Sometimes when you think you have life figured out, you get a curveball. On some occasions not only do you get a curveball, but you get the 3-2 curve- the ultimate surprise. The 3-2 curve is what my family got on February 24th of this year.
My wife Jill, who works in a doctor’s office, felt something on her chest that was out of the ordinary. Dr. Weldon, her boss and our friend, examined her right there in the office that morning. He confirmed her fears when he told her that he believed there was a high likelihood that the mass he had examined was cancerous. Dr. Weldon left his office, where he had a full slate of patients to see, and came to tell me what he had discovered. He didn’t have to do that, especially with the work load he had during the day but because of the magnitude of the situation I am so glad he did. He laid out the process and the steps ahead of Jill and how she was going to whip this evil thing that had decided to invade our lives. We were still afraid none the less.
The next week or so was a blur. Go see this doctor, go see that doctor. Jill was getting poked and prodded like crazy. Miraculously, we got things done in a week or ten days that would normally take a month or more to get done.
Her oncologist told us she was getting things done so fast he could hardly keep up. This is the first of many times I saw a higher power at work. There are no doubts that only because of the hand of God were we able to have tests and answers so quickly and smoothly. I thank God for this because waiting for information is brutal. Even though one of the answers we got was that she did in fact have breast cancer, at least we knew what we were dealing with.
I always preach mental toughness to the kids that play for me. Perhaps more so than any specific fundamentals, players need to train to be tough. I try to teach kids that there is absolutely nothing you can do about what has happened or will happen. Furthermore, your success on the field and in life is going to depend largely on how you respond to adversity.
Bad things are going to happen. You have to focus on the here and now as well as your reactions and emotions. There is an old cliché that says life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond. I try (sometimes poorly) to keep a calm exterior even when mistakes or adversities happen. Be positive. Focus on this pitch. Players and coaches can’t let emotions get the better of them. Be in control.
You have heard the analogy of the duck that is calm as can be above the water while kicking like crazy underneath. Many times that is me during a game. Now I have to practice what I preach in real life situations, not just some baseball or softball game.
My prayer, especially during these early days, was for God to give me peace when I was around Jill. Even though I would be churning underneath, I would need to be calm on the surface for her. I continued to tell myself that God is with us, and He loves us (Isaiah 43:2-4).
There is no doubt God answers prayer because every time I would go home I found peace and strength that I hope was of help to Jill. On several occasions when I would go lift weights in the morning before school I would just sit on a bench in the weight room by myself and cry. Thank God, when I would return home to get ready for school I would always find the peace I needed to be strong for Jill.
There would always be a calm when I was with her. I would try to pump Jill up and tell her, “You are going to be fine. You are going to whip this thing and will be known as a survivor for the rest of your days! DO NOT BE AFRAID!!” Having said that, I am not sure how much she needed me. She was pretty strong from the get-go. I have grown to admire and appreciate the strength she has shown through all this. Sometimes I think she is calm both above and below the water.
God never promised us that all of our days would be easy but He did promise in Matthew chapter 28, verse 20 that He would always be with us. We also know that God did not give us a spirit fear but of love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). Since this is the case, should we give in to human nature and be afraid or worry? No. I would encourage people to choose to praise God even in the biggest storms. That’s right. Jill has cancer. Praise God
(Psalms 34:1, 150:2)! Admittedly, this sounds odd. But, if I may make an observation, I think that this is where many people go wrong in their lives when adversity hits. Please do not misunderstand me. I’m not casting stones, and I am not implying that I have all the answers.
Rather, I understand that human nature is to want to feel sorry for yourself and want others to feel sorry for you, however I believe God wants us to refocus on Him when turmoil hits our lives and praise Him for all the absolutely wonderful things He has done in our lives as opposed to sitting back and saying, “Oh whoa is me”, or getting angry at God and questioning His sovereignty. The Bible offers wonderful words of wisdom in James 4:8 where we are told: Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Even though there is evil in this world and bad things happen to good people (Jill is a WONDERFUL person by the way), understand that God is still in control and THAT ALONE is a reason to praise His name and to continue to live and enjoy life.
Jill and I have become acutely aware that most things in life are just not worth getting upset about and losing sleep over. Furthermore, there is always someone else battling demons and could be going through much worse circumstances. Nobody, unfortunately, is immune to the trials of life. Hopefully, if someone else was going through a trial of some sort, they have seen hope in me and my family.
I have made it a point during this time to NEVER give people the impression that our lives were anything other than wonderful. While that was not always easy, when asked how I, we, or Jill was, my response would always be: “Outstanding”, or “We are blessed”.
No, I wouldn’t pretend that nothing was going on. I would be honest about Jill’s treatments, the side effects she would experience, the fear of losing her hair, the anxiety of having to make potentially life changing decisions, or anything else people would ask about. But, I want to use this as an opportunity to let people know that life still MUST be lived. Even though we got the 3-2 curve, we are able to keep our hands back and we still intend to hit the ball hard.
I thank God for Dr. Weldon and the hand he had in getting us pointed in the direction we needed to go. Unfortunately, Dr. Weldon passed away suddenly a month or so after Jill’s diagnosis. I tried to thank him for everything every time I saw him. I hope he knew what he meant to us. Moreover, the love and support our family, friends, and fellow community members have shown has been and continues to be overwhelming and humbling to say the least. Thank you does not even come close to covering the gratitude and appreciation we have.
Jill’s prognosis is good and we believe that this bump in the road will soon be a distant memory. If you are going through a hard patch, you will have to decide whether the circumstance is going to dominate you or whether you are going to hold your head up and keep moving forward.
I have heard it said that the same boiling water that hardens the egg softens the potato. I hope Jill doesn’t mind being compared to food but she is an egg :). She is a great example of the fact that a positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you. Life will not always be easy, but I would encourage everyone to PRAY and PRESS ON! Remember, Psalms 145:18 says that the Lord is near to all who call on Him. God Bless!