A Toast To The Grumpy People

After experiencing the roller coaster of emotions that were thrown at David's family after his wife's breast cancer diagnosis, he considers anger and "grumpiness" as simply a waste of time.

It was a gorgeous Spring Sunday in Massachusetts: brilliant blue sky and seventy degrees. Nina and I had gotten in the car to go see our oldest daughter perform in her final dance competition of the year. At the end of our street, two girls had a lemonade stand and there was a car stopped with its hazards lights on. The people in front of us had just bought their lemonade and I assumed they’d be on their way, but I was in no hurry. My wife and I were talking about the afternoon ahead. That’s when the driver waved us to pass them. As we passed, the driver started swearing loudly to his passenger, obviously for us to hear (and consequently likely the two little girls), about how we didn’t know what having his hazards on meant.

A year ago, I probably would have gotten angry about this. Instead, I felt dumbfounded. Why would something as benign as me pulling up behind him get him so angry? Didn’t he know that there are things to really be upset about? Has this guy ever heard of cancer? I waived and smiled as we left, probably confusing him or adding to his consternation.

Last October, my wife felt a lump in her left breast.

It was small, like a pea. A few years back she had felt a lump and it tuned out to be a cyst. This time however, after having a biopsy, she got a call from the nurse about the results. She knew something was wrong when the nurse called her cell phone and asked for her to call her back when she wasn’t driving. Uh-oh. The next day we were at the hospital speaking to a surgeon. Nina was diagnosed with a particularly nasty form of cancer: Triple Negative Breast Cancer. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s aggressive, doesn’t respond to hormone treatment, and tends to spread.

Nina would go on to have a double mastectomy followed by four months of chemotherapy. Next week she gets her chemo port removed. It’s been difficult, but we’ve had an unbelievable support system between our family, friends and neighbors.

Being faced with thoughts of mortality really does a number on you… especially when your children are looking to you for answers, reassurance and security. But going through this has changed us for the better. I wouldn’t wish cancer on anyone. But it has changed our perspective on life, family and friendship. How can I get angry at simple things when there is life to be lived and cherished?

I have always had aspirations and dreams of how I’d like the future to turn out and I still do. But I’ve been given the gift of having my wife here with me and our children. Today, I’ll appreciate the phantom bobby pins from our daughters showing up in random places. I’ll appreciate my son’s hockey and lacrosse sticks piled by the door. Today, I’ll be happy that there are other things than cancer to think about.

Life is a gift and although I knew that before last October, cancer made me realize that more than ever. So, tonight I’ll say a toast to Lemonade Guy and all the Grumpy People. May you never have to experience cancer, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll come around anyhow.