By Dwan Reed Dwan Reed’s Blog and Professional Web Site
I circled the carousel of self-help books. Improve your marriage…better health… become closer to God… Each looked interesting. “Should I choose one?” I wondered. “Who am I kidding? I need them all.”
I waved at Olive, my elderly friend, at the back of the grocery line and smiled, amazed at how fast she shopped. I had only been waiting twenty minutes.
Just then my phone rang. I trembled when my husband’s number flashed on the screen, took a deep breath and answered. “Did your results come in?”
He sighed, “Yes, and you’re not going to believe this.”
I waited for the good news. Thomas’s doctor, who obviously didn’t know how well my husband took care of himself, had referred him to an urologist for cancer screening. “Dwan, I have prostate cancer.”
I pulled the phone away from my ear and glared at it. Surely I was imagining this conversation. Thomas wasn’t really on the other end of the line. Yes, that’s it. Maybe one of those self-help titles took up residence in my mind. But the telltale number blinking on my cell’s screen told me otherwise. I pulled the phone back to my ear. “Did you just say what I thought you said? Are you sure the doctor was reading from your chart?”
“I’m sure, Dwan. And it’s not a slow growing cancer; it’s aggressive. The doctor wants to begin treatment right away. He says I don’t have much time to play around with this.
“Thomas, I don’t understand. How does a healthy forty-nine-year-old man have prostate cancer?”
“I don’t know, but I’ve got it.”
“This makes no sense. Shouldn’t there have been more warning signs?”
I don’t remember what Thomas said after that. My mind drifted, searching for “normal,” our way of life before this devastating diagnosis. I watched grocery items slide their way slowly down conveyer belts. Smiling clerks greeted customers, and baggers loaded plastic sacks and placed them in carts. I noticed another woman surveying the same carousel of books I had just circled. “I wouldn’t read those if I were you, “ I mentally challenged her. “You may receive a phone call with unexpected news.”
And “normal” was nowhere to be found.
One phone conversation, and fear had barged into my world, trampling the carefree expectancy of long life. Suddenly, I felt like a very old forty-one-year-old woman who had gained an undesirable understanding of, “tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.”
I dropped off my friend, Olive, at the senior center and headed home thinking about the blessings I had always taken for granted. In spite of my husband’s spirituality, strength, and hard-working nature, I sometimes joked that I was trapped in a “ground hog day” of a marriage, complete with the repeat of humdrum every twenty-four hours.
My heart ached as I yearned for another eighteen years. I wondered, “What made me think it would last forever?”
Grasping the steering wheel with one hand and wiping back tears with the other, I petitioned God. “Lord, I love this man, but I know I don’t always act like it. What a fool I’ve been.” And as I pulled into our driveway, I continued, “God, Thomas is one of the best husbands and fathers in the world. Please forgive me for not being a better wife. What do I do now, Lord? Please save him.”
I slowly opened the front door, hoping my husband would meet me and announce, “The doctor called and it’s all a mistake. He confused my test results with someone else’s.” Instead, he pulled me to his chest and whispered, “Dwan, I love you… I don’t know what to say.“ As Thomas leaned down burying his head in my neck, I knew we couldn’t escape the reality of this illness that had invaded his body—and our marriage.
The coming months were difficult. We searched for a doctor who would address the lifestyle issues of a young man with an older man’s disease. With each serving of bad news, we cried and held one another, uncertain if we would be able to make love again the same way, uncertain whether my husband would have permanent incontinence issues, or worse.
Faced with the brevity of health, I wasn’t ready to let go. I longed for the simplicity of what I assumed would always be, yet helplessly yielded to a different course for our future.
For weeks, we awaited Thomas’s test results to determine if the cancer had spread. The ever-present malignancy in our lives began to melt my fierce independence and Thomas’s façade of indifference. As layers of buried emotions surfaced, I realized we’d lived together without truly knowing one another. I discovered that my husband was kinder, more loving, and enjoyable than I had ever imagined. And I hoped he discovered the same things in me.
The results came back. The cancer appeared to be contained in the prostate. The next step was to decide upon a course of treatment—surgery, radiation, proton therapy, naturopathic medicine, etc. Each therapy presented its own unique ramifications. For four months, we prayerfully studied each option and finally elected proton therapy and hormonal treatment.
Thomas took a two-month leave from work and rose before dawn each morning to drive across town for therapy. Day-by-day, his energy diminished while his slender frame surged to stocky proportions. I witnessed my well-tempered, reserved husband become emotional, reflective, and at times, irritable. A reluctant onlooker, I observed the passion in our marriage reduced to a kiss on the cheek as Thomas’s testosterone level dropped to near zero.
Even though Thomas was the one with cancer and undergoing treatment, I realized we were a team—partners in this battle; and I was willing to do anything to ensure my husband would live. To aid in his treatment, I mastered the art of cooking cancer-fighting foods. I took over many of his responsibilities, and learned not to complain when I was tired from carrying his load—and mine. I encouraged him daily, even when I felt uncertain of the future.
In spite of the changes in our marriage, we grew in intimacy beyond the physical. As we connected with each other’s hearts, minds, and souls, our home became a place of peace and hope—a safe house from the troubles of life. The shroud of disease lifted as we learned to laugh amidst trials and savor each new day.
A little over a year after my husband’s diagnosis, Thomas is now cancer-free with minimum side effects—praise God! His illness turned our world upside down, yet brought us closer. I don’t know if our marriage would have ever come alive, if it hadn’t been for prostate cancer. Prescriptions come in all strengths and forms, yet ironically, one of the most ravaging diseases in the world was the prescription we needed for a stronger marriage.
I never want my family to be affected by disease again, but thank God for the blessings that resulted from our journey.
Bio for Dwan Reed
Dwan Reed, Realtor and Broker’s Associate, resides in Houston, TX. She is a professional public speaker, freelance writer, and prison evangelist. Visit her blog at www.dwanreed.com.