It was a day like any other day in January of this year (2011). My husband and I went our separate ways to work, completed the work day and drove towards home. We had to make a stop by the tire shop, so I decided to accompany him. We were there roughly thirty minutes when Alvin, my husband, decided that I should go on home because he would be a while longer. So I headed home. I had been home about ten minutes when the phone rang. It was Alvin. He sounded panicked and unsure, and oddly, he was slurring his words. He told me that his whole right side was numb and he didn’t know what was happening. I froze in my steps and could feel a cold chill creeping up my spine. I knew immediately, that he was most likely having a stroke.
Suddenly, our life, as we knew it, changed forever. I didn’t know exactly what changes would occur or what the outcome would be, but I did know that I had to be by his side. I called 911 on the way out the door as I hurried to get back to the tire shop. When he came to the door to meet me, I can’t honestly say that I was prepared for what I was about to see, but I knew that I had to be strong for both of us in order to get through this. When I laid eyes on him, his right arm was hanging precariously from his body, in a lifeless state and he was shuffling his right leg and foot. The look in his eyes was one of pure terror and confusion. But, I knew, deep inside, that it would all be ok, somehow, some way. It had to be!
We had been together almost 18 years and gone through some really hard times and some really successful and jubilant stretches of time. We actually met and fell in love at a point in our lives when neither of us was looking for a long-term relationship, but each of us knew instantly that this person was “the one.” Somehow, all that we had been through before seemed to pale in comparison to the uncertain future that we were both facing at this moment.
The ambulance came and whisked us away. At the hospital, I would almost lose him and even be told by one of the head doctors that he may not make it through the night. However, thanks to a ground-breaking procedure performed by newly arrived Dr. Risis Gupta, resident at the Marcus Stroke and Neuroscience Center at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, my husband’s life was saved and his prognosis for recovery and returning to his life were excellent. The best indicator of success was Alvin himself. From his hospital bed just hours after his procedure, he told Dr. Gupta and the entire staff that his first goal was to get his speech back 100%, then to get his right arm and hand working properly again. He is a network engineer and computer professional, so his life was in his hands and we all knew it. I was standing there, with his sister, with tears streaming down my face feeling so proud to even know this man!
Even though his road to recovery was filled with extreme highs and lows, let downs from his job (including cancelling our medical insurance) and overwhelming support (financial, emotional and physical) from our friends and family, our marriage survived and has even become stronger as each day goes by. I was able to see and experience the determination and focused effort from the man that I decided to share my life with so many years ago and I feel privileged to be a part of all this.
Because of his determination to get his life back, the excellent rehab therapy he received and our frequent workouts to get his strength and coordination back, Alvin was able to drive himself back to work, full-time, in May. Finally, I felt we were getting back to some type of normalcy!
Then, I found a lump in my breast during one of my monthly, routine self-examinations. At first, I froze, then I went blank, then I did what I had been told to do for years: I made an appointment with my gynecologist. I have had mammograms since I turned 40, as suggested by medical professionals. There is no history of breast or any type of cancer in my family, but I have fibrous breasts and had been having diagnostic mammograms on my left breast for the past 8 years, with nothing suspicious ever turning up.
But this mammogram would be different. It turned out to be cancerous and I was diagnosed with Early Stage 1 Breast Cancer on July 7, 2011. From that day to this, I’ve felt as though I’ve been locked inside a rollercoaster. I’ve had up days, down days, quick drops and curves at high speeds. The only certainty is that there is an end in sight and I will be glad to get to the end of this ride and walk away exhilarated, as you do on coaster rides. I had my surgery (double mastectomy) on August 11 and will start chemotherapy later this week. I look around and there he is, my partner, lover, friend and husband, right there by my side, ready to weather this storm with me as I did with him in his time of need.
I look at my life and my marriage and I know that both Alvin and I are blessed to have each other. We are committed to our love, our marriage and to each other. We often just sit and talk about the events of this year and thank God that each of us was there for the other and reflect on the fact that God put us together, but we chose to stay committed through sickness, health, wealth and misfortune.
Carol Dunlop is certified through FiTour as a Personal Trainer and through the American Red Cross as a CPR, AED and First Aid Instructor. She has competed and placed in several Fitness America and National Bodybuilding competitions. She hosts the Fit4Life Radio show which airs weekly on Tuesdays at 1:00pm EST and served as a fitness mentor on www.totaleefitradio.com, which was created by 8-Time Mr. Olympia Lee Haney. Carol is the “Weight Loss Expert” for www.nursetogether.com and blogger for www.dietsinreview.com and also provides content for www.shapefit.com.