Throughout this journey of overcoming cancer, I have been so encouraged by the outpouring of support and encouragement from friends and family. Beyond that, even people that I know only casually, or barely at all through social media have told me that I inspire them, or even used the word “hero”.
I have to say, that makes me a bit uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong, I want to be seen that way. I’m sure most people want to be admired for something they’ve accomplished. It is at least a small part of what motivates me to run ultras. It’s just that I am just not sure I have earned it.
When I hear terms like “amazing” or “hero”, I normally think of someone like Winston Churchill or Albert Einstein or Mother Theresa. I would even include people like Dick Hoyt, or Erik Weihenmayer in that category. But if I bring it closer to home, to people I actually know, I still wouldn’t include myself in that list. I am just a guy, who loves his family and running, that is doing the only thing he knows to do in this situation. There is someone else that I would put on that list though: My wife, Tania.
Now, Tania would probably say the same thing I did above. She would say she is “just a woman, who loves her family that is doing all she knows to do, given her situation.” However, here’s the difference:
A few months ago, I was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor growing in the roof of my mouth. I was given a pretty straight forward path to get well again. Invasive surgery, radiation therapy and some minor, albeit life long changes to how I eat and my oral care routine and there’s a good chance life returns to a new normal. It has been and will likely continue to be an extremely tough road, both physically and emotionally. However, there is an expected time frame and an expected outcome. Although there are no guarantees and I may have to deal with other unforeseen results of this down the road, that’s really no different than the uncertainty that we all face every day.
When my wife was a teenager, she became extremely sick for several months following a missions trip to Guatemala. The doctors never figured out what was wrong, and although she eventually got back to a level of health where she could function, her health never returned to normal. About a year or so after we were married, her health began to decline again to the point she was no longer able to work as a dental assistant. Over the next several years, as we began to build a family, she again was able to adapt to deal with the chronic pain and fatigue that she experienced daily and managed to be the most loving, caring and engaged mother I could have asked for. Seven years, four kids, and countless tests later, we still had no idea what was causing her symptoms, but she continued to face every day with hope and determination. Over the past 9 years, I have watched with both awe and desperation as my wife’s bad days have slowly become more frequent than her good ones. Yet through it all, she continues to face each day with resolve to be the best mom and wife she can, and continues to find creative ways to do that despite her limitations…all the while having no end in sight to her situation. On top of all that, she has faced the uncertainty of my situation with a unwavering faith and hope, that I was surely lacking in the beginning. It is her faith that has fed mine over the past several weeks.
So this post is dedicated to my hero, my best friend, my lover, for sure my better half, Tania Palmer. I love you babe! Thank you for being all that you are for me and our kids. You are amazing!