I know cancer impacts family and friends, however, it is something people don't talk about. Our family goes together monthly to a cancer support supper club and then JR goes to a caregivers group while Wylee attends a group for children whose parents have cancer. The point of the caregivers group is for the caregivers to focus on him or herself. Although he might not admit it, I think it is beneficial for him. JR, from the beginning of my cancer battle, has been more than I could have ever asked for in a caregiver. We were just starting to date again when I was diagnosed. He never verbalized anything except support. It was striking to me to see how JR expresses his apprehension when I was first diagnosed. His fear at the loss of my fertility, and with it his fears of a loss of the option of a family. JR has fully embraced his role as father to Wylee and Wylee has fully accepted JR as Daddy. They are inseparable with the exception of when Wylee visits New Albany. Together they are a team and they take care of me as well as possible. I love both of them dearly. - Erica
Cancer can give and take. My wife has been going through cancer, it first began in October 2012 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She has shown great resiliency through the entire treatment process. For this moment though, I want to be selfish and express how cervical cancer has affected my life as a male, father, and husband.
Erica and I met in college dated for a couple of years then separated. She had moved to her hometown, married, and had a child. A few years later, she had divorced and I had reconnected with her. It seemed as if nothing had changed, we were in love again and destined to be together forever. I had originally labeled her as "the one that got away" and knew I would marry her this time. I knew I would marry her, until the diagnosis made me question it, until October 2012. She was diagnosed with cervical cancer, this curse that had plagued my grandmothers, aunts, uncle and grandfather had now entered our lives.
Cancer is defined as; a disease that abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue.
That really meant nothing to me since I had been around cancer many times during my life with my family. Just in my immediate family, it seemed, someone had always had cancer and some of them still live with cancer today. From experience I thought that it was a disease that can be beat with medicine, stubbornness, and determination. This time it was different. This was my family to be and my family was experiencing pain and suffering that I had never felt before. The doctors told her that she would lose her fertility and need a hysterectomy to cure the cancer. I wasn't ready for that news. I never told anyone that I wanted children, in fact for many years I had been trying to avoid an accidental pregnancy and now it was to be stricken from my thoughts, options, and wants.
I was sitting at a stop light on Fox Road, Erica looked at me and said that she was going to have a hysterectomy to cure her cancer. I had a moment of weakness that made me doubt my relationship with my wife to be, not because of temptation, it was due to fertility and sustainability. I wanted to be a great father that loved his kids yet I wouldn't be able to have children with the woman that I loved and wanted to marry.
After researching, we discovered a procedure called a radical trachelectomy. This procedure was available in Indianapolis and would allow for a chance to conceive, a slim chance to carry to term, and even less of a chance to actually birth a child. I thought if there is a chance it is better than nothing at all. I put stock into what the gynecologic oncologist said when he thought Erica was a perfect candidate.
The day of surgery, she laid upside down, unconscious for 16 hours and after 4 hours of recovery her doctor emerged from his mask. He said that she had the tumor, pelvic lymphnodes, and cervix removed, she will be in pain but we are confident that surgery was a success. I did say to the doctor before surgery, she is more important to me than fictional children that only existed in my mind, but I never thought what risk she took for me. She literally took the high road with her life, not within a conversation or argument, she put her self in front of the sword risking life and limb for our family. It was my dream of family that I had never verbally expressed to her, yet she sacrificed herself for us. What she gave up and endured to allow me hope for a chance of child was beyond compassion. It was truly love.
After the healing process, we moved on with our lives, we were engaged and due to marry June 2014. Life seemed to be normal as we had moved into a new house, she had a new job, her son started started preschool and started calling me Daddy. Our sense of normalcy would quickly end in April 2014.
After months of irregular bleeding with urination and multiple doctor visits, her urologist ordered a scan that revealed multiple tumors. These masses had destroyed some of her internal organs and invaded in the worst way. Not because of the pain, not because of the chemotherapy or radiation to come. These tumors had eliminated any chance of offspring. The original cancer treatment had taken a 16 hour surgery and 6 months of recovery; this recurrence had taken the hope of having a normal life, the hope of future children, the hope of a cancer free wife, and squashed all of it in the worst way.
Something was different with the recurrences though, not physically, emotionally as I thought of stepping away with the initial diagnosis due to the inability to procreate. This time, I had no inclination or want of doing anything but standing by Erica's side. We were married after her first chemotherapy treatment, with a nephrostomy tube coming out of her back, and no hair on her head. She had chemotherapy just days after the wedding. However, I never thought to be anywhere except by my wife's side. Loving, caring and supporting her and my step son, our son Wylee. I embrace every moment with my family and love both of them more than I ever could have imagined. In some sick and twisted way, as horrible of a disease that cancer is and has been, it has brought the three of us closer and more dependent upon each other.
I may have dreamed or wanted before but nothing is for certain. I thought, before this journey began, I knew what I wanted. What I have learned since is that cancer may have destroyed my dream but it has enhanced my love, which is a reality.