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one year ago: #teamdomiNATE & I’m still here

A unique blog post from both Nate & Kacee – we both wanted to write down our thoughts & feelings from this past year:




From Kacee:

From this blog a year ago:

As I was laying there and even more so as I am typing it all out I know that the previous trials we had to go through this year were all just practice.  They were just really, extremely hard repeats.  One of those workouts that you really didn’t think you would get through, but somehow you were laying on your back afterwards amazed that you did.  Those workouts made us strong, both physically and mentally, and now we are lined up for the race.  It super sucks that our race is cancer.  But I 100% do know that we were given this trial for a reason.  It’s going to be hard – every race is.  But after going through tons of races I know that if you race relaxed, confident, and have lots of fans cheering you on the race is always easier, more enjoyable, and the outcome is way better. 


As we ‘race’ we (especially me) will do all we can to stay relaxed and confident.  All we ask is that all of our ‘fans’ out there just keep cheering us on.


We can and will domiNATE cancer.


#teamdomiNATE” – October 2014

October 20th.  A day I will never forget.
One year ago we received a phone call early in the morning for the Doctor wanting us to come meet with him ASAP.
One year ago I sat in his office and heard the most dreadful sentence ever – “You (Nate) have cancer”
One year ago I went through so many different emotions. So many tears. So many worries. But also, so much love. So much support.
One year ago our lives became a big unknown.  We had no idea if Nate was going to survive and how going through cancer would be.
I am SUPER happy to report that WE DID IT. We domiNATEd cancer.  Nate can now sign his name, “Nate Houle, M.S. & Cancer Survivor”.
Frequent readers of the blog know how it all went.  And although, as with any trial, it was really rough and there were times that we felt like we couldn’t go on, we did it.  Nate did it.  We really couldn’t have asked for more.  We received not only huge amounts of blessings, but outright miracles.
Miracles.
That’s what has been on my mind as this ‘cancer anniversary’ is upon us.  After going through and winning ‘the race’  I’m left stunned at the outcome.
As you can imagine, this past year has allowed me a lot of time to think, ponder, & pray.  And through this, I can firmly say Nate’s life being saved was nothing short of a miracle.  Had we not had the enormous support group that we did, along with our own faith, I don’t think Nate would have made it.  Even the surgeons were surprised at how good of an outcome Nate’s case was.  Not only were they able to save his eye, he has been able to recoup and become healthy without too many complications along the way.
It has lead me to think, why Nate? Why our family? Why was our ‘cancer crap’ less than a year?
Why are we the lucky ones?

There was a man only 2 years older than Nate receiving treatment at the same time as him.  I would see him from time to time and my heart sank every time I did.  Don’t get me wrong, cancer is hard and awful at any age.  But there is something that stings a little more when you see young people.  Especially young fathers.  I never formally met him or his family.  But I learned his name (Trevor) and read up on their story.  He was a husband and a father of 2 young kids.  His cancer was different than Nate’s, but his diagnosis pretty similar.  As time went on I could tell things weren’t going good for him.  I said a silent prayer every time I saw him and noticed he was looking a little weaker; a little more ‘gone.’  I followed their story and learned that as Nate was regaining strength and becoming healthy, he, sadly, passed away.  I still follow his wife and see how she has to go through life as a widow.  As a wife who lost her husband to cancer.  And it has made me think even more…
Why are we the lucky ones?
What made it so Nate was able to live and Trevor died.  It doesn’t seem fair.  Don’t get me wrong, I DEFINITELY don’t want Nate to die (yikes).  But why did Trevor have to?  Why doesn’t his wife still get to wake up to her man?  Why is cancer even a thing?
As I’ve pondered & prayed one thing has been made clear:
God has a very delicate plan for each one of his children.
Our lives are complicated and there is a lot we don’t know….that we aren’t supposed to quite know.  It sometimes frustrates me.  Nate will attest that I keep him up too much trying to solve the world’s & gospel’s ‘mysteries’. As time goes on my testimony of the gospel is still simple.  I, sadly, have not solved the grand mysteries of the universe.  However, as I have been put through the “refiners fire” these past couple of years I have confirmed and solidified somethings…
-God 100% has a very specific PLAN for each one of us.  Each plan is beautiful and made purely with amounts of love we cannot even comprehend. Our plans aren’t ‘fair’ but they are exactly what each one of us need.  And in the grand scheme of things, they will be fair.  Everyone will be able to enjoy the same and best blessings if we can follow our plan.
-God LOVES us.  Sometimes it was the only thing that kept me going.  Nate would have bad days and I would feel so defeated, so lost.  But there were certain Heavenly arms that were always there, always embracing me.  There wasn’t a single second that my grief became to heavy or the trial too hard.  He will never “give us more than we can handle”.  He will put us right to the edge, but will never push us off.
-Christ’s atonement is REAL.  And it’s not just for sinners.  It’s for everyone at all time of life.  Along with God’s love, I knew that no matter what, there was always one who knew EXACTLY how I felt.  He had felt it all for me.  He took all the hard times and suffering upon himself just so he could comfort us.  Just so he could one day relive us.  Just because he LOVES us.
-There are ANGELS among us.  Both here on earth and above.  I have had way too many sweet experiences to not know this is true.  We are looked after. Do not think for a second that you are forgotten.
-MIRACLES still exist.  They are not just things of the past that we read in the scriptures.  They happen every single day.  Some are very small, others big.  Nate’s eye being saved? Definitely a miracle.  Nate’s whole life being saved? A miracle.  Through faith, prayers, & fasting of so many we have received blessing & miracles and I could not be more thankful.

 

 

 

We are still young.  Nate’s cancer could still come back.  I still don’t know exactly why we had to go through the trials we have.  I know that we still have more trials up ahead (*sigh*).  And I’m still heartbroken that others aren’t as lucky as us.
But.
I know that the strength and growth we can receive through trials is worth it.  I know that we are being lead by God’s hand & we are on the right path.
And really, that’s all you can ever ask for in life.  To know that you are on the right path doing the right things that will you lead you to eternal happiness – no matter how much you have to suffer in this life.
And last, but certainly not least, a shout out to domiNATE himself.  Because as much as I talk about the ‘woes of cancer & trials’ he is the one that truly has done it all.  I have never seen a body with so many tubes, wires, needles, and just ‘stuff’ in it as I saw Nate after surgery.  He had days where he sincerely asked me, “Why should I go on? Death seems so nice right now.”  He was pushed to the point where death would have been a welcomed release.  But he didn’t let it happen.  He kept fighting.  Kept hurting.  Kept domiNATEing.  He took it all and then some and I hardly heard him complain.  I know he was in pain and discomfort way more than he lead on.  But for my sake and the sake of others, he put on a good face.  He didn’t want to ever burden anyone with his pain.  He went from re-learning how to talk, walk, & eat to now the head coach of a division I college cross country & track program.  He domiNATEd cancer so hard &, without missing a beat, kept moving and progressing in life.  I am in total awe of how well he handled it all.  And still handles it all.  He still has ‘leftover’ effects that are super annoying everyday.  But you will barely hear a peep about it.  He is an amazing example to me of strength, perseverance, faith, and, frankly, domiNATEion.  Our relationship has been tested and tried but it has only deepened my love for him.
Congratulations, Nate, you freakin’ did it & continue to still domiNATE every single day.
And lastly, last – another HUGE thank you to all of you!  As mentioned a few times above, I KNOW that without our big support group, we wouldn’t have been as blessed or received the miracle of his eye.  It took a big combined effort – and we will never forget your love and blessing.  My only hope is that your faith and love was strengthened with ours.
Here’s to many more years of domiNATEing!
#teamdomiNATE.From Nate:

Life just seems to fly by.  Sometimes you look back and say to yourself “man, it’s already been a year!?”

Not this time.

It was a year ago today that Kacee and I reluctantly crawled back into the doctor’s office to hear what, due to the occasion, we already had assumed: that I had cancer.  I’m not good with remembering dates and Kacee reminded me yesterday that we had made it a year.  My first thought was:

It’s only been a year?

The past 12 months have felt like 5 years.  So much has happened and where we are now versus where we were last year seem to be light years apart.  Fortunately, this is great news.

I’ve always been very “efficient,” as I like to call it, in making my way through life.  Learning to find the most economical route to accomplish a task has been a talent I’ve cherished.  Going around the hill, I figured, was always smarter than wasting the energy to go up and over.  Just ask Kacee, after I “clean” the kitchen.  There will always be one pot or something that “needs to soak.”  It’s much more efficient than scrubbing.  However, this past year I’ve been forced to go up and over a pretty big hill and I’ve come down the other side with a tale to tell.  I wanted to get on here and write down some of my thoughts, hopefully you find some value in them.

1. Progress

I’ve always said that my biggest fear is unfulfilled potential.  Every single one of us has enormous potential and capability; endless capacity for growth.  Develop is what we’re here on Earth to do.  The richness and depth of this life is beyond comprehension but many of us never even open our eyes to it, we never let it change us.  Enjoy life by pushing your boundaries.  Never, ever, get comfortable.  They say that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.  It’s very true but only because the old dog stopped trying and forgot how to learn new tricks.  You may have graduated school but never stop learning.  Live in a new place.  Force yourself to appreciate a new location and culture.  Listen to classical music for once and allow yourself to experience its elegance.  Talk to the guy across from you on the train and see what he can teach you.  The day you find yourself having “mastered” your life and its demands is the day you have failed to do so.

2.  The value of people

I’m not a humanist by definition, due to my belief in God, but the experiences of the past year have engendered much deeper appreciation for the value of human life.  Abortion is appalling to me.  War is sickening.  But, the kid with no car (or friends, so it seems) walking the mile or so to his dorm with 10 bags of groceries really gets me.  Watching Meet The Mormons made me (and Kacee…admit it) cry, specifically the single mom who’s infant child had just died and, destitute of family and friends, was forced to confide in the gas station attendant.  I don’t say this to try and make you think that I’m a nice guy, in fact it’s my mom’s fault I’m like this at all.  Just do me a favor and consider the depth of emotions, good or bad, that those around you are feeling and perhaps do something about it.  Don’t get lost in your own troubles and woes.

3.  The goodness of people

Likely the most powerful lesson I learned this past year was this, that people are good.  Amazingly good.  Kacee has touched on this subject before in this blog and I want to re-visit it.  On this year anniversary I feel compelled to make a strong mention of the charity and sacrifice of many on our behalf.  Although one would expect family and close friends to help, I feel like expecting things diminishes its value and every bit of what they did was incredible.  Many literally donated money that I’m not sure you could afford.  The good people at Tomax, who I either barely knew or had never met at all (even the CEO), went to run a freezing cold race an hour from home for an intern who they didn’t even really know and had only worked there for 2 months.  The ward we lived in for just a couple months in Lindon basically took us in as their own, cried for us, and made significant temporal and monetary sacrifices on our behalf.  The hundreds of random people who, for some unknown reason, became very invested in our story and did so much to make it all happen.

People are amazing and often we forget that.  I really hope that all of you who helped know that I think about your charity all the time.  I never forget it.  It’ll always be one of  those things that I think back on and remember with a bit of of amazement.

4.  The reality of God

Not everyone reading this is religious or spiritual, and that’s ok.  I am a very firm believer that God knows us as His children and cares for us exactly as you would expect a divine Father to care for his children.  He has each and every one of us, yes you too, as fixtures in His all-seeing gaze.  To suggest that it’s “arrogant” for me to think that an omniscient God has any special concern with a single individual is diluting our divine heritage.  The past year of my life has been a case-study in how intensely He is concerned with the welfare of a very normal person, if He’s allowed.  Not only were there the series of events with losing my job, moving, etc., that basically saved my life but after surgery and recovery He was still there, guiding and leading us along.

I enjoyed my time at Tomax, working with my brother-in-law and the great people there.  Although software wasn’t my passion, it was a very good place to work and I learned a lot.  I was just an intern in the fall and they made me feel like by the end of my time there I may have actually contributed a small amount.  In the spring, after staring death in the face, I realized I had to do what I felt like I was supposed to do, despite the financial risks and demanding lifestyle.  “Coincidentally” I received a phone call from Ross at Tomax, one of my previous supervisors there, very soon thereafter saying that they wanted to have me back and in a full time position.  I’m sure this was pure charity but, nevertheless, the offer was there.  If any of you know college coaching in track/cross-country, it’s definitely not the most lucrative or stable profession, so this was tempting.  However, I knew I had to stick it out and do what I felt I was supposed to be doing.  Luckily everyone at Tomax is great so they understood.  Now, it’s important to realize that I had literally submitted 29 thorough, comprehensive applications for coaching jobs the previous summer (I just checked) and didn’t even get as much as a single phone interview,  miles away from actually getting a job.  By going down this road I was putting my family’s financial safety at risk.  However, I had already prayed about this a lot and felt very strongly to decline the Tomax offer and float my family’s security on faith.  Within a month, and only my second or third job application after radiation, I had an in-person interview and subsequently a job as a head coach at a Division 1 university.  Basically my best case scenario had materialized.  God takes care of those who put their full confidence in Him.  He exists and is very concerned with the nuance of each of our lives.

I mentioned last year at this time that I had no fear of death, that I felt very confident that I would live through this.  The peace I have is a gift from God.  A good friend of mine, and devout agnostic, once asked me if I was afraid of the possibility of dying.  After explaining why I wasn’t I said if I make it through this then he had to at least consider that divinity played a part in my survival.

One year down and I’m still here.

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