SPOUSE / SIGNIFICANT OTHER

NOW: Chuck and Payton’s Letter to their angel Shae

Dear Shae,

I can’t believe it has almost been a year since I have felt the warmth of your hugs and the touch of your hand.  I do miss how you would light up every room you walked into with your amazing smile and the sparkle in your eyes.   I want you to know how phenomenal you are and how much better my life has been for ever having you in it.  I know you always said I was your “rock,” but in fact, you were mine.  Your strength, courage, and love you showed1538787_257108624454395_1117487022_neach and every day is what kept me moving forward then and what keeps me moving forward and striving to be a better father and man now.  I can still feel you with me all the time.  When I am having a tough day, I get a soft touch on my shoulder or a warm feeling in my chest and I know that you are there comforting me.  I hope you hear me talking to you and constantly asking for your guidance with Payton and life’s journey.  I truly hope I am making you proud.

To celebrate you on your 34th birthday this year, we released 34 Chinese lanterns up to heaven.  I hope they made it to you.  There were tons of family, friends and of course “the Boobers!” to honor you.  That night Payton looked up in the sky and said “mommy on the moon.”  It made us smile, cry, and laugh.  Every night as I put Payton to sleep we say our prayers and end with “God bless mommy, and I love you.”  Payton asks for you from time to time and I tell her to talk to you because mommy can hear you.  So sometimes I watch her, and she will go over to your pictures and start talking to you.  She will talk about the beach, Tinker Bell, school and tons of other things.  But what makes me smile is she will hug herself as she is looking at your picture and say “you have my heart,” which is what you would say to her all the time.  Everyday Payton reminds me of you more and more.  The way she smiles, laughs, and especially sleeps!

 

angel payton

Remember when Payton was born and I joked that she got her beautiful blue eyes from me? You said she was too young for us to know her future eye color and that her eyes could change to green, like yours, as she got older.  When she was two and wearing a green outfit, you said, with a smile, “see her eyes are green.” I immediately changed her into a blue shirt and said “see her eyes are blue,” with a smirk.  We constantly joked about it over the next few years.  Then one day when Payton was almost five, she was wearing a blue outfit, and as I was getting her into the car I noticed her eyes were GREEN!  At that moment I knew two things:  First, you were right (which was honestly most of the time anyways); and second, God was telling me that every time I looked into Payton’s eyes I would see you.  This was His gift – that you will forever live within her, and I will always be able to see your green eyes in hers.

I know now that you are and have always been my angel – both while you were here and now that you are in heaven.  I know that you are always looking down on us, guiding us, protecting us, and shining light on us with your phenomenal smile.

 Love, Chuck and Payton

THEN: GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH LIFE’S STORM from the 2012 Calendar to Live By

~ Shae and Chuck

Shae and Chuck were married for just two years and had a 17 month old daughter, Payton, when Shae was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29, and their world turned upside down. Shae and Chuck share here how their love for each other helped them through the biggest challenge this young family had ever faced.

Dear Chuck,

The morning I was awakened by the doctor phoning to tell me I had breast cancer, I questioned her, “Are you sure you didn’t get my results mixed up with someone else?” When she confirmed these were my results, it hit me. I was not dreaming. I was awake. This was real, and I was really scared. I held Payton tightly and sobbed so uncontrollably she began crying, too. I knew I had to call you at work, and I wondered how to tell you that I have breast cancer. Nothing prepares you for this. I thought, “This is not happening to us! I’m supposed to grow old with Chuck, raise our daughter, and take care of him. This isn’t what he asked for. This wasn’t in the plans.”

As it turned out, you were and are my rock, my best friend, my lover, and the best caregiver ever. Thank you for sitting beside me at each chemo treatment – especially the first time when you told me to just hold my breath and look into your eyes as the chemo went into my veins. As I cried, you said, “Shae, it’s going to be all right. Just hold my hand. I’m right here!” I’m sorry you had to experience that. I know it was hard on you. I’m sorry you had to shave my head as the long blonde hair you loved was falling out. I’m sorry I had to have my breasts removed because I know you are a “boobie” kind of guy. Thank you for telling me, “Shae, I am just glad that you are here with me. I can still hold you, and I love all of you, not just your boobs.” Thank you also for being there with pink flowers in hand to celebrate the end of treatment on my last day of radiation.

I know you were stressed out, but you never showed your emotional side to me. I guess you were trying to be the strong one, since I was an “emotional wreck” all the time. But you still managed to work hard at your job and to take care of Payton and me. I just wish you could have shown me your vulnerability. Because at times when I felt alone, even though I knew I wasn’t, I just needed to know that you were scared as much as I was.

Chuck, I want you to know that I could not have made it through this without your love and support. Especially knowing that my physical body will be forever scarred. Especially on days when I can’t stand to look at myself in the mirror. But it never fails. You still look in my eyes, hold my hands, and tell me you love me and I am the most beautiful woman ever. Your positivity keeps me going every day. When cancer makes me doubt myself and live in fear of “what if it comes back. . .,” you always stop me in my tracks, and say “Shae, that’s not an option, so get it out of your head and let’s keep going.”

I thank God for giving me a second chance at life. I am here, and I plan on being here for a long time. So Chuck, I promise to have and to hold you in sickness and in health, till death do us part.

I love you always,
Shae

 

Dear Shae,

I will never forget the day you called me at work, and all you said was “I need you to come home.” I can’t tell you how scared I was driving home, not knowing what was going on. When you told me, “I have cancer,” I thought, “Cancer, what does that mean? You look perfectly healthy. Could the doctors be wrong?” Then you said it again. I took you into my arms trying to comfort you, but all I could think was, “Am I going to lose my soul mate? Is my daughter going to grow up without a mother?” It felt like I was in a fog, and now as I reflect back, I was being very selfish, so I am sorry. It hadn’t sunk in yet. Even after the first few meetings with doctors talking about treatment options, it still felt like I was on the outside looking in.

Everything changed one night when you sent me to the store. The drives by myself were the hardest because I didn’t want to listen to music, and couldn’t allow my thoughts to carry me away either. At the store, all I saw were couples holding hands and families smiling at each other, and it seemed what I had was about to be lost. It took all of my strength to hold it together until I got to the baby section, where I broke down crying and wished this was a bad dream. I gathered myself together and left the store thinking, “From now on there is only going to be one outcome, and it is that Shae will be okay.” We would find out what “The Plan” was and get to it. I would be your strength when you needed it and sunshine for you when it seemed so dark. The medical appointments weren’t as bad after that because I just saw them as the next step in “The Plan,” and I knew as long as we were moving through that plan, the closer we were to completing it, and we would be okay.

Despite all of my strength and positivity, I know you are still a realist. Of course your husband, family and friends are going to tell you that you are going to be okay, but we haven’t been through what you are going through. When you decided to go to a Beyond Boobs!® support gathering, I thought it was a great idea – at least you would get out of the house. Not only did you get out of the house, but I immediately noticed a change. You kept talking about these amazing women who called themselves “boobers.” Your energy level was high, and you were excited to talk about “The Plan”. For the first time I realized no matter how much I said “I love you” and “You are beautiful,” the conversations with others in your same shoes, who had gone through what you were about to go through, and were, YES, still standing there to tell you it would be okay, gave you wings. I realized my role wasn’t to give you wings or try to lift you up, but to be there to catch you if you fell.

I now know that the support you needed didn’t come just from your great doctors and nurses, or your husband, or family and friends, but also from a special group of people who have “been there and done that.” I am grateful to all those “boobers” who listened to you when you needed an ear, cried with you when you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, or hugged you in silence when you just needed a hug with no words. I am especially grateful to you for not giving up, for finding the strength to keep going even in your weakest moments, and for not losing that beautiful and infectious smile.

Love Always,
Chuck

THE POWER OF LOVE / How to Help the Woman You Love

While working on the 2011 “A Calendar to Live By,” I asked my husband to suggest a few ways men could help the women they love get through breast cancer because he had lived through it with me. He emailed me the response below, which says it all, better than I ever could. Mary Beth Gibson

Where there is love there is life. – Ghandi

Dear Mary,

May 15, 2006 was supposed to be a happy day for us all because it was Clay’s sixth birthday. It all changed that afternoon when you and I were at the imaging center. I remember the nurse would not let me go in the back with you for your test. I thought that things would be fine because you had just had a mammogram about two months earlier. When the nurse came out to the lobby and looked at me, she didn’t need to say a word. I knew it was not good just by the unexplained feeling I had inside my chest. She took me to the testing room where you were waiting. I was shaking with nervousness. At that time the only thing I could do was hold your hand and try to comfort you. I think I was in some sort of shock because it did not hit me until later. I remember telling you, “We will get through this, and you will beat the cancer.”

I remember the night when it really hit me. It was the night I told the kids that you had cancer and that you were going to be ok, but you would be sick for awhile. That night is when things started going through my mind like, “Did I just lie to the kids?” “Is she really going to be ok?” “Will the kids be cheated out of having their mother?” “Will she be cheated out of having the chance to see our boys grow up?” And for me, it was “Will I lose the love of my life?” I started to get very angry and scared. I have always been a fighter. I will fight to the death for my family, and not be afraid to do so, but this was the first time that I had my back to the wall where I could not physically fight for the one I love. I was scared because I could not physically do something. I know you did not see me cry a lot during this time, but let me tell you – when I was doing my landscaping jobs, I would be by myself, and I would cry. Whenever I was by myself, you were on my mind. I’m sorry if I did not show my sadness to you and others, but it is just the way I am. I deal with things differently than others.

These are the things I feel men should do for the women they love who have been diagnosed with cancer.

 

  1. The first thing is to hold her tight, tell her you love her, and tell her that you will beat this together.
  2. Listen to your wife and talk to her. There will be nights when she will just lay in the bed and cry all night. I wish I was better about the talking part.
  3. Think positive – that is half the battle.
  4. Go to all the doctor visits and treatments that you can.
  5. If your wife has to have chemo, sit with her and watch a happy movie together during the treatment.
  6. When she loses her hair because of chemo, tell her how beautiful she is. Losing her hair is very hard for a lady, so tell her she is the prettiest bald lady in the world.
  7. If your wife has to have one or both breasts removed and she chooses not to have reconstruction, be supportive of her decision. Remember her breasts are not why you married her to begin with; it was love.
  8. Just stay strong for her. She needs you, and you need her.

I hope these ideas help some. I’m sure that there are a lot more. Sorry for the sad start to this email. I can’t go back to work quite yet. I have to let my eyes get back to normal.

Love always,
Bo

H.I.P. TIP
Contact Men Against Breast Cancer at www.menagainstbreastcancer.org or 1.866.547.6222 to learn more about becoming an effective caregiver.

SURVIVAL KIT FOR COUPLES

Couples these days have enough pressure on their relationships without the added challenge of a breast cancer diagnosis. It is a very scary, emotional, and stressful time that begins upon hearing the news and may continue well beyond the last treatment. It affects you both as individuals and as a couple. Just remember, while your coping styles may be very different, it is so much easier to face the challenge together, as a team. There is no disputing that a breast cancer diagnosis is an awful and unexpected detour in your lives, but it may also present an opportunity to strengthen your relationship and grow closer together. Below are a few tips we hope will help:

 

  • Keep the lines of communication open, and be honest with each other – it’s okay to share your feelings, and if talking about things is too hard, write a letter instead.
  • Express your needs – do not expect the other person to know what you need even if you think they should.
  • Be gentle and patient with each other – both of you are affected by this diagnosis in different ways.
  • Keep things as “normal” as possible and try to maintain some of your “old” routine – now is a good time to keep things simple.
  • Make sure you have “couple time” – take a break from it all just to have fun together!
  • Remember that you don’t have to be “everything” for each other – that’s what family and friends and Beyond Boobs!® are for.
  • Know that you don’t have to do it all – ask those family members and friends for help because they really do want to and may not know how.
  • Consider individual and/or couples counseling as a way to process what is happening, understand each other better, and develop strategies to help you now and with future challenges.
  • Tell each other as often as you can how much you love each other and how glad you are to be sharing life together.
  • Hold on to each other and never let go.

GROWING IN LOVE THROUGH LIFE’S STORMS

Cancer is a chapter in your life, it isn’t the story of your life – Chuck Jarrett