Paul & Bethany's Story: An Unexpected Journey, Part 3

{Part 3 of 3} For Parts 1 & 2 click

They arrived at my home after dark. It was the day after Daylight Savings Ended; which, here in Minnesota means it's dark 'pert near 5pm. (Did I just use the word 'pert?)

We settled in to start the final interview. My kids had been rustled downstairs since my husband was out of town for deer hunting opener. I forbade them to come up until "The Lego Movie" was done (did I just use the word forbade?). Paul & Bethany were flying solo (as in no kids were along) and they seemed as giddy as newlyweds. 

[S]: What has been the most surprising thing about parenting?

[P]: How much I love my kids.

[B]: I would have to agree with that. I wouldn't consider myself a kid person. I get really awkward around kids and I don't know how to interact with them. I always knew I wanted kids, but I guess I was surprised by how much I loved them. 

[S]: Did you have any expectations beforehand about of what parenting might be like?

[P]: I was really scared of poop...

[B]: He'd never changed a diaper before.

[P]: I think one big missed expectation was childbirth itself.

[S]: I was going to steer the conversation in that direction, anyway, so let's go there. 

B: Well, I had wanted a total natural labor and delivery. No drugs.

P: Lots of granola.

B: Yes, very granola. My mom had had to have three C-sections, so I thought that might have to be the case for me, but I had heard that doing things naturally would help the labor along and avoid a C-section. However, I ended up with high blood pressure two weeks before my due date and so I had to be induced; which, is always a bad place to start. Labor went on for about 24 hours before I finally gave in and got the epidural and ended up being 30 hours total. The Patocin caused Salome's heart-rate to drop. Eventually, it was too dangerous to continue the labor, so I had an emergency C-section.

When I got into the operating room only one side of my body was numb, so I asked them to test to make sure I was completely numb before they did the incision. They ended up putting in a spinal and finally I was totally numb and Paul was allowed to come in. He was kind of freaked out.

[P]: It was 3:30am after 30 hours of labor.

[B]: As they began to push Salome out they told me I was going to feel some pressure, but what I was feeling was immense pain.  At first, I wondered if I was just being wimpy and maybe everyone felt that sort of pain, but then the pain got worse and worse. I could feel everything they were doing. They showed her to me, we got a picture and they began to stitch me up, but I could feel them doing the stitching.  It was like I was in a nightmare the pain was so bad and the fact that I could feel everything from the incision to the stitching was more than I could have imagined. They ended up having to put me under to finish up the procedure. I don't remember much except being in a lot of pain. We found out later that I metabolize anesthesia very quickly. So, basically, the anesthesia wore off shortly after they did the incision. It was pretty traumatic.

So that was kind of a failed expectation. I mourned that whole experience for a while. It wasn't the happy experience I envisioned for meeting my baby.

[S]: Paul, this summer, you received some daunting news. Tell me about that?

[P]: One evening, I found a lump on my left testicle that hadn't been there before or I hadn't noticed it before. I think that was a Saturday. Monday morning I called in for an appointment with my primary doctor but had to wait a little over two weeks for the appointment. 

[S]: Did you tell Bethany about this at this point?

[P]: No.

[S]: So, in those two weeks, how were you feeling?

[P]: Uh, I was pretty terrified.

[S]: Did you suspect cancer?

[P]: That's the thing you worry about if you have potentially misshapen...testicles. 

[Bethany and I laughed a lot at that, only because it's sort of awkward to talk about a man' know...testicles.]

[P]: I met with my primary, but he wasn't really worried about it and said I could get an ultrasound if I wanted. So, I scheduled an ultrasound for the next day. The ultrasound tech did his ultrasound then went out and came back in and had to do some more scanning; which, freaked me out. I asked him what was going on even though I know techs aren't supposed to say anything about a scan. They're absolutely not supposed to say something, but he said, "You's not great."

He told me it wasn't the worst, but it wasn't the best. It was somewhere in the middle and that I needed to find some way of thinking about it because it wasn't good news. But, not the worst. 

[S]: Did your stomach do some flip flops?

[P]: Oh, yeah. Straight fight or flight. It was adrenaline and fear. After I left the ultrasound, I swung by my office and told my boss that I needed to go home and I went home to tell Bethany what was going on.

[S]: A doctor hadn't talked to you yet?

[P]: No.

[B]: I was home with the girls and had run out to the garage for some reason. When I came out of the garage, Paul's trunk pulled into the driveway really fast. We had found out the day before that his grandfather was dying, so I assumed he was home early and looked so worried because of that. He came up to me and gave me a hug and started unloading this stuff about the ultrasound and how it might be cancer. It was a bad time.

[P]: It wasn't a great day.

[B]: It was surreal.

[P]: An hour or two later, my primary called back to tell me he wanted me to see an urologist and get some blood tests, so I went back in got some blood drawn. There wasn't an appointment with urology available for quite a while, but I went and talked to some people I know and got an appointment the next week. 

Urology said the ultrasound looked very suspicious and the next step was removing the testicle. I ended up having surgery on the 1st of September which also happened to be the same day my grandfather passed away.

[S]: Uffda. I'm so sorry to hear that. What was the pathology after they removed the testicle?

[P]: The cancer was a pure seminoma; which, is the best kind and it was stage 1A. Every few months I'll go in for another CT scan to watch for recurrence, chest X-rays, and blood markers. 

[S]: At this point, you're cancer free?

[P]: As far as I know.

[S]: Is cancer something that you think about or try not to think about? Are you feeling confident that anything residual would be caught? 

[B]: I think we fear cancer more than we did before, because its a reality now. In our minds he's only 29 and he's already had cancer once. What's next? There's a 25% chance it could come back. The fear is where else could he get cancer? Cancer runs in his family. Cancer is something you don't ever think is going to happen to you - especially at this age.

[P]: It's on my mind almost all the time. 

[S]: In what way? Do you have a hold of it, or does it have a hold of you?

[P]: I don't think I have a hold of it at this point.

[S]: I think that's realistic, for sure.

[P]: I think it changes forms from, "How long am I going to be around for my girls?" to "Do I have it right now?" to "Is this pain cancer?" to "Is this symptom something cancer related?" 

[B]: It's weird how you can build anything up in your mind. Something that wasn't there before, a twitch, or an ache or a pain becomes suspicious. 

[S]: You opted not to go through chemo, correct?

[P]: Right. I prefer not to pump my body full of poison if I don't have to. What everyone will tell you about this particular type of cancer is the survival rates are the same just watching and waiting as doing chemo right away. 

[S]: Has there been any cliche silver lining through all of this? There doesn't have to be, but is there anything positive that you've experienced?

[B]: This is cliche, but I think I have more of an appreciation for the time that we spend together. You always think that this isn't going to happen to you. Then, when you realize that things are so out of your control it causes you to appreciate the times you have together.

The first day after he had the ultrasound we were both really shaken up and all I wanted to do was rent a movie, have a bottle of wine and watch a movie and cuddle. The realization that I might not have the rest of my life to do that struck me hard. 

[P]: I don't know if I have enough perspective on it yet to offer an answer. 

Paul with his daughters seven days after surgery.

Paul with his daughters seven days after surgery.

[S]: Paul, after your surgery, you mentioned people's reactions were awkward at best and pandering at worst. Of course, people mean well, but often people don't know what to say at times like this - especially when they know you had an orchiectomy (testicle removal). What would have been helpful for people to say?

[P]: I think I prefer a simple, "Hope you are well. Let me know if there's anything I can do." 

I've lived on the other side of that, too; however.

[B]: Another comment that got old was, "Well, there' a really high survival rate, so...." We know that, but at the same time, it as if that response minimizes the fact that we've dealt with cancer. If this was even 30 ago this could have been a death sentence.  There's a balance there between being thankful and understanding it is still serious.

[S]: Paul, you're going to be baptized this weekend at NewDay Church...tell me what that means to you?

[P]: Essentially, it's obedience. I had been putting it off for no particular reason and just hadn't thought it was that big of a deal until I fully realized that it's what we're supposed to do as Christians. 

[B]: I grew up baptist, so baptism was quite important.I had brought this up with Paul, but he stated that he wasn't that interested in it. I tried not to bring it up again because I really wanted it to be something that he wanted to do. Then, Paul and I started teaching the middle school class and one night Paul taught the lesson on baptism and why we needed to be baptized. On the way home, it was kind of quiet and Paul mentioned that he thought he should be baptized. Here he was teaching these middle school students that this is what God has asked us to do and yet he hadn't done it himself. That was a while ago and it's finally going to happen. 

[S]: Did cancer have anything to do with the decision to do it now?

[P]: No.

[S]: How have you seen God working in your lives despite a cancer diagnosis? 

[B]: I feel God has been so gracious to me and I think I've learned a lot about myself through this. Somehow, God has given me a sense of peace in spite of a scary situation. 

[P]: I think I've been more grateful for what we do have.

[S]: Is a little bit of you mad?

[P]: Yeah. Bethany and I tend to play the long game and plan for whatever is gonna happen and that potentially being taken away is frustrating. 

[B]:  Paul and I can be planners to an extreme and we can start to feel like we're in control of things. And over and over, in our lives, I feel like God's just said, "Nope, you're not in control. You can make all the plans that you want, but you're not at all in control." That can be unsettling, but ultimately we trust him.

[P]: It's been a struggle to figure out what is my lesson.

[S]: Do you think there has to be a lesson?

[P]: You can abstract it to various layers, but there probably will be. Whether it's suffering, whether it's giving up control, whether it's just something I haven't grasped. 

[S]: This has been so great to talk with the both of you. Thanks for driving all the way to my house for this.

[P]: It gave me a chance to drive Big Red.

Paul's "Big Red," or "Red Dragon." As he has stated, "Thankfully, I'm secure in my manhood."

Paul's "Big Red," or "Red Dragon." As he has stated, "Thankfully, I'm secure in my manhood."

[B]: Anytime he has a chance, he drives me around in the truck.

P: On the way here, she was looking around in an accusatory manner...

[B]: It was not accusatory!

[P]: She was looking around and said, "Oh, I thought a window was rolled down."

[B]: There's quite a bit of noise in there.

And, that seems like a good place to end this little series. Noise. Isn't there a lot of noise these days? In your life and my life and especially in the lives of Paul & Bethany.  Nothing has seemed to work out for this pair as they planned or intended. Still, they haven't allowed this noise to distract them from what is truly important. They have taken that noise and transformed it into a melody that sings beautifully. 

As Paul mentioned, he will be baptized this Sunday. In the Christian tradition, baptism is considered a sacrament - an outward and visible sign of an inward conviction. As much as we can point to what is baptism, it is none-the-less a profound mystery.  We rejoice with Paul as he takes this step in his spiritual journey. With Christ, Paul is raised to new life!