Don’t let the title fool you. F-ck cancer.
No seriously, I HATE YOU. You stole someone very important to me when I was younger and I’ve seen you devastate my friends. I’ve seen you devastate friends of friends, and friends of friends of friends. I wish you didn’t exist, but in a unbelievable twist of fate, I do believe you saved my husband’s life.
I think everyone experiences moments when they’re struck with the realization that life is short. It’s an oft-used cliche that slaps us across the face here and there when we are trying hard to mind our own business. For me, a giant slap came last summer after a run of remarkable circumstances assured me that we somehow lucked out into being in the right place at precisely the right time.
It was 10 months ago; we had just made a huge cross country move back to Florida from Chicago and were temporarily staying with my parents (another story- with a lot more comedic undertone). My husband told me one night as I was fretting about registering my son for Kindergarten, that he found something strange………”down there”……….a lump. “What? How did you find that?” I asked with a naive quizzical look on my face. “Babe, let’s just say that I’m very well acquainted with that part of my body.”
One ultrasound later and yes, there was something strange there and it needed to come out along with his testicle. After almost ten years of marriage, I was officially going to have his balls in a jar, HA! Or… ball…whatever. After a loooooong, long, like REALLY LONG weekend filled with anxiety, our minds were put at ease as the blood work came back negative for cancer, but the mass still needed to be removed and an outpatient appointment was made.
Fast forward to the day of the procedure: literally moments before he was wheeled back to the operating room, the anesthesiologist cancelled the operation because Matt’s heart rate was abnormally high. He wasn’t nervous. He wasn’t dehydrated. He wasn’t a cocaine user (yes, they asked several times). What was supposed to be a quick in and out procedure had now turned into a six day hospital stint for heart failure.
Heart failure. Unbeknownst to my 36 year old husband, his heart had been in an arrhythmia for quite a while, probably months. The irregularity had weakened his heart muscle so much, he was left with an ejection fraction of only 10%. I wouldn’t expect anyone to know what that means unless you have a medical background or have been in a similar situation, but it was bad. Really really bad. After failed medication attempts and exercises, they were finally able to shock his heart back into rhythm with those thingies they use when someone flat lines on TV. After a week, he was well enough to leave, but not without wearing a life vest 24 hours a day that would promptly shock his heart if he suddenly went into cardiac arrest. In typical fashion, Matt was insanely annoyed over the fact that he had to carry around a battery pack that was the “same size and weight as Zach Morris’s cell phone.” Oh, did I mention we moved during this time? My husband, who was so weak he couldn’t pick up or hold his own children. It was quite the time.
Fast forward. As soon as Matt’s heart recovered (and miraculously it did) and the vest was removed, we had to take care of that pesky mass “down there” once and for all. Despite the clean blood workup months prior, we were hit with another bombshell that the mass was, indeed, cancer. Testicular cancer, Stage 1b.
But we were lucky. One big ol’ blast of chemo and he was done. SO lucky. I remember sitting at the cancer center and was overcome with a heavy sense of guilt because somehow we were walking out of that place without too much disruption from our life. I sat there for what seemed like days among people who were fighting for just another day. I saw a child…
Matt was receiving his treatment and enjoying a few peanut butter cookies that a volunteer had baked. I sat across from him and that’s when the slap came. The cancerous lump that brought us to the hospital that fateful day three months ago saved my husband from, at the very least, a stroke, at worst, sudden death from cardiac arrest by heart failure we didn’t even know was happening. I truly believe this.
Why am I blogging about it? A wise friend encouraged me to share this crazy story believing that “ball jokes can go a long way”. I would be lying if I said I haven’t yelled, “YOU ONE BALLED BASTARD!” at Matt a time or two (a nod to one of my favorite Sandra Bullock movies, “While You Were Sleeping”). My beautiful friends sent a care package that included a pack of “UniBall” pens. Swedish meatballs at family gatherings would never be looked at the same. Humor is necessary and the jokes are plentiful as is my gratitude for everything going down the way it did starting with the moment we decided to make the move closer to family.
If anything I’ve reaffirmed my belief that things happen for a reason- sometimes crazy things, don’t let the sting from life’s slaps fade, and never, ever, underestimate the value of a good testicle joke.