January 27, 2004 began like most days. The one thing that made this day so different from others, I would enter the hospital uncertain if I would awake with any sight, or for that matter, even with my eye.
It was the second time dealing with cancer since my first as an infant. While it was my second tumor, it was my first time experiencing not only cancer, but a major surgery. As an infant I actually went through both, Retinoblastoma and the surgical removal of my left eye. While many people commend children for their strength when dealing with illness, it’s my opinion that it’s more of a struggle for the parent. (Speaking from experience) This is why I call my second tumor my first true experience with cancer
Similarly, dealing with illness as an adult has it’s challenges, but more than often there are others involved in the experience who are coping with the multitude of emotions brought on from watching a loved one in pain.
I’ll never forget the reaction to hearing the doctor say "You have a mass behind your eye…It’s very serious, potentially life threatening." I’ll never forget the look on his face when he said I may have to lose the eye- telling me I would live the rest of my life blind. I wondered how my wife would react. What affect would it have on my mother who has experienced the loss of two children, a husband, my first eye. Would my girls still love their Daddy?
On this anniversary or my re-birthday I think about the ladies in my life who helped me so very much on this very day five years ago.
Strangely enough, it’s much easier to write this than it is to talk about it, but the feelings are genuine.
“Ain’t no mountain high enough!”
Lots of people can say they will always be there when you need them, but only a few will actually follow through.
Not knowing what to do, but knowing she had to be there, my sister took the time from her family and job to come to PA from MD to drive my wife and I to New York for the surgery. Twice! She stayed in NYC with my wife during my 8 day stay in the hospital.
Can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Well, hopefully I just did!
"I’ll always love my Mama.."
If you’re not familiar with this Mother’s Day standard song by the Intruders – check the link.
My mom taught me something that is so incredibly valuable – you can truly make something good from a bad situation. When it comes to memories of Retinoblastoma and hospital visits and stays as a child, I have nothing but good memories. EUA’s, (Exams Under Anesthesia) I’ve heard leave children fearful of doctors and bring up thoughts of burning eye drops and fights with nurses trying to give you just "1 more set of drops."
Mom made it fun! I knew I was in for a treat once we left. Hot dogs, the best (Dirty water dogs from a NYC vendor) , soft hot pretzels and Yoo Hoo.
It wasn’t just the food, Mom just has a way of making you feel everything will really be ok. Even when I didn’t understand the ever present saying, "Just leave it up to God."
I get it now, I really do!
"Ain’t no woman like the one I got"
On more than a few occasions people have commented that my wife must be an amazing woman. Honestly, I took offense. Not because I disagree, but rather there is an assumption that because her husband is blind, she must be exceptional for staying with him.
She is amazing because she, unknown to her, knows how to handle and manage change. Roll with the punches. Step up when necessary and for a macho guy like me, step back and trust in her man to take care of business. She’ll do what needs to be done for her man. She did, and she does.
My Dad used to say, "Don’t get yourself no scrawny chick." By scrawny I don’t think he was just referring to the little petite woman who looks as though when you touch her she will break. He was referring to a woman who is mentally and emotionally tough while at the same time 100 percent true woman.
Hey Dad, I found that girl.
She’s what we call a Ride or Die Chick. She’s priceless and I know it.
Thank you ladies. And my very exciting girls.
(Need help on the song reference? – Check out Ray, Goodman and Brown…)