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Friday, 08 June 2012

The “Big C”

By Dani Ferguson Phillips of The Cataract Club

After 34 years as a single, divorced woman, I married my best friend of 57 years. We just celebrated our first year of marriage and I’m happy to report it has been a blissful year. It has been blissful in spite of the uninvited intruder that has been with us since the first day.

The “Big C” as he is referred to, became a part of our lives two years prior to the wedding but we decided we would not allow him to stop us from having as much future together as we could grab.

Three is definitely a crowd but we have managed to reduce The “Big C” to a tolerated part of our existence. CT scans every three months do not allow us to plan further than three months at a time. After each scan we dissect the latest information and plan our lives for the next three months accordingly.

The slightest change sounds an alarm that only I seem to hear. My husband has the gift of denial. He is able to put the “Big C” on a shelf and leave him there until forced by his oncologist to acknowledge his existence.

I, on the other hand, see the “Big C” out the corner of my eye every minute of every day. I am always aware of his presence as he sits there taunting me with unimaginable scenarios.

If ever I have learned the meaning of the serenity prayer it is now.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

I pray not just for the courage to change the things I can but courage to survive the things I cannot change. I do not fear for myself but for my spouse.

I pray that I will be able to handle his anger when he is no longer able to deny the existence of the “Big C”. I fear the day when he is forced to look at his mortality. Will I know what to say or know how to comfort him when that time comes?

Every day I remind myself to be grateful for this day. Grateful that even though my beloved has cancer, he has been free of pain to this point. He has survived two surgeries with little discomfort and has been able to live a “normal” life for three years.

Though the cancer appears to have spread to both his lungs, it is growing very slowly and exhibiting no signs or symptoms. Our next hurdle is to determine if it has also spread to his remaining kidney as suspected.

My husband will be forced to make a potentially fatal or at the very least, life altering decision to either remove the kidney and spend the remainder of his days on dialysis or leave it and expedite the dying process. Unfortunately, kidney transplantation is not an option, as the drugs required to prohibit rejection would suppress his immune system only to allow the cancer to spread even faster.

So I sit, wait and live each day to the fullest but always aware that the “Big C” is waiting also. Yet in spite of him, I will gather memories and love to last a lifetime.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Dani, I have no doubt that you will find the right words when the time comes. I will pray for Divine guidance so that the words will come easily, and that you will no when words are not what is needed. I admire your fortitude.

KNOW!! (I cannot believe I wrote that incorrectly.)

Dani, you do not know me, but I reach to you all the way from India to wish you great strength and the very best that the universe can offer you.

You are a courageous woman. Live for today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow will take care of itself until it becomes today.

Thank you for your beautifully expressed story. Your description of seeing cancer out of the corner of your eye every day is so apt, so accurate. And yet you go on seeing the joy full on.

I wish you and your husband all the best and hope that you have much more time together.

Thank you for sharing what many have to live through, often silently and alone..I guess no matter what age we are we think we have a lot more power and say about how life will jostle us around..It is probably another one of those "ways" we differ from animals..Life is to share at all the ages and you were lucky enough to find someone & have that extra chance most of us only dream of..Good lesson for all is to live and enjoy each day best way we can, but sometimes I read or hear a story like yours and sigh and hope I would be brave enough to be a good partner through it all...no matter which role..All my karma to you both for today forward..


Your story was very touching and left me admiring your and your husband's courage.

I wish you both all the best.

There are no words in me to say what I’d like you to hear. All I can do is sit here with tears in my eyes and accept the things I cannot change.

To marry your friend in spite of? You are already telling him all he needs to hear. Near and dear will speak a volume of words that letters cannot spell. When words are required, you'll find them waiting on your tongue.


Your story touched me very much. I married a wonderful man that I love despite terrible heart disease in his family, which cut down his brother at 32, his dad at 49. Sure enough, he had his first heart attack at 42, and the doctor explained to me that it was only a matter of time. I treat each day as a gift, treasuring my time with him each day as though it may be his last. In turn, we play more, and I will never regret that. So you see, when I say, I understand, I do. But we are so blessed, you and I. We have gotten what many people will never have: the chance to live and love someone fantastic. And after seeing so many people in unhappy marriages, I'll take it. Good luck on the big C chasing your life. And you will be in my prayers.

Dear Dani
"Listen to your body,
Listen to your heart,
Try to be the best you can be,
every day."
Be strong together, thanks for sharing.

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