I have been the wife, daughter, granddaughter, niece, cousin, friend, nurse and coworker of someone diagnosed with cancer. Each story was different, as was the role I played in their journey; but the first time you hear the “C” word connected to someone you love, you are changed forever.
I married my best friend, Willy, right out of high school. We had been married for almost three years when he told me that occasionally his hand would go numb and his eye would twitch. After working a full day, we met at the doctor’s office for what we thought was a pinched nerve. When we left, everything had changed. I remember the words “stroke or brain tumor” came out of the doctor’s mouth. She ordered an MRI and said she would call us with the results. Just after midnight, the phone rang. It was a brain tumor.
What a shocking blow! How could this be happening? Who gets a brain tumor at the age of 21? We were sent out of town to the best surgeon that our family doctor knew. The doctor talked to us like adults, which we were, but we were so unprepared for the news to come. It all was overwhelming. Our new life began – the life of appointments, medicine bottles and therapy.
Willy fought, and he fought hard. He wanted to live. He wanted to share about his faith. He wanted to see new places and try new things. After two craniotomies, 16 months of chemo and 34 radiation treatments, he passed away in our bedroom on hospice care. He received the best medical care, and we were so blessed to have had so much love and support for those 29 months. He was just 24. He is my why.
After Willy passed away, I was a different person. My life had been turned upside down, and now what? I had a burning desire to make a difference. I went to nursing school and graduated as an LPN. Not all of my patients had cancer, and every journey was different. It was my job to ease their journey, no matter why our paths had crossed. As a nurse, I took care of not only patients, but their families. I stood by the bedside as they were given the news and treatment options. I held the hands of those who were leaving this world as their families wept. I looked them in their eyes and told them that I had walked in their exact shoes and how sorry I was. I would leave their room wishing there was more I could have done to help ease the pain. I knew what was to come for the families left to pick up the pieces. I knew their heartache and pain. They are my why.
Fast forward eight years: I was remarried, and we had a one-week-old daughter when I received a call that my mom had received her pathology report. It was cancer. The happiest time of my life was now filled with such sadness and pain. I just wanted to go home, which was six hours away, and be with my mom. This was the woman who went to the cancer appointments with me for support just eight years ago. This was the woman who let me cry and vent because of this horrible disease. This was the woman who I needed to help me on this new adventure called motherhood. She embarked on the hard journey of surgery, chemo and radiation, while handling it all with grace, determination and faith. I am proud to say my mom is now 73, and it is eight years with no evidence of the disease. She is my why.
My husband, Josh, has participated in the Victory Ride to Cure Cancer for the past three years. Cancer has affected his family and friends as well, and he is passionate about finding a cure. As he trains for the race, his helmet bears the names of the family members and friends who have had to fight cancer. This past year, even though the circumstances for the ride were different, he still rode 50+ miles. Our daughter and I were his personal check points along his route. We stood there proudly with our signs, making as much noise as possible as he passed us, and then we would jump back in the car and head to the next place. In 2010, he had a massive heart attack at the age of 27. His life was saved because there were answers and the doctors had the technology to save him. Everyone should have a chance at life. Every disease should have answers for treatment and cures. This year, he has formed a team and is determined to spread the love for the Victory Ride with others. He is my why.
Every penny donated goes to cancer research. Every penny donated goes toward hope. Every penny donated goes toward someone hearing the words “cancer free.” Every penny donated goes towards someone hearing there is a cure. Every penny!
That is my why for choosing to support the V Foundation’s Victory Ride to Cure Cancer.