I think of these last six years as a great fight in the boxing ring of life. The announcer roars “And now, in center ring–” the crowd goes wild waiting for the match to begin, the fighters face off to determine their fate. But in this match, I don’t wear the boxing gloves. And I’m not a member of the crowd who cheers without compassion despite the pain the boxer must inevitably endure. I’m the one who sits nearest to the boxer, waiting to offer some words of support, and trying to offer a steady shoulder to lean on. I’m the champ’s manager.
When you love someone with cancer that’s what it feels like.
I’m only the manager. I’m not the one who must bear the pain. I can’t wear the gloves or step into the ring to take the punches. I can only stand back and wait to be needed. It is a match won round by round, with each round getting progressively harder: every pounding penetrates deeper and deeper until it ultimately goes beyond the flesh and enters the psyche of not only the boxer but also of the manager. Eventually, my contender is weak and worn from the blows. Yet he perseveres, standing on the belief that–without question–he’ll be the winner. But I can see that he’s hurt. I know the pain is excruciating, and I also know that I can’t take any of it away. All I can do is be strong and ready. So I become an encourager, a coach. I love more, and find myself taking hold of each moment that passes as though it might be the last.
Yet, solid a coach as I am, I imagine what it would be like if, when the lights go down at the end of the fight, my fighter has lost the battle, and I’m left standing alone.
So I suppose the truth is that I find myself fighting my own battle. Anger is my nemesis, my adversary. Not anger at God, but anger at the unthinkable possibility of having to go on without the champion, of living life here without him. Then, when I recognize that such fears have crept in, I find myself in a ring of my own making…beating myself up for even allowing such thoughts into my mind. I pray for forgiveness and for the courage and strength to see this epic struggle through. I pray for miracles, for God’s will to match our hopes. I pray for a win!
As we sat through the eight hours of slow dripping chemotherapy drugs, I labored to find some way to comfort him. When there was the need for shots to keep the champ’s blood counts up, I practiced sticking oranges so that I could get it right before sticking my beloved. When appetite abated, I agonized over a dinner that might inspire hunger. I no sooner find a moment of relief than the fight begins again. But I sense a phenomenon: as the fight gets more intense, I am becoming stronger! And I recognize that this strength growing within me is the very strength of my contender, my Michael. With his amazing fortitude I am made strong–strong enough to embrace and support the one that I love. Together we can face it all. Now we understand one another with just a glance or a prolonged squeeze of the hand. We are united in our fight.
What a blessing to be able to share life with such an amazing man!
Michael once said to me that his cancer was a blessing. He said it enabled him to focus on what really matters in life. Determined to block out the noise of life and the difficulty of the fight, he concentrated on this second chance at living. He drastically lessened his workload so that he could spend more time with me and our two kids. Once, following a chemotherapy session, Michael took an unbearable one-and-half hour drive to Boston and sat nauseated through an entire Red Sox game so that he could share a special time with our son. Our daughter sees these times of testing as some of the best times of her life: we took camping trips together and shared life in ways that would not have been possible if Michael had not been diagnosed with “this blessing.” Throughout these times, our family’s golden-gloves champ has shown us his winning combination: a positive mental attitude, physical exercise, and–most importantly–a sustaining faith in God.
Holding each other as we prayed, we beat the odds time and time again. We prayed that Michael would see his son play ball in high school and would walk his daughter down the aisle. He has done the first and next year will get to do the second. Michael has fought a tremendous fight. And having admired from my corner, I don’t take him for granted anymore. I cherish the times he and I have together, and I value every moment of every day.
And now, you might wonder whether I can say, like Michael, that cancer was a blessing? Yes. Thank God, He has opened my heart and mind so that I can now see it that way, too.
Michael and I have felt God’s amazing love and compassion, and it gives us the strength and capacity to stand tall in the face of adversity. We rest in His arms and abide in His presence. I’ve come to realize that it was not I who was the boxer’s manager after all. That role belongs to God. Instead, I am free to just be me. And, if I let Him, God will be my manager too! He will hold me up and fortify me so that I can take yet another step forward, and that is where the daily miracle begins. I can’t explain it, but I know it’s real. I can rest peacefully knowing that I am sealed with God’s love and that He will take care of me. It’s the type of peace that only comes from Knowing Him, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
A few short hours ago, Michael was told that he must once again open his locker, dust off his gloves, and climb into the ring to face his familiar opponent. We cannot know what lies ahead. Cancer has overcome other fighters I have known and loved; my father, extended family members, and friends. But despite these losses, I know for certain that God’s love is sufficient for me. When I reflect upon what was and what is yet to come, I am grateful that I can count on God, the all-time greatest Manager!
Karen Coulters, Author
~Walking with the Living God; Real people, A real God: True stories of ordinary people and an extraordinary God – Compiled by Suzanne Mazaheri Proulz, copyright 2009