The Day Everything Changed…

January 31, 2017.  I was working late that week, so I was home in morning.  It was just another day in life, nothing super odd.  Stephanie had a doctor’s appointment that morning, but it wasn’t something that caught my attention.  She came home, we all had lunch together, and we put Sarah down for a nap.  With our quiet time together, Stephanie and I crawled back into bed and continued our How I Met Your Mother marathon, where we had started with Season 1 Episode 1 and were watching every episode through the alternate ending (which, for the record, is much better than the original).  We were on Season 6, Episode 13.  (Spoiler alert) I remember this, because the episode is called “Bad News”, and it’s the episode where they learn that Marshall’s dad dies.  We were part way through the episode when Stephanie’s phone rang.  She saw the number and decided she needed to answer it.  I figured it could wait, but paused the episode anyway while she listened to the person on the other end.  I remember thinking at the time that I hoped they would let her go quickly so we could get back to enjoying our time together before I had to head into work.  I sat there and looked at my phone while I waited for Stephanie’s conversation to end.

As the conversation continued, I could tell that something wasn’t quite right.  I tried to over hear what they were saying, but all I could muster was that they wanted to see her.  When she hung up the phone, she looked like a ghost had walked in the room.  She said that it was the MRI place, and that they wanted her to come back in that afternoon and to not come alone.  Stephanie immediately had a million things running through her mind, and told me how scared she was.  I remember thinking she was overreacting and that it couldn’t be that bad.  I was certainly in denial, because bad things happen to other people, not to to me. So I was more frustrated with the inconvenience of ruining our nap time together than I was concerned with what could come. So we called a friend to come over and watch Sarah while she finished her nap, and we got in the car and drove to the doctor’s office.

When we arrived, we checked in and sat down in the waiting room.  I remember that wait so clearly.  We picked two chairs on the side wall with no other seats next to it.  We were underneath one TV, but could see another along the left wall that was airing one of those court shows where rando dude wants money from someone else.  We sat there and held each others hands, without looking at our phones, and just wondered what was to come.  I’ll never forget what Stephanie said to me.  She said, “I just want to remember this moment, because it could be the last before our lives change forever.”  That stuck in my mind because it seemed so off, so surreal. At the time, I thought to myself that she was being a little dramatic, still convinced there wasn’t anything to be concerned about.  I have never been so wrong in my entire life.  That was the last moment we shared together before our “normal” lives were turned upside down, and less than 8 months before we would no longer be together on this earth.  I never in a million years could have imagined that our lives would never be the same, and that’d I’d lose the woman I thought I would be spending the next 70+ years with.

When they called Stephanie’s name, we both walked back.  They took her through the standard screening, and as they did, they put some papers down on the counter.  I glanced over to see what information I could gather, and all I was able to read and interpret before they picked the papers up again was something along the lines of “no significant finding”.  Or so that’s what I thought I read.  Turns out I found one line that talked of nothing else being found, but missed every other line that talked about the mass they had found. After my quick read, I immediately felt relief, because while I didn’t think anything was that wrong, this just confirmed it to me.  I didn’t share it with Stephanie on the off chance I misinterpreted, but I was confident that we’d leave and get back to living after this minor inconvenience.  Again, I was quite wrong.  As we sat in the room and waited for the doctor, I began to think about what I needed to do that day and the next couple of days.  As the doctor walked in and starting talking, things quickly turned.  After he told Stephanie she had a lesion in her brain, he stepped out to get something.  Stephanie curled up in my arms and we both cried.  We had no idea at the time that it was cancer, or that it was malignant, or that it was Glioblastoma, the most aggressive type of cancer in the worst part of her brain.  But still, in that moment, everything changed.  Our comfortable lives with our daily routine was gone.  Our “big worries” about my next business trip and how we’d be separated for days or weeks, the daily grind of cleaning and cooking and laundry: it all became so insignificant.

It’s been one year since that happened.  My life has changed more in the last year than I could have ever imagined or dreaded.  Stephanie and I spent the next 8 months growing closer together, growing in our faith, and really living the way we should have been living all along.  And now I’ve spent the last 4 months seeing it all disappear and trying to figure out how to wrangle up what pieces I can and try to move forward.  I wish every day that I could go back to that time a year ago before anything changed and have that life back, because I want to have my wife back and I don’t want her to be suffering as she did especially the last couple of months.  But I also wish that I could go back to that time with the outlook and perspective I have now. As Stephanie mentioned earlier in her blogs, we were both thankful for how we were able to live our lives and grow through the process.  A close friend of mine shared these words with me shortly after Stephanie died, and I cannot express it any better.  Having lost her husband, she told me: “I wouldn’t wish my pain on my worst enemy, but I wish my perspective on the world.”  The pain is truly unbearable and incapacitating at times, but the perspective is something I wish everyone could experience.  I can’t count the times Stephanie shared how precious our time is, and how no one is guaranteed any amount of time. And yet with how busy we get in our day to day lives, we too often don’t truly comprehend that. It’s so cliche to say or think “it’ll never happen to me”, and I can’t count the times where I heard that and was still like, “yeah, but chances are it won’t”.  And even me typing this and sharing my experience, it still doesn’t have the same effect as if this had happened to you instead, which I pray never does.

So as I sit here and cry on the first of many unfriendly anniversaries I’ll face this next year and for the rest of my life, I guess I wanted to accomplish two things.  First, I needed to revisit that horrifying day, as this whole week leading up to this day has been tough for me, and I’ve broken down more frequently this week than the week before.  Second, I hope that in some way I can try to spread my perspective, emphasizing how precious time is and and how fickle life can be. I want others to live the way Stephanie did after our lives changed a year ago, and I pray that one day I’ll be able to live like that again too.

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18 thoughts on “The Day Everything Changed…

  1. I know it’s hard to relive. Your words lift me up and help me to work towards better perspective. Thinking of you and your sweet baby girl.

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  2. I understand so well your feelings, because I lost my husband to glioblastoma just under 4 years ago. The day we found out he had a mass (February 7), we learned only that he had a mass in his brain. Three days later, they did surgery to remove one of the tumors, and we did not find out for another 3 days that he had Glioblastoma, although I think once they removed the first tumor, they were pretty sure that is what it was. They had to wait until the lab results came back on the tissue to be sure. From the day that we found out that he had a mass in his brain, we only had 5-1/2 weeks together before he passed away from a brain bleed caused by being on blood thinner and having radiation done 5 days a week to his brain. The waves of sadness were nearly daily at first, as I adjusted to my new reality. I was 59 when he passed away and he was 64. We had been married for almost 37 years and had been together for just over 36 years. Actually, January 31 is the 42nd anniversary of the day that we met! Now I find that when seasons change I have several days in a row when I’m sad, and around THIS time of year, because this is when it started, it’s also hard. March 18 will be a hard day as well, the 4th anniversary of his passing. My heart goes out to you. I am SO sorry for your loss.

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  3. oh your pain is palatable, I pray with all my heart that one your pain will turn to joy. I pray God’s unending presence will be with you. I wish in some way I could care some of your pain for you. I am 67 and am not a stranger to pain and I wish some as young as you didnt know this kind of sorrow. Please know the sorrow will lessen, as time passes. Each day that goes by brings you closer to living through it. God is with you.

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  4. This certainly has come full circle for you, and for everyone who has been touched by your lives. Your blog will, no doubt, be of some help to our family now, as we face a similar situation.

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  5. Your courage is inspiring; your pain unimaginable. Thank you for sharing, Michael. My prayers go out to you and your beautiful angel, Stephanie.

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  6. Michael thank you, thank you, thank you, a million thank yous for sharing with us this intimate glimpse of your life with your beautiful bride. God definetly blessed you with the gift she was. Please know you are prayed for and lifted up as you navigate through your days without her. Much love Trish

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  7. Thank you for being so transparent as you go on living your life with the rest of us. I cannot begin to imagine your sadness but I do hope and will pray that I come to comprehend what you are telling us about how you wish we could live our lives, the way in which you and Stephanie did after her heartbreaking diagnosis. Please keep sharing and know that you, Stephanie and Sarah are continually being lifted up in our prayers.

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  8. Michael, thank you for sharing this painful day. I am so sorry you are having to endure the pain of losing your beautiful Stephanie. She has touched so many lives and I thank you for continueing her legacy of love. Your words are wise and inspiring. I continue to lift you and Sarah in prayer. God bless you

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  9. Thank you for sharing your soul and your pain. I pray that in time you feel that joy you had with Stephanie again. You are a very beautiful writer and I have no doubt you are touching someone in pain who connects to this
    God bless

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  10. Michael, thank you so much for this. I think I happened across Stephanie’s blog from it’s inception. and even though I’ve never met your family, I continue to pray for you. Your willingness to share the rawness and pain of loss causes Stephanie’s legacy to grow. As you share and as heal, you are handing all of us a piece of the courage and faith that so beautifully hallmarked her. Wishing you many comforting moments in this place of perspective.

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  11. Michael,
    First, my heart and my prayers go out to you.

    I cannot fathom your pain and heartache, but I admire your transparency. Your words, no doubt, are helping so many others who are in similar circumstances. You let them know that they are not alone. But neither are you. So many of us who have been following this blog since its start pray continually for you.

    Next, I would like to mention a program called “GriefShare.” It is a support group program that is biblically based. You can find a group in your area by going to http://www.griefshare.org and putting in your zip code. We have been offering this in our parish in Virginia Beach for a number of years.

    God bless you…

    Kathy

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  12. Michael, what you and Stephanie experienced is unimaginable. Both of your strength was immeasurable and your faith has been undeniable. We all know it has been difficult for you and your daughter but I feel God has a plan for you. Just by sharing your story and undying love has helped so many in similar circumstances. Be strong for that little girl and keep the faith. Continued prayers for you and your family.

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  13. Dear Michael, I thank you for your openness and kindness. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and heart. May the Lord keep you as you travel your journey on this earth. Praying for you and your beautiful Sarah.

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  14. Michael, I truly am sorry for your loss. Everything you said is so true. I wish the best for you and little Sarah. Please let me know if i can help in anyway. Prayer for both of you from my heart. Jen Gose

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  15. My heart breaks for you as I read your story. I am so sorry for your loss and thankful for your transparency.
    My prayer is that as you live day by day that you will begin to find peace, joy, and healing. May you continue to “live” life as you learned to live in the last few months of yours and Stephanies days together. May you hope and love again.
    If you’d like to check out my blog at http://www.godsbelovedwarrior.com it could possibly be of some encouragement for you as you continue on your journey. God Bless You!

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