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From A Spouse's/Caregiver Perspective

Hello everyone! I wanted to write a blog on my perspective of how I’ve been doing since that day back in May.

A little back story to our love story. Derek and I met when I was 20 and the summer before my junior year of college. We were acquaintances and ran with the same group of friends. My best friend lived in apartment club 209, as we called it and Derek lived in the apartment above. His apartment was always known as the preparty apartment as one of his roommates always threw the best parties! Our friendship eventually grew into more, mind you AFTER I had already met his parents, and we started dating our senior year of college. As long as I had known Derek, he always dipped. After we got married, he always talked about quitting. When we got married, when we had Adisyn, when we had Mason, and when he turned 30 so when he told me he quit in May, I knew something was up.

It was sometime in March when I noticed Derek had bottles of Kanka sitting in his office. We had either just purchased stock in the product or Derek had a pesky canker sore that he just couldn’t get rid of. I would ask him about it but he would just shrug it off as nothing important.

Sometime again in April, these bottles showed up again, I asked again and once again was told nothing.

When May rolls around and one day he says to me, “aren’t you going to ask me why I stopped dipping?” UMM Excuse me?! He mentioned he had this canker sore that just wouldn’t go away. I told him I’d give him ONE week for this thing to start healing and if it didn’t it was off to the dentist he goes. That Friday I called the dentist, made an appointment, and was straight to the point with them. I told them my husband has a canker sore that won’t go away, he has dipped for many years and I needed to make sure this wasn’t cancer.

So the week of Memorial Day, the weekend of my birthday, Derek goes in for a cancer screening. I hid my nervousness very well. I was very upbeat and very positive the entire time. Darn Covid made it so I couldn’t go to the appointment with him and he was on his own. An hour later Derek comes home very nervous, I still kept it cool and was very positive that it was a pesky cold sore that just needed medication to go away. After that, he tells me that he needed to go to the Oral Surgeon because the dentist seemed a little concerned about it. Luckily his appointment was the same day, and again due to Covid, he was on his own. He was there for a long time but not once did I let myself get nervous. I was thinking to myself, if I got nervous, then something bad was going to happen but if my attitude stayed positive, then all would be good and everything will come back A-OK. Then the news of needing the biopsy came, oh man, what the heck for?! But I continuously kept telling Derek they are just being extra cautious and it’s going to come just fine and a pesky canker sore. The entire two weeks of waiting I could tell that Derek was very nervous. I held it together and was as positive as a wife could be. The odd thing is, I never once got a bad feeling in my stomach, not once. And for those that know me, I am a very nervous person. I’m paranoid and scared of everything, but with this, I seemed to keep it together! Maybe God’s way of giving me the strength to prepare myself for what was to come?

The day after Adisyn's birthday is the day we get called into the Oral Surgeon for results. This time they let me come with him, so off we went. I stayed calm, cool, and collected the whole time we were there, and they made us wait for over an hour. Derek was nervous as anyone could be. He had a gut feeling, but I still didn’t. The surgeon came in, told us the news and I knew I had to be the strong, positive one from here on out.

I didn’t break down in front of Derek once, someone needed to be strong and I knew it had to be me. Of course, inside I was a mess, but on the outside, I showed no sign of sadness. I guess I was putting on such a show that Derek questioned by emotion, little did he know that when he wasn’t looking, I did break down. He even walked in on me once crying but I yelled at him to leave the room. When he wouldn’t, I dried those tears up so fast and my strong face came back on immediately. I needed to be the strong one not only for him but for the kids, oh the kids. They broke down because of the ugly word Cancer. But little did they know, they had the strongest person for a dad and he was going to fight this and we were going to help him as a family.

Oh, Covid, lovely Covid, this made me unable to attend any of his doctors' appointments, I was unable to be there to be his rock. That made me feel so bad, the worst actually. Luckily he was able to call me and have been on speaker phone while he met with these doctors so I was kept up to date with all of what was going on.

All while this was happening, I was working from home, taking Adisyn to her SAC camp appointments, taking her to cheer practice to get ready for tryouts, trying to maintain a home, trying to work my Scentsy business, our The Jade Cactus business was starting to boom, and we were figuring out how the new school year was going to go with Mason's school because I am also the PTA President. To say I was busy, was a complete understatement. We kept this hidden from our friends and extended family for the longest time. We finally broke down and told a couple of friends a week before Derek's surgery. The love that we received from them was overwhelming, I appreciate all of you.

In July it was time for Derek’s surgery, I was able to be there after surgery and was able to stay with him the entire week he was in the hospital. Walking in and seeing Derek a few hours after his surgery was life-changing. There was my rock, my person that was the strongest man I knew laying in the bed helpless. This is the time God was preparing me for, he knew I had to be the strongest I could ever be and be there for him. The week in the hospital was a good week, I have nothing but good things to say about MD Anderson. Our room view was AMAZING, the nurses were AMAZING, overall it was a great experience regardless of why we were there. OH and the week we were in the hospital, my brother went into the hospital with complications to COVID. HOW MUCH CAN MY HEART HANDLE?? Mind you, I was still working full time while in the hospital. I took my computer with me and worked the entire time. My kids stayed with my parents and had the best time. It was like they stayed at a gourmet food place as my parents fed them everything and anything they ever wanted. My poor dad was our chauffer a lot of the time, my sense of direction is so bad so he took us to the hospital and brought us back every single time! We ended up telling our extended family the day before surgery. The prayers and phone calls and well wishes we received while in the hospital were grateful and much needed. Derek had so many people praying for him and it was exactly what he needed. Please know that we appreciate each and every single one of you.

When we got home it was time for us to heal and fight this on our own, without help from the hospital, but little did I know, we were not alone. Our friends and family were amazing, simply amazing. From cooking us dinner to buying us dinner, to having someone come clean our house, the many many phone calls, prayers, cards, cookies for the kids, to coming over and showing me how to pack Derek's wounds, driving Adisyn to and from cheer tryout practice, our friends and family are the best. I don’t think we could have done any of this without any of you. From our elementary schools namesakes to my family overseas, it was all very much appreciated. Honestly, it made me stop and think why do I deserve all the love that we are getting? What have I done to deserve such amazing friends and family. With all the negativity that was happening all around us, for us know that there are so many good people still out there, it melts my heart. I will never ever be able to thank each one of you enough. You all mean the world to me and even brings me to tears just thinking about it. So THANK YOU.

Fast forward to mid-October, the day that Derek got to ring that bell signifying the end of radiation. I am so proud of what he did during his cancer journey. He still worked most of the time, he mowed the lawn when it needed to be mowed, he helped me with chores around the house, all in all he was super dad all while fighting cancer. The past couple of weeks he has been in so much pain to where he couldn’t even drive so once again I had to work my full-time job along with all the other activities I am a part of, but I knew I had to. I would do anything for this family, anything for the man that would do anything for us.

Derek, you have shown me what it means to be strong, what it means to fight for what you want. Your strength throughout this whole journey amazes me. I am so proud to be able to stand by your side and support you throughout all of this. You continue to amaze me with how hard you are working still to be able to provide for our family in the future. I love you so much and can’t wait until I can take you out somewhere really nice and buy you a fancy meal. Keep up that positive attitude and I can’t wait in 4 weeks when we get that CANCER FREE scan!! I love you more than you know.

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