Love, death, cancer, hope and redemption: A test of strength

Like most people, I spent most of my childhood and formative years living in a perfect bubble. The world was grand, the planets spinned in perfect orbit and everyone was healthy. Stories of heartbreak and disease were foreign to me. God bless my parents for sheltering me in the safe, middle-class suburban existence that I inhaled most of my young life.

But then, inevitably, real life caught up with me.

At 18, I suddenly lost two dearly beloved grandfathers in the same year. I then got my first taste of anger.

At 23, my college sweetheart, whom I promised my hand in marriage, called off our four-year relationship and upcoming nuptials with no real explanation. I then got my first taste of heartbreak.

At 24, I found myself in love again. Just in time to renew my belief in the happily ever after. I then got my first taste of redemption.

At 33, on a cold winter afternoon, I packed up my car with as many personal belongings as I could cram into a VW, including my 2-year-old daughter, and quickly headed back home towards Chicago. My marriage had taken a turn for the worse. Certain lines were crossed, causing irreparable damage. I chose to leave the situation for a bit of breathing room. After all, time makes the heart grow fonder, right?

Well, it turned out that time makes the heart grow fungus. A few months later I was signing divorce papers. Talk about a slap in the face. I then got my first taste of devastation.

After taking a couple years to digest my reality at that point, the enviable happened.

At 35, I fell in love again. I then got my first taste of faith.

I was never big on Internet dating, but one day I chose to partake on this cyber-sport. I created a profile, threw out a photo, and the next thing ya know, a specific profile caught my attention. Hummm, let’s see what happens…

Fast-forward a month later, I’m sitting with ‘Mr. Cyber-Perfect” at a high scale restaurant, and falling completely. In. Love.

Fast-forward 9 months later, sitting in a doctor’s office while he is telling you that ‘Mr. Perfect’ has testicular cancer. My reaction is blank, my feelings are numb. I’m not exactly sure how to handle this. But two things are for sure – I’m in love with this person and I’m not going anywhere. Hell, if I survived a nasty divorce, I can survive anything, right?!


So we dealt with the surgery and following treatment. And slowly but surely, we continue to live life as normal as possible. At this point ‘normal’ has lost all meaning. It just comes down to a struggle between what you have been given and what you can deal with.

Over the next few years, vows are exchanged, a child is born, fights break out, friends become sick, family members die, tears are shed, faith is lost then found again, love grows stronger and family bonds reach amazing levels I’ve never known before.

With the good comes the bad. And how you handle the bad will determine your path in the world.

At 42, I’ve realized a few things: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, we are never handed more than what we can handle, blood family and friends that love you like family will support you no matter what, and Karma can be an amazing thing to witness. So be good.

My personal motto has become stay strong, be happy, respect yourself, love whom you can while they’re here, and give more than you receive. Sure, simple in theory. Easy to understand. Application, however, takes daily practice.



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