On Julie’s Passing

“Cancer Is Completing My Life, Making It Whole”: The Blogging Journey of Julie Yip-Williams

Today is the first day I had the courage to read Julie’s blog.

You see, Cancer and I are close acquaintances.  So close in fact, that I don’t need reminders of his tendencies, which I judged were likely to be in Julie’s blog.  Even though I’m keenly aware, that like every other SOB I know, Cancer has his up side.

I lost my wife to brain cancer (glioblastoma multiforme) 2 years ago after a 4-1/2-year struggle. Sixty Minutes followed our family’s journey (google Nancy Justice/60 Minutes) after the tumor recurred and Nancy was accepted into a cutting edge drug trial at Duke University.

Then, believe it or not, only 2 months after Nancy’s passing, I was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). I had a lesion in my left lung, it was in the lining around my lungs, on my chest wall, and I had a lesion in my intestines. The first PET scan revealed the cancer had infiltrated just about every lymph node in my body cavity and neck. The doctor said I would never be in remission (only 4 out of 100 survive stage IV NSCLC 5 years) but perhaps they could treat it as a chronic disease. Meaning, I suppose, we could buy a little more time with chemo.

So if you’ve stuck with me this long, you’re probably thinking, “Poor guy!”

But I can assure you, if you knew how much love I’ve experienced and how deeply I’ve lived in the time since my wife’s diagnosis, and then through my illness, your pity would turn to envy.

I learned to love unconditionally, deeply, holding nothing back during my wife’s battle. Parts were hard, excruciating, and terrifying, true, but through love and faith, those hard times were transformed into gifts, that as I look back, I cherish.

Nancy showed no fear, she battled valiantly, and never complained, not even once! I had a sterling example how to live through her, so I was as prepared as a person could be when my personal introduction to Cancer came.

After my diagnosis, I remember family and friends coming to the house and preparing a big dinner during a particularly rough round of chemo. I was fairly certain I had only months to live. But as I lay on the couch watching everyone interact, I thought, if a guy had to go, this was certainly the way to do it.

I asked God what I had done to deserve this. And not in a bad way, but from thankfulness from the very bottom of my heart.

Believe it or not, I’m in remission now. I retired, spent precious time with my 2 sons traveling, and remarried. Like Julie, I have a blog on Word Press and you can read about the travels, and mine and Mary’s, my lovely, new bride’s, wonderful love affair in some of the stories I’ve published.

So if I’ve learned anything, it’s that getting to know, even living with, a bad ass like Cancer doesn’t signify the best part of life is over.

Like Julie, I’ve found that cancer isn’t the worst thing that can happen to a person. I would like to encourage those who have recently received a frightful diagnosis not be sucked into thinking life is over. Far from it, it’s just a reminder to wake up and live…and love. Especially, love!

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