What my wife knew, but I refused to believe

“I’ve had a good life,” said my wife with a bittersweet tone to her voice.

I was driving us back from Houston, and I couldn’t believe what she was telling me. NO! That’s NOT how it was going to be.

“You’re going to be fine,” I said, not knowing that my wife had less than a year to live. And, really, why shouldn’t I have believed a positive ending to our current crisis? I hear about people almost every day who found that treatments either held off the cancer or who conquered the disease. Sure, I didn’t expect it to be easy, but I thought it would be a battle that we would eventually win.

My wife and I spent an afternoon walking the beach at Galveston. Less than two years later, my daughter and I visited Galveston and walked those same shores.

My wife and I spent an afternoon walking the beach at Galveston. Less than two years later, my daughter and I visited Galveston and walked those same shores.

Then my wife slapped me with a dose of reality.

“No. I’m going to die. I’ve had a good life. You’ve been a good husband to me,” she said, sounding much more somber than the doctors who had delivered the news.

I couldn’t believe what she was telling me . . .

It’s actually much harder to get a cancer diagnosis than you might think. Or at least it was for us.

Part of it was our own fault. My wife had delivered our second child in October. Not long after that, she seemed to be tired all the time. But that’s not that unusual following childbirth, is it?

Then she developed a cough. And by December she seemed maybe even more tired than was normal. So we decided a check-up might be a good idea.

So she saw her doctor. Well, there were a lot of things that could be causing her symptoms.

The best thing, he said, would to be to run some tests. Then some more tests. And finally, a few more tests.

And then finally, after about a month of seeing local doctors and a series of test, we got that hard-to-come-by diagnosis – my wife did indeed have cancer.

Not long after that, we took a trip to Houston. We didn’t know how long we would be staying. We started at a hospital that was the home of an oncologist who used to work at M.D. Anderson, the nationally acclaimed hospital for treating cancer.

The first doctor we saw, had looked at the x-rays, but wanted to run some tests of his own. We were only at the first hospital for a couple of days.

Then we had a couple of days before we were to be seen at M.D. Anderson.

But other than the doctors, tests, and anxiety, we were able to find a little time to do some fun things.

One afternoon, we drove the hour south to Galveston, where we walked the beach and found a good place to eat. We saw a movie that week. We went to dinner a few times with friends of family, as well as friends of friends.

We had heard so many good things about M.D. Anderson, that we felt confident that the experts there would be able to help. But that wasn’t the case for us. The doctors, casually but matter-of-factly told us that she did have cancer, but they couldn’t determine the origin of the disease. So, there really wasn’t anything they could do for us

Huh? I would have thought a person with a rare type of cancer would be the perfect patient for a research hospital. I mean, Wouldn’t that make a great study case? Apparently not.

The next day, we left Houston. And on the way home, my wife delivered the statement that stunned me.

I don’t know how, but somehow she did know that she didn’t have long to live. The next day, the first oncologist we saw thought, but wasn’t sure, that her cancer was a rare type called cholangiocarcinoma..

I’ll never know how she knew how things were going to play out. But she did.

And throughout most of her illness, I continued to deny to myself that this thing wasn’t going to take her. I felt sure that the treatments were going to start working any day, and the disease would regress if nothing else.

But my wife knew. Somehow she never really complained about it. She was able to accept the diagnosis. She lived her last months just as she had her entire life up until the illness – with grace, dignity, and a smile on her face.

Even when she knew something that I refused to believe.

  12 comments for “What my wife knew, but I refused to believe

  1. jcw0623
    January 28, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Wow. Way to start my day off with some tears! Truly though, I’m very sorry for your loss. So do you have the children yourself? I couldn’t imagine what that scenario would be like. I wish you all the best. Hang in there.

    • January 29, 2014 at 7:15 am

      Thank you. Yes, it’s been me and the kids for about 9 years now. It was pretty tough when my son was a baby because, basically, I had NO IDEA what I was doing. But we’ve made it ok.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Rebecca
    January 28, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Oh, Mark, what a way to start off the day. To stop and think about life in general. I think of you and the kids often. I have been thinking of Scott a lot lately too. Maybe it is in the air. Thank you for putting this story out there. It is a wonderful and heart touching story. You never know what today or tomorrow holds. Just make the best of what you have right now and live life to the fullest every day. And I know that you do. You are a great man, friend, and father. Best of luck to you.

    • January 29, 2014 at 7:14 am

      Thank you for the kind words. I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. And you’re right – we’re not guaranteed anything past today. That’s why it’s so important to let the ones we love, know how we feel.
      Thanks for reading.

  3. joyce neinast
    January 28, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Mark, I remember all the trials you went through and the grace that you and Tracy showed the friends around you. Instead of mopping and etc. You both encouraged all of us. You have and are being a great example to your children. Will always love you.

    • January 29, 2014 at 7:12 am

      Thank you, Joyce. It was definitely a difficult year. But we always appreciated the help and support of friends like you.
      Thanks for reading.

  4. January 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    That was beautifully written. Your wife sounds like me was an amazing woman. I just wrote about the death of my mother who died of cancer it feels like yesterday sometimes then sometimes too long ago as me!ories become fader. We never discussed her cancer nor the fact she was dying it was like it would pop the bubble of it all possibly being alright x

    • January 29, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      Thank you.
      I’m very sorry for your loss. You’re right. It’s really difficult to watch someone you love suffer and die from cancer.

      • January 30, 2014 at 1:08 am

        Thank you and yes it is. It was eight years ago or just over now. But it never goes away. I wrote about her in one of my other blogs that relates to chronic pain (itsisalonelyplace) if you did happen to want to read it. I suffer from chronic pain and she did too but for different reasons than me but she is definately my heroine 🙂

      • January 30, 2014 at 4:14 pm

        No, it really doesn’t go away. I hate to hear that you have chronic pain. That sounds terrible. I hope you’re doing ok with it. And, yes, I would like to take a look at that blog post.

  5. Mike
    February 28, 2014 at 1:11 am

    Found your blog via Tumblr, wasn’t sure if you were going to receive anything I write on there so I thought I’d drop by here and leave a reply.

    While I didn’t want to think about it, my wife told me the same thing. I don’t know how she knew but she did. And as soon as she knew, she did everything in her power to make sure we make new memories. Memories that our kids and I can hold onto after she passed. I always said she’s much wiser than I am because she was.

    Thanks for the blog. It’s good to be able to connect with someone in similar shoes.

    • March 3, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Thank you so much for reading and for your comment. Yes, it is good to connect with someone who has had a similar experience. My heart goes out to you and your kids. Even though you might know it’s going to happen, it doesn’t make it any easier.

      I always thought my wife was very smart to do everything she did before she died. It sounds like your wife was too. I’m not sure what kind of attitude I would have if I knew I had a terminal illness.

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