Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like Willy Wonka, an aloof character surrounded by a vigorous support staff orchestrating a massive marketing campaign, without him ever being present.
I’m not one for the spotlight and I don’t feel that just by being sick I should be in any spotlight. I technically didn’t DO anything. Despite that, I now have my own brand…thanks Kacee, Heidi, and Parker. I do feel like I need to say something before I go into surgery tomorrow as a means to convey my gratitude but also to give you my point of view on this whole episode. Here it is.
Last year was a year of firsts. First “real” car bought. First house purchased. First “real” full-time job. First child was born. I distinctly remember talking with Kacee about it all during New Year’s and saying, “wow, we did a lot this year. Makes you wonder what is coming this year.” Well, it showed up.
This year has been a year of shakeups. If you read this blog, you know what Kacee went through, to a degree. It was rough. This past spring I was entrusted with being the mid-distance coach at SUU which meant I was given full control of the 800m group training. It was the moment I was finally able to put the previous 7 years of education to use as a coach. It’s really the moment every aspiring NCAA coach dreams of. We ended up coming within 0.1 seconds of winning both the men’s and women’s Big Sky Conference individual titles; it was a thrill I’ll never forget. But then, despite having the recruiting and coaching years of my life, I was suddenly hand-picked and cast out of the University just because I was the nephew of the head coach, a situation that was not unique at the University or any university for that matter. But the result, for some reason, was unique to me. We were then thrust into a whirlwind of contingency scenarios and endless job applications. Eventually, my brother-in-law came to the rescue and got me an interview at his company in SLC. I luckily got it but that meant moving, and even more daunting, learning a profession I had ZERO background in. The whole idea of a 90 minute commute was foreign to me. The whole idea of not using any of my formal education was sickening. The whole idea of going from a job that I was actually pretty good at to one that I was incompetent at, wasn’t real fun. And, more than anything, the idea of not doing what I was passionate about and what I dedicated my life to for the past decade, due to another person’s whim, was hard to stomach. Of course we both figured we just move forward from here and start a new life. We both accepted it. But 2014 wasn’t done with us yet. My uncle suddenly died, which left a lot of us thinking, “what could I have done better?” Then, just a week later….
“There’s no easy way to put this but….you have cancer.”
I stared at the doctor and I was emotionless. I’m not a very emotional guy in the first place so I thought that maybe this summer’s career merry-go-round used it all up. But this is the point where I want to change the tune of this blog entry. I know so far it has been a giant sob story but it was meant only to be context for what I want to write about now.
As most people know, I’m a “believer,” if you will. I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I’m a Mormon. I believe in God and everything that goes along with that. As this story has unfolded I can honestly say that instead of throwing a temper tantrum and shaking my fists toward heaven I could only help but wait and see what He had in store for us. I, of course, was wondering “why?” after losing my job. NOTHING made sense about it to me. I was sitting on my bed early last month writing in my journal and I had to stop and write something to the effect of “I am certain there is something bigger to this job mess, I just don’t know what it is yet.” I could genuinely already feel God’s hand at work. I was sure there was some purpose to this, just like there is to everything in our lives and all around us.
As we were sitting in the doctor’s office and received word that the pathology report came back saying the object in my sinus tested positive for cancer, it was like the blinders were torn off. What made absolutely no sense one minute made complete sense the very next. We had to be up here. There’s no way they would have figured out I had cancer down in Cedar. I would have continued trying to treat a sinus infection until it was too late. I didn’t have time for doctor appointments, I was on the road 2-4 days/week. I also had to be in Salt Lake to have access to the high-level doctors at the Hunstman Cancer Institute. It all made sense. But then I had to ask myself….why cancer?
Just last week we were sitting in the office of Elder Nash of the Seventy, one of the leaders of our church. He was one of the most genuine and kind people I have ever met. As we spoke with him, he jumped up and grabbed his scriptures. He narrated a story from the Book of Mormon that Kacee and I were both familiar with but he emphasized a verse that he felt impressed to share with us. It read: “And I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs…and this will I do that ye may stand as witnesses for me hereafter, and that ye may know of a surety that I, the Lord God, do visit my people in their afflictions.”
I am absolutely certain that God is a personal God. He knows each and every one of us, by name. He is the great orchestrator of this entire Universe and yet somehow, miraculously, also that of each breath of every single one of our individual lives. Since the minute I found out I had cancer I have literally never feared for my life. I don’t know what the plan is from here on out, as usual, but I wrote in my journal just a couple days before meeting with Elder Nash that “I’m not sure why death isn’t a possibility but there is something more to this. He has a plan in mind for giving me this one, I guess we’ll have to wait to find out what it is…”
In conclusion, on the eve of my surgery, I have felt an unquenchable need to thank all of you. Given the scale of your efforts to support me and my family, it may be impossible, but here’s to trying. The most difficult part of cancer has absolutely been learning to allow people to help and give. Parker can attest that I have had a hard time not calling people, up after they donate too much, to ask them to give less. There are people who have donated small amounts but I know how much they make and I know they can’t afford it. I literally have cried a few times because of those of you who have given your Widow’s Mite, to me.