Shirley handled the news far better than I did. Even though the doctor reminded her that she was in the high-risk category, she didn't seem upset. She had breast cancer and it had already spread into the lymph nodes. He informed her that after surgery, she would have six weekly chemo injections.
Shirley is one of those individuals who has never been physically strong and has suffered from many illnesses. Although this seemed to be one more burden for her to overcome, she didn't complain or feel sorry for herself.
The doctor sent home a video and several helpful pieces of literature to prepare us for the surgery and for the chemo treatments.
A few days before her surgery, I walked in a nearby park. I love my wife, even though many times I felt I'd expressed it inadequately. The thought of losing my life-partner burdened me and I hardly knew how to deal with it. No matter what happened, I wanted her to have some sense of how deeply I felt. In our years together we've had many problems and struggles—like other couples—but our relationship had always been the one stable thing in my life. God had given me a loving, committed wife. I'm a better Christian today because of her.
As I walked that day, I decided that I wanted to give her a gift—something beyond words and something beyond what was prized one day and laid away and forgotten a month later. It had to be a special gift. As I prayed, nothing came to me.
A few days before the surgery, we watched the video. It warned us that some marriages break up when a woman undergoes a mastectomy. Some men see their wives as disfigured, disgusting, and unappealing.1