t feel very strong. I feel like I’m doing what I must, so I’ll be here for my family as long as I can. One goal at a time. One day at a time. One treatment at a time. I have hope, and I have a family that loves me. For now, that is all I need to keep fighting.
I am a stage IV colorectal cancer survivor. Survivor. That’s a complicated word for me. I don’t feel like I have survived cancer. I feel like I am fighting and holding ground in my battle with cancer. That precious ground I’m holding can slip out from under me at any moment with each trip to the doctor, each chemo treatment, and every scan. Every new and promising procedure brings hope.
I am currently 48 years old. I was diagnosed with colon cancer three weeks before my 47th birthday. I went in for a colonoscopy because I was experiencing cramping and irregular bowel habits. Several years prior, I had been diagnosed with occasional diverticulitis flare-ups. Turns out, it was colon cancer… bummer. By the time we found the cancer, more than 50% of my liver was overtaken by tumors. Colon cancer tumors were also present in my lungs. I spent my 47th birthday in the hospital, recovering from my first surgery to remove the primary tumor in my colon and install a colostomy.
I’m a father of five children. My family came together through a blended marriage with my incredible wife, Dana. I had three boys from my first marriage. Dana had one boy from her first marriage. Then together we have one girl, Emily, now a senior in high school. Three of my five children have served or are currently serving in the military. One of my kids is in Montana raising my beautiful granddaughter, Annabelle.
Three months prior to my diagnosis, I landed what I considered my dream job. I got to work from home, got the company car, experienced some international travel, and got the nice salary with bonus potential. Then, I learned I had incurable cancer. Talk about a shift in focus and priorities!
Dana had a year to go in her master’s program and Emily had two years of high school ahead of her. My first thought was that I had to make sure and do whatever it takes to get Dana through school. I could not bear the thought that she would be so close, but my tragedy would set her off course. I vowed to support her in every way that I could to make sure she graduated.
My amazing wife did get her master’s and is now working as a nurse practitioner. I quickly found that even though she tells me every day that I’m the strongest person she knows, my strength is a mere fraction of the strength and resolve Dana possesses. She took the reins and supported me in every way that she could. She scheduled all my chemo appointments, arranged transportation, talked to the doctors when my brain was too fuzzy to comprehend what they were saying, and kept me focused so that I could continue working at my job for an additional ten months after my diagnosis.
Dana and I learned from each other that my diagnosis means two very different things for each of us. I’m possibly looking at an ending. She may be looking at both an ending and a beginning. One without me in her life. Both outcomes have been a journey for each of us to accept. We are still working on acceptance. Together, we grow stronger and closer every day.
If I survive this disease, it will be a true blessing for me and my family. If I don’t survive, I still consider myself blessed to spend time with and give my best to my family. We’ve undergone great stress together. We’ve also created many wonderful and lifelong memories together. We’ve all agreed that we’re going to make this ride last as long as possible. Good or bad, we’re going to get the most of every moment.