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Breast Cancer Husbands, “I’m One of Those Guys”

©Scott Pratt. All rights reserved.

Other than James, I don’t often get to meet other breast cancer husbands who are great caregivers, men who’ve stood by their wives through every step of their breast cancer. I want to introduce you to one such husband, Scott Pratt. I met Scott through his website, ScottPrattFiction, where I read a blog post he wrote about what he and golfer Phil Mickelson have in common: Wives who’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. As I read his post, I knew Scott was someone special.

Scott Pratt writes legal suspense thrillers about a lawyer named Joe Dillard and his family and the relationship between a husband and wife during her long battle with breast cancer. Often compared to John Grisham, reviewers have said Scott Pratt is one of the most impressive writers to come along in years. “He has a way of drawing characters that make them real,” “a must read if you love attorney and courtroom thrillers” and he “had me going from the start and put my life on pause until I finished.”

Scott Pratt is the only person I’ve ever asked to write a guest blog.
As one reviewer said, “I can’t wait to read what life brings for Joe Dillard and his family in future novels.” I feel the same way about Scott, his family and his wife, Kristy. I think you’ll feel the same way after you read his post below.

“I’m One of Those Guys”

I recently learned that twenty-five percent of men whose wives are diagnosed with breast cancer pack up and leave. My first reaction was disgust, then anger. I asked myself, “How could a man do that?”

I’ve since thought about it a lot, and to be honest, I still can’t answer the question. Maybe fear drives some men away, maybe selfishness. Maybe they were just looking for an excuse to leave. I don’t know. What I do know is that if twenty-five percent of men leave, that means that seventy-five percent stay. I’m proud to be one of those guys.

My wife was only forty-four years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May of 2007. Her name is Kristy. We’d been married for twenty years and had two children in high school, one about to graduate and the other a year younger. She owned and operated a dance studio and was beautiful and fit and energetic.

The news, initially, left all of us in a state of utter disbelief. There was no history of breast cancer in her family, and she seemed so… healthy. Within a week of the diagnosis, however, things got worse. We learned that the tumor was large, Stage III, and had already attached itself to the skin beneath her breast. The cancer cells had spread to her lymph nodes. She was in danger. The doctors told us that under the best of circumstances, Kristy was looking at a battle that would last for more than a year, that she would have to undergo chemotherapy and radiation therapy and that she would lose her breast.

I’ve never been one to cry, but I’m not ashamed to admit that I cried the night I found out how sick my wife really was. I walked down to the edge of the lake that bordered our back yard after everyone had gone to bed, and I cried alone in the darkness. I have no idea how long I was there, but when the tears finally played themselves out, I asked myself a question… Can you be strong enough? Can you be strong enough to help her through this? Can you be strong enough to help the children through this? I told myself that I was the husband and the father, that all of them would look to me for strength, and that I could not let them down. Right then and there, I made up my mind. There would be no more crying. There would be no more feeling sorry for myself. I would deal with the situation head on, and I would do whatever I had to do to help Kristy get through it.

The next morning, I took my son and daughter to breakfast, and we talked a good, long while. My son had just turned eighteen and my daughter was about to turn seventeen. They may have been young, but I was proud to discover that both of them had already come the same conclusion I had come to – Kristy was the one who was sick. There would be no outward displays of self-pity. We would remain strong and positive in her presence, and if any of us felt ourselves weakening, we would look to each other for help.

And that’s what we’ve done for the past four-and-a-half years. The road has been long and incredibly difficult for all of us, especially for Kristy. She has endured everything the doctors predicted and more. She has been poisoned by chemotherapy, burned by radiation, and cut with sharp instruments. Her hair has fallen out and grown back twice. She has had nineteen surgeries, one of which resulted in the use of leeches (yes, those slimy, wormlike creatures) to deal with excess bleeding. She has spent weeks in the hospital and months recovering. She has scars on her chest, beneath her arm, running down both sides of her back, and across her abdomen. Her body became a battlefield, and by necessity, I became the combat medic. I held cool compresses to her forehead while she vomited after chemotherapy. I changed hundreds, if not thousands, of dressings. (During one particularly rough period, I packed a large wound with gauze twice a day, every day, for six months.) I gave injections, treated infections, offered comfort, and spent many, many sleepless nights.

As I write this, one more reconstructive surgery is all that remains. Kristy is still teaching jazz, tap and acrobatics to the students she loves so much. Her thick, auburn hair once again falls to the middle of her back. She is beautiful, vital, and as sexy as ever. (In case you’re wondering, the answer is no – breast cancer will not end intimacy. You just have to be a little more careful.) I love her more than ever.

As for the rest of us, our son and daughter are both away at college and doing very well. Kristy and I have “replaced” them with four dogs.

I remain proud to count myself among the seventy-five percent of guys who stick it through. It wasn’t a conscious decision. In fact, I never even thought about it, because leaving never entered my mind.