“At least I don’t have cancer.”
That’s what I always told people who asked how I could have such a great attitude about my medical problems. That was before my uncle was diagnosed with cancer. I had no idea how true those words would ring.
I always thought he would win. I always thought he would beat it. I never once thought “What if he doesn’t?” I think I was doing it to be strong. Strong for my aunt. Strong for my daughter. Strong for my uncle. Strong for myself. But now I wish I would have asked “What if the worst happens? What if he doesn’t make it?”
I would have gone to see him every day. I would have called him more. I would have sat and listened more. Instead of being afraid to talk to him, afraid to disturb him, I would have asked. I would have thanked him for everything. All the times he just sat and had coffee with me, or dinner. Thanked him for his guidance. For listening to me. For treating me like another adult family member; like my view and my opinion mattered. I would have told him just how much he mattered to me.
It’s not very often that I question the way God works, or why He allows things to happen. But this is one of those times. I still needed him here. I needed him to talk with me and have coffee with me. I needed his guidance and his outlook. My husband needed his guidance and his example. Who is going to mentor him now? Who is going to sneak candy to my kids in plain sight? He won’t be there to see Cruz grow up. He hasn’t really even gotten to notice all the cute things Cruz does now. You know, if it weren’t for uncle Kreg, Cruz probably wouldn’t even exist. Sure, my husband always wanted another baby, and every only child wants a baby brother or sister, but it was my uncle’s constant “So when is the other one coming?” That finally broke my grudge against pregnancy. But he never really got to know him.
And then I think about how selfish that is of me, because if I still need him that much, I can’t imagine what my aunt and my cousins must be going through. 25 years. They’ve been married for 25 years. They’re best friends. I can’t imagine what it must be like, after all that time, to look down the road without him. His oldest daughter’s baby is younger than Cruz. If I’m this torn over him not being able to see Cruz grow, I can’t imagine what she is going through. Or my middle cousin. 19 and going through college. He won’t be there when she graduates. He won’t be there to walk her down the aisle. Or watch her kids grow up. Or my youngest cousin. He’s only 16. He won’t even see him graduate high school. He claims he’s never having kids. Uncle Kreg won’t be there to change his mind like he changed mine.
But we know where he is now. There is no questioning it. He is in heaven. He is with Jesus. He has no more pain; he is healed. He has a joy that we cannot even fathom. And he will be waiting when we get there.
Uncle Kreg is still with us in some ways. Whenever the Oregon Ducks play. Whenever someone gives Promise, or Cruz, or his little granddaughter a cookie. Whenever we help someone, just because they need help. When I look at my kids, or my aunt, or my cousins, and remember how much he loved all of us.
During his fight with cancer, uncle Kreg told me about a book he wanted me to read. A book about one young man’s struggle with the same cancer. I am reading the book now, and I feel so sorry that I never really knew what it was like when he was here with us.
Many times, he told me that if he made it through, his dream was to spread awareness of this cancer. To speak in high schools and colleges and hand out this book that talks about the pain and loneliness of cancer in such detail. Such detail that it gave me nightmares.
You see, my uncle had testicular cancer. A cancer that none of us had ever heard of, yet it is the most common cancer among men ages 15-35. It is also the most curable cancer – if you catch it early. By the time my uncle was diagnosed – because he passed out and went into seizures one night – it had already spread to his lymph nodes, lungs, and brain.
It makes me angry to think that it is the most common cancer in young men, yet most people have never heard of it. Why isn’t there more awareness of this cancer that affects so many people? Awareness can save lives. It could have saved my uncle’s life.
So I intend to help carry out my uncle’s plan. I intend to spread awareness. If he, one of the least, maybe THE least deserving person that I know, had to die, I will help make sure that it was not in vain. That it does not go unnoticed.
Talk to your sons about testicular cancer. One awkward talk could save their lives.
Dedicated to my uncle Kreg, who read my blog posts from the very beginning.
You are greatly missed.