After two full months of chemo, I can officially say I did not expect to have this experience. And I’m not even the one enduring treatment.
Let’s look back. Within the first year of our marriage, I learned that Tiffani enjoyed sleep beyond levels I considered “reasonable.” By year two, her ability to sleep anywhere, at any time, under any circumstance, became a staple of family lore. And, as though I were the subject of a divine joke, I have some pretty epic insomnia. (It is currently 3:00 a.m.) Sleep became one of the only things we ever argued about. In case you’re wondering, that’s how you know life is pretty good.
Now, my wife has cancer. Fatigue is one of the universally inescapable side effects of chemotherapy. When the nurse practitioner told us this, we literally turned to each other and burst out laughing. Tiff informed her that if she slept any more than she already did, it may leave me a broken man.
Two months later I have whiplash.
After Tiffani’s second chemo treatment she said, “Ya know, I feel pretty good.” After her third treatment she popped out of bed one day, saying:
- What do you want to do today?
- When are you going to get your master’s degree?
- When am I going to get my master’s degree?
- What should we study?
- I’m going to start blogging again.
- I bet I could finish my website and be ready to start my business when all this cancer stuff is finished.
- Wait, why do I have to wait? That sounds like self-indulgent B.S. I think I’ll lean in right now.
- We should publish your book. Why have we not done that yet? What’s left on the to-do list?
Tiffani’s diagnosis was a massive surprise. Duh, right? At one point, I briefly considered that I may lose my best friend and need to raise our daughter alone. That thought seems melodramatic at this point. Things have been wildly different than either of us expected.
When we discuss life, we often speak in story terms. For example, your life is your story is the basic idea. But that idea has grown and now permeates every one of our paradigms. Now, we periodically evaluate the stories we tell ourselves and we actively identify those which are inaccurate and in need of some solid editing.
Learn more about this philosophy by reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
The day Tiffani shot out of bed, two key changes took place from my perspective.
First, she realized her cancer had probably been executing its insidious plan for years. Slow growth, believe it, or not, is stereotypical of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The tumor in her neck was no longer visible and she no longer felt the pressure on her right lung. She had consistently been having more energy throughout the day than at any other time in our marriage. All of this can be attributed to the success of her treatment.
The second thing she did was question the stories she was choosing to live. Everyone told us treatment would be an awful experience. Even others, who experienced the same treatment plan she is following, told us their experience was pretty rough. Tiffani decided that was not real for her—at least, not anymore, or not yet.
“So, why,” she asked me, “are we acting like the sky is falling? IT’S JUST NOT! And maybe it will at some point, but I’m sick of languishing in fear and waiting around for something that hasn’t come yet.”
That night, we stayed up late reframing our individual and family paradigms. By the next morning, we were living a different story and we had completely changed the stories we were telling ourselves.
Somehow, Tiffani was supposed to get cancer. It sounds ridiculous to say that, and I still struggle with that thought, but it seems true. That is why I can say, after two months of watching my wife undergo chemo, I did not expect to ever have this experience. And, in case there was ever any doubt, my wife is amazing. She’s a strong-willed, resilient woman capable of handling even things that scare her. I love her.
Someday, I’ll tell you about the other things that are happening with friendships and God and how everything you just read goes far deeper. For now, I’ll just say, through Tiffani’s cancer, we have already learned more about God’s love for us than we ever knew before.