Wednesday, July 11th, 2012 at 10:00 AM
There is no way to prepare for the moment you have to look into the eyes of your wife and tell her she has cancer. In fact if you pull up Google and start typing “how to tell your wife she has…” the top results offered are; …she has bad breath, she has BPD, she has a drinking problem, she has a mustache. I would rather tell my wife she has a lumber-jack beard than tell her she has cancer.
When the call came it was on the heels of several days of waiting for a pathology report to assess a mass that had been found in my wife’s colon during a procedure to address a separate issue in her intestines. While there are technical names for all this, what matters is that we went from pondering, and often times dismissing, what if and now had to face what is.
What is, is late Stage 3 Colon Cancer in a 37 year-old woman, who is now 17 weeks pregnant with our fourth son.
When I hung up the phone with our doctor, I looked into Angela’s eyes, making sure she was looking directly into mine and I said, “it looks like it is cancer” – I said it firmly, clearly, and with intensity. To me, the diagnosis was a declaration of war – a war we did not want, but a war we would fight and I wanted Angela to hear the facts and hear my resolve.
When the words came out of my mouth, Angela’s eyes widened, and the color in her face faded to white. She opened her mouth as she tried to catch her breath. In that moment I knelt by her side, leaned into her so that our eyes were only inches from each other – refusing to let her look away from mine. Much was said in those moments between us, but all I can remember saying over and over again is “we will fight this, we will fight this.” The whole experience seemed out of body – one day my wife, a woman who runs triathlons, reads every label on anything she buys for our family, takes her vitamins daily and always making us take ours, goes from having stomach cramps one day to having advanced cancer the next.
“Options” That Aren’t Options
Once the diagnosis was given the floodgates on decisions needing to be considered and even be made, opened wide. Clearly the biggest consideration facing us was how do we treat Angela and treat our baby at the same time? While we were told the doctors would give us the “option” of “terminating,” to us that was not, and is not, an option. We let the doctors give us the all the facts and all the options; to their credit at no time did our doctors attempt to sway us in any one direction – just the facts and just the options. At the same time our doctors were surprised by our decision to fight for both.
Our fourth child is an answer to prayer. Months ago Angela and I were both praying about having a fourth child, the funny thing of it was, we were praying slightly different prayers when the option to have another baby still felt like an option. Angela had been praying that unlike our previous three children, she would just “be” pregnant. What I mean by that is that we wouldn’t plan it our manage it – taking temperatures, tracking the calendar, etc.
I on the other hand, was praying that God would just simply make it clear that we were supposed to get pregnant – a burning bush or a Moses and the Mountain top type of sign, a big voice from a cloud - “Thomas Make Another Baby With Your Wife!” While Angela and I might have been approaching God on the same topic from different directions, we both just wanted God to show us His plan for our family. In early April, God answered our prayers and to both of our surprise Angela was pregnant – no thermometer, no burning bush, but God had clearly spoken.
So when we sat with our oncologist and she gave us the facts of Angie’s cancer and the options open to us – terminating the baby that God has given us, the answer to our prayers, even in these very hard circumstances, is not an option. While our doctor was caught off guard by our decision, she was and has been whole-heartedly for us and has worked hard to prepare a treatment plan that includes fighting for two lives and not just one.
In the coming days and weeks Angela and I will continue to share what is happening, what God is teaching us, and how people can be praying or be involved. This is a very rare situation, and while my research and data may be off to some degree, from what I’ve been able to ascertain is that in all of American Medical History there are less than 300 recorded cases of colon cancer in pregnant women - Angela had a better chance of hitting Mega Millions than contracting this disease. But we don’t care about the statistics we care about God and His plan. While we will fight like mad to beat this, we know that God is writing the story of our family just as He is writing the story for yours.
Five Specific Prayer Requests
1. Pray for Angela - she is still in a lot of pain from the surgery and we need her to recover well if we’re going to move to the next phase of treating her cancer.
2. Pray for our little baby – our last ultrasound shows a strong healthy baby boy and we want to stay that way.
3. Pray for our sons – we realize we must sit them down and explain to them what cancer is and that it is in their mommy
4. Pray for our ongoing meetings with doctors as we work to ensure we have the best plan moving forward. It will take a team of doctors and departments to care for Angela and the baby as we move through this.
5. Pray for me that I would take a moment to rest from this war – I am afraid to sit still or stop moving. God is clearly showing me that He doesn’t need me to save Angela or this baby, because He already has.
Five Specific Praises
1. We are loved – the outpouring of love from our friends and community Christian and non-Christian has been amazing and I am thankful for everyone God has put in our life.
2. Dr. Joe Chebli - the surgeon who operated on Angela to repair the original issue in her intestines had the God given instincts to look around while he was in there and in doing so he found the mass in her colon and infected lymph nodes. Not only did he find the cancer, he was able to remove the mass and lymph nodes while working around the baby, and Angela will not need another surgery in the foreseeable future.
3. My Dad - As God would have it, my dad was flying in the night of Angela’s emergency surgery and having him here through all of this has been a blessing for our three boys and for my soul as I manage everything from wiping noses, to planning chemo treatments, to preparing for an uncertain future.
4. For Angela’s mom, dad and our extended family who have been helping and praying for us.
5. For Sambica Bible Camp and the Crum Family – our boys have been at both off and on for the last two weeks and it has been a huge blessing for us and for our boys.