couples

'In one of our final conversations, my wife told me: "I wish we all lived like we had cancer".'

Two years ago today, we got the call from the doctor to inform us that we had cancer. Yes, I said “we,” because it wasn’t just her. It was us. And it wasn’t just us, it was we.

A cancer diagnosis doesn’t just attack the patient. It attacks families. Our children. Her parents. My parents. Our siblings, nieces, and nephews. Our aunts and uncles. Our friends, our community, our tribe. We all got diagnosed that day.

WATCH: Talk to your family about their health history. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia

It was never just her. It was us. It was we. We were all in this together. Heck, many of us would have raised a hand, traded places, and taken it from her in a second, if that’s how it worked. But cancer doesn’t work that way. Cancer has its own agenda.

A year ago today we were celebrating with some of our “we” in Palm Springs, as we had beaten cancer. It was awesome. We had no agenda. We sat by the pool all day long, for four straight days.

We talked. We laughed. We ate a lot and we probably drank a little too much. We relished the fact that there would be no more chemo. No more radiation. No more surgeries. We could just breathe.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Cancer, I want to talk to you for a minute. You picked the wrong chick to mess with. You have stolen so many people from their loved ones. You’ve torn families apart. You have crushed them. See you don’t just effect the patient, you effect everyone that loves and cares for them. And in this case you picked the wrong crew to mess with. Cancer, just in case you didn’t know, today we have our last chemo treatment. In many ways it’s felt like this has been going on for years yet in other ways it felt like we started yesterday. I think you’d like to cripple us and tear us down but again, you didn’t realize who you picked to mess with. The one thing that I do know is that I wish you would just get cancer and die. You’re no fun. You suck. You’re stupid. And though you think you’re all big and bad, what I think is that you’re a little wuss and you need to stop picking on people. Yes, you can do a few things but there are so many things that you can’t do… You took away Rachel’s hair but you couldn’t take away all the love, encouragement and prayers that has been shared. Yes you caused her to be tired and nauseous but you didn’t cause us to lose our faith, our hope or our smiles. Yes you invaded some cells but you didn’t invade our soul. Yes you killed some plans we may have had but you didn’t kill our spirit or our peace. I know we still have a long road ahead and I hate to mock you but next time you want to pick on someone, I’d advise you not to mess with this one. She don’t play around. She’s got a mean streak. She’s a fighter. And she is kicking your butt. #thejanous5 #cancersucks #cancerisalittleb #screwcancer #nomorechemo #cancer #cancerfighter #cancerwarrior

A post shared by Brandon Janous (@thejanous5) on

ADVERTISEMENT

Turns out we were wrong. About nine months ago, it came back. The cancer came back, and it came back with a vengeance. There was a lot more chemo. Many more rounds of radiation.

It came back to the point of no return and a month and a half ago, she went to be with Jesus. A month and a half ago, the most amazing person I’d ever known went to her eternal home, to be with the only one who could ever love her more than I could.

Cancer taught us so much and cancer sucks so bad. I know everyone knows that. I don’t need to preach to you all about how bad cancer is.

How it doesn’t discriminate. How it doesn’t care about your agenda or the plans you’ve made. How it doesn’t care how healthy you may be, or how well you take care of yourself. And how it sure doesn’t care if you have small children.

It just doesn’t take any of those things into consideration. I don’t need to tell you this but, just in case you didn’t know, cancer is a bitch.

You see, I can talk about all the things that cancer took from our “we,” but that’s not what she would have wanted. That’s not how she battled for the past two years. That’s not how she lived and I’m sure not going to let that be how she died.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

“Each night when we come to work all the nurses gather around and ask whose got her? And we all know who her is…” That’s what one of the nurses said to us last night. And that’s the impact that Rachel’s having on this entire hospital. Not just the nurses. But the doctors. Doctors are coming in on their days off to see her. They are sneaking her ice cream sandwiches and serenading her on the guitar. The cleaning staff. The admins. The Chaplin. They all know who “her” is and anyone that gets the opportunity to help take care of her leaves the room better than when they entered. This isn’t normal. I can assure you that this isn’t happening in other rooms. Or in other hospitals. This is so special. She is so special. I’m so glad that “her” is mine. I’m so glad that “her” loves so well. I’m so glad that we all get to know “her” to watch “her” and to love “her” back. #racheljanous #her #cancer #thejanous5 #impact

A post shared by Brandon Janous (@thejanous5) on

ADVERTISEMENT

She never took the “woe is me” approach; she never even played the cancer card. I told her we should play the cancer card. I mean, it’s an automatic pass to “get out” of going to things you don’t want to attend. She never let me play the cancer card. Not even once. Some would say that’s a waste of cancer. But that’s just not how she lived.

And oh, did she live. She lived so dang well. Even over the past nine months. Even when the cancer took control of her entire body. Even over the final 39 nights of her life, which we spent together, in a hospital room. Surrounded by our “we.” She lived every single day so well. She found the good in cancer as only she could.

For two years we fought cancer. And for two years, it’s the only thing we fought.

image9
Image: Supplied.

I told a friend the other day, that over the past two years, we never had one argument. We never raised our voices at each other. And honestly, I can’t even think of a disagreement we had.

I know there are people out there who will say, “fighting is healthy,” and “I love a good argument.” And I’ll just say, “I don’t” and “when cancer’s involved, things change.”

ADVERTISEMENT

For two years, we had one focus: to simply live another day. That’s it. It was to wake up and live that day the best we could.

It’s amazing what happens when you live your life that way. It’s amazing how the things that once mattered to you just don’t matter at all. Yes, even the things that would’ve once caused a good argument.

When it’s possible that all you have left is the next day, I bet you’d realise pretty quickly that you don’t want to waste a single moment fighting over things that just don’t matter. And more than that, you’d realise that most things just don’t matter.

Perspective. With cancer, perspective changes. With cancer, most things that once mattered so much to you, hardly matter at all. With cancer, you learn to let the little things be little.

With cancer, what’s in the bank account just doesn’t matter. Because with cancer, you’d spend every last dime you have, even accrue millions of dollars in debt, if it meant you could fix it.

With cancer, the laundry and the household stuff can wait. Because with cancer, you’d much rather spend that extra 30 minutes playing with the kids. And honestly, you realise that the kids don’t care about laundry and, if you didn’t tell them to change clothes, they’d just rock the same ones for days.

Image: Supplied.

With cancer, the conference call can wait. Because with cancer, you don’t get to decide which moments are most important, and the client can wait in ways that cancer can’t and won’t.

ADVERTISEMENT

Spilled soda in your new car? With cancer, it’s just a car, and it just doesn’t matter. The score of the ball game? Again, doesn’t matter. I stressed over way too many ball games, spent way too much time caring about the outcome as though I would somehow have an impact. I love football. I love baseball. I love basketball. But with cancer, I love it so much less. And the gossip and drama… with cancer, it’s even stupider than it was before. You just don’t have the time or the energy or the space in your brain to entertain any of it. That’s it.

With cancer, you realise most of your fears are wasted on things that probably aren’t ever going to happen. And you become grateful for the things you once took for granted. Cancer has a way of turning some of us into optimists, finding joy in every little moment and holding tightly to it. Forgiveness also comes easier. Cancer has a way of making you see each day as special. There just isn’t time for grudges, so with cancer, you forgive — you forgive easy, and you forgive fast.

With cancer, you appreciate the simple things. You reflect on how precious life really is. Because there will come a time when you’re watching your last sunset. There will come a time when you’re taking the last bite ever of your favourite meal. There will come a time when you take your last hot shower. There will come a time when you’ll have the last hug or kiss you’ll ever get to share.

With cancer, you just love better. And no one loved better than she did. She loved people, and she loved them so well. She didn’t have an agenda. She wasn’t looking for anything in return. She just loved, because in the end, that’s what love does.

My wife, her name was Rachel. And on March 1, 2020, at 4.34 p.m, she beat cancer. She has no more pain. She has no more tears. There are no more doctors appointments. There are no more surgeries. No more chemo and no more radiation.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

This afternoon at 4:34 pm, Rachel went to dance with Jesus. I just know that He was awaiting her arrival with arms wide open, a big ole smile and as they embraced He whispered in her ear, “Well done Rachel. Well done.” She fought so dang hard. She gave it everything she had. And everything she had was so dang much. Today, Rachel received her crown. And I think it’s safe to say that they are having a dance party in Heaven like Heaven has never seen before. Today is so hard. All of this is so hard hard. I’m really not sure how to do life without her. I’m struggling to find the good in this but all that I keep thinking is that if the day Jesus died was eventually called good, then maybe one day my worst day, today, will be called good too. I met Rachel when I was 20 and I knew the moment that I laid eyes on her that no one could ever love her more than I would. After a long hard chase, I somehow talked her into marrying me and I knew at that moment that no one could ever love her more than I would. We had 3 precious babies, Hadley, Cooper and Macklin, and each time we became parents again I was certain that no one could ever love her more than I would. We got diagnosed with cancer just under 2 years ago. And as each day went by and I watched her continue to fight for her life, I fell harder and harder for her. I had zero doubt that there wasn’t a person on the planet that could love her more than I would. And right now, at this very moment, the love I have for her is unexplainable. And as I sit here, watching her rest in such peace, with tears rolling down my face, I can’t help but smile knowing that for the first time in a very long time, Rachel has no more pain. She will cry no more tears. She will suffer no more. She doesn’t have to worry about a thing. The cancer is gone and is never coming back. Today Rachel beat cancer for good. And as hard as today and the coming days will be, I take joy in the fact that at 4:34 pm, Rachel was finally in the arms of the only one that loves her so much more than I ever could. #dancingwithJesus #rachelbeatcancer #love #cancer #nomorepain #nomoretears #nomoresuffering #GodissoGood

A post shared by Brandon Janous (@thejanous5) on

ADVERTISEMENT

If you got to know her, you were one of the lucky ones. If you didn’t, I’m sorry, but her story is far from over. She had an amazing impact on the world while she was here, but the ripple effect has just begun.

In one of the final conversations that we had, she asked me to make sure that I keep living as if “we” have cancer. Because, if we get back to normal, things that don’t matter start to matter. We forgive less. We are less grateful. We start to care about the stupid stuff. We get caught back up in worthless drama. We push aside the things that should matter most for things that just don’t matter all that much.

She encouraged me to continue to let the little things be little. And reminded me that most things are little.

She encouraged me to keep loving well and to never stop.

She encouraged me to hug harder and hug longer.

You see, you may not have cancer. But on this day two years ago, we didn’t either.

You’re crazy if you think you know what will happen this afternoon, or tomorrow, or next week, or next month. Unfortunately, all too often, you just don’t get a say. And it’s not just cancer here. We all have our hard. Cancer was our hard. But so many of you are dealing with your own hard (and if you’re not, I hate to be the one to tell you, but it’s probably around the corner).

I promise you this: I wish cancer on no one. I hate it. I hate it so much. It’s the worst. And I hope you don’t ever have to become a part of this fraternity.

But to be completely honest, in one of those final conversations, Rachel said, “I wish we all lived like we had it,” and I couldn’t agree more.

Because it caused us to love so much better. And to Rachel, to me and to our “we,” there is nothing the world needs more right now than that.

Feature Image: Supplied.

For more from Brandon Janous:

This post originally appeared on Medium and has been republished here with full permission. You can read more from Brandon on his Instagram here.

00:00 / ???