We all encounter others, who will have more than us and less than us, but it’s not about what we have or lack, it’s about how we love and treat each other. It’s as if God wants to see what our character will become based upon the environment he’s planned for us. On the morning of May 30th 2012, we heard those unforgettable words “Your son has cancer”, something I never want any parent to hear, because no matter who you are nor what you have, even if it was your only dime, you would trade it all away to make those words disappear. We witnessed this in the hospital on the 9th floor cancer ward when we found ourselves surround by complete strangers from all parts of the world, all with a common story, purpose, and fight. I remember reading the sign on one cancer kid’s door, “We’re not asking for easy, just asking for possible” – an inspiring message from a young man to a frightened father pacing the halls in search of answers. Initial days were filled with fear, uncertainty, tears and exhaustion, but we soon learned we needed to turn it all over to God and the blessings were promised to flow. We had one the best medical treatment centers in the world minutes from our house, the most experienced doctors, the best support group, but most importantly, we had God at the center of our life.
So in all of this journey, it is a time to dig deep and figure out what is my purpose on this planet? This cancer journey is not a race but a marathon, and a time to reflect on who you really are and who you intend to be from this point forward. The brakes of life caused me to come to a screeching halt in the middle of life’s highway, search long and hard for the change in direction I was about to make. Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe this. We’re talking undoing everything you’ve ever known and done for years, and changing life’s course in a direction blindfolded, lacking planning, investigation, and no thought of bearing, and just stepping on the gas pedal. How do you do that?
It would seem as we went through the cancer treatment that we had a lopsided attention situation. More specifically, the very nature of Charlie’s situation required either Angela or me (and often both of us at times) to be at the hospital during his treatment visits, leaving Caroline without either of her parents a fair number of times. I’m sure her perception and reality was that Charlie was getting the massive river waterfall of love and attention while she merely a rain drop. This simply complicated the situation and was not our intention, but difficult to comprehend as a nine year old. Nonetheless, we managed to make it through and took every opportunity to demonstrate bucketfuls of love towards the struggling Caroline who just couldn’t understand the complexity of the situation.
Enduring a situation such as we had not only puts a strain upon your marriage, it has been known to separate families despite the circumstances. My wife and I struggled from time to time as you could imagine due to the new normal we inherited. Lack of routine, uncomfortable (or lacking) sleep conditions, sleep deprivation, basic creature comforts, non-adult conversation, management child’s health, lack of operating as a family unit – basically life as you knew it was all thrown on its head. So while we were struggling with the inconveniences, it can become easy to lose focus of the most important central focal point of your life – your marriage.
As challenging situations present itself, I found myself taking some time to reflect on my marriage and realized I loved my wife now more than ever and there is no one else in the world that I could’ve walked this journey with than my sweet wife Angela. God had a plan for us to meet seventeen years ago, and while we could not possibly forecast this misfortune, I’m glad I married a woman with a deep foundation and faith in Christ, and I keep a golden wedding ring on my finger as a constant reminder.
Finding a cure for cancer has become a mission for our family, but it hasn’t always been this way. In fact, we tried running away from the cause and began turning down and ignoring opportunities. But in the great mystery in which God delivers, He continued putting signs in front of us, knocked down obstacles and excuses, and opening doors and our eyes to helping others as we have been helped. Some call them coincidence, but we call them miracles – we needed a CPA to assist, one stepped up and provided pro-bono work to help us start our 501c3 paperwork; we opened the 501c3 bank account and the woman who helped us in the local branch had a daughter who was a long-term survivor of Neuroblastoma; Johnny Manziel commits to raising money for our Foundation to find cures for pediatric cancer. Our hope is one day we will be able to find a cure for pediatric cancer as no child deserves to endure the pain and affliction associated with this disease.
Fighting cancer will take you through some of the deepest darkest moments of your life. During those times, it’s difficult to motivate yourself to do anything, and even when inspired you are lost. And while it was arduous to put one foot in front of the other, the path always was lit in the direction unknown, with a gentle confidence that we would make it through just fine despite the often demanding, genuinely relentless, seemingly insurmountable challenges in the path.
Despite our circumstances, our community rose to the occasion. Charlie’s Angels was the name chosen for the thousands of people who continue to pray for our family since our diagnosis, for it is you people who have the biggest hearts of gold. We’ll never know the entirety of the people who made it a point to pray for us, bring us warm meals, coordinate our errands, handle our household chores, but we do know we are forever grateful to each and every one of you who were the wind beneath our wings when we needed it most. May your angel wings never cease to carry you to the rafters and beyond.