Dick and I fell in love over 32 years ago and have never quite gotten over it! We have had some interesting moments, but we have made it through each challenge. Love always finds a way.
Unexpectedly, our lives changed in an instant when I was diagnosed with breast cancer in December of 2008. We knew life would never be the same. Life is like that box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get.
Cancer has taught us so many things. Many are bad, but some are good. When we lived in Florida, horrible thunderstorms often rolled in during the late evening hours. Dangerous flashes of lightning and torrential rain reminded us of the awesome power of nature. But just as soon as it began, it passed, leaving a renewed freshness in the air. For just a few moments, it actually felt cool outside. That is unusual in sunny Florida.
Cancer is like those thunderstorms—one after another. But just when you think it will never stop raining, the skies clear and the evening seems fresh and renewed. We cherish those moments. Yes, cancer has been mostly negative, but there are some good lessons we have learned while riding out the storm.
Dick loves to climb mountains. I know it is dangerous and I try to talk him out of it, but he loves it. I have to let him go. He always tells me that the view from the top is worth the climb. I never believed him until I faced my own mountain.
The mountain toward recovery was high, almost too high for me to climb. The chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and hundreds of other difficulties made me so weak that even the thought of climbing was inconceivable. Most of the time I was much too tired to even think about it. Honestly, I just didn’t want to. But so many people were depending on me and supporting me. With the encouragement of Dick and many others, I took one step at a time. I slipped and fell so often. I got up, only to fall again and again. Each time I got up, the summit looked closer. That gave me hope. With each passing day, I got higher and higher, stronger and stronger. And soon, I could see the top. I gathered all the strength I could muster and took one more step. Dick was right. What a view! I was on top and thrilled it was over! But I pray I will never have to climb another one.
We have written a book entitled: Don’t Ever Look Down: Surviving Cancer Together. It is our journey of surviving cancer together. It is candid, honest, and sometimes brutal. My experience as an oncology counselor for over 13 years brings both a personal and professional insight, making it quite a unique story. Dick’s perspective – as a husband, minister, and life-long mountain climbing enthusiast – gives a rare glimpse into the life of one who has learned to understand and deal with the challenges of a wife with cancer. To find out more about us and the book, go to http://www.donteverlookdown.com/
In our book, we tried to be real and transparent. We hope each reader will laugh, cry, learn, and be challenged. For cancer survivors, we hope you will be encouraged and will gain new depth of insight and information from my experience as an oncology counselor. If you are a care-giver, whether a spouse or someone else, you will relate to the difficulties of serving a loved one with cancer and perhaps understand that you are not alone in your labors.
But most importantly, Don’t Ever Look Down: Surviving Cancer Together is our love story. No matter where cancer may take us, it will never take away the love we have for each other. When all is said and done, that will be enough.
Debbie Church spent more than 18 years as an oncology counselor before being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Debbie is currently the Coordinator of the Cancers Survivors Network at Saint Joseph’s Hospital. Dick is a consultant with a national mission agency. Debbie and her husband Dick both hold Masters of Divinity Degrees from Southeastern Theological Seminary at Wake Forrest. Together Debbie and Dick co-authored the book, “Don’t Ever Look Down.”