Five months ago, a doctor looked at my husband and I and spat out those forbidden, detested, ugly words that no one ever wants to hear: “Keith has cancer.”
    On Jan. 5, we entered into a world filled with scans, scans, more scans and then appointments to talk about the scans. Following a month of hurrying off to appointments, things slowed down to allot time for chemotherapy. The words I want to use to describe chemotherapy, this cancer-killing weaponry, cannot be printed here. Anyone who has had someone close to them go through it, or who themselves has challenged the cancer beast with chemo as their artillery, will understand my thoughts. It is miserable to watch someone you love so much suffer through the side effects of something meant to kill the stronger enemy within them. From a spousal standpoint, some of the hardest parts are having no way to help them with some of the side effects and having no control over what is happening. I’m getting better at focusing on things I can control in my corner of the world to help myself stay stable in this sea of uncertainty. Keith and I have many conversations about things we wouldn’t have talked about months ago. And, I walk the fine line of becoming a nagging wife by asking, far too much, “How are you feeling?”
    We Midwestern folk are often heard, in situations like these, saying, “It could be worse.” As aggravating as that statement has a tendency to be, it’s often true. The chemo Keith is getting doesn’t make him lose his hair (Some of our kids have never seen him without a beard). The nausea medications given along with the chemo do their job, and he can usually hide how miserable he feels. He has a terrific attitude, a strong and determined spirit, and a sense of humor I have never appreciated more. He forces himself to eat meals even when the chemo makes all things taste like tin foil and he has no appetite. He has said himself that, “It could be much worse. It’s not my kids or my wife. And I could be a much weaker human, but I’m not.”
    It could be cold outside, but it’s starting to stay warmer. His cocktail of chemotherapy drugs causes neuropathy, where your fingers and toes get extra cold. For a guy who likes – and needs – to be working with his hands, constantly having painful, cold, tingly fingers is a mental and physical frustration. He tries to keep at work as much as he can: planting corn and puttering on tractors. Though, as most farmers know, being frustrated about not being able to work is almost physically painful.
    I have been riding a roller coaster for the past five months. I did not buy a ticket for this ride; I was placed here without advanced warning. This ride does not have seat belts, only poor signage along the route. There is no voice shouting over an intercom telling me what’s around the next bend. There are high spots, sudden plunges and sharp 90-degree turns. But, I am not alone on this ride, and that’s what makes it much more tolerable. I have friends and family, who are beyond incredible, on this ride with me. They point out things along the tracks that I may be missing; find things to steer my focus. They are there when there are tears and to listen to my fears. They let me scream and yell, and evoke the laughter we all need. They sit in the seats surrounding me to cushion the falls and to grab onto to me and pull me back to the high, level tracks. They assure me this ride won’t last forever, and we may get seat belts eventually. I’m not sure when I’ll get the OK to get out of my seat, but I do know I will walk with shaky, unsure legs for a while. I also know those people who have been on the roller coaster with me will always hold a special, irreplaceable place in my heart.
    Each and every one of you reading this no doubt has your own roller coaster ride happening in your life. Everyone has their something. There is no scale saying my problems are bigger than yours. There is no comparing. There is life, and this is all part of it. I do not write this to compare. I write this to be honest, to let you know it is OK to feel burdened by your something. This thing called life can be full of real and rough stuff. I struggle with this daily, because some days my burden feels very, very heavy. This is the ride we have been put on, and we will make the best of it. Deep in my soul, I know Keith will be OK. There are bright spots around the corners; if our eyes are open, we will find them, and they will help shine light on the dark spots. There are many great humans in our world who truly care, and that makes my heart quite literally swell with love. My sincere hope is if you are on your own roller coaster ride of life, you have a strong safety net of loved ones surrounding you – cushioning your falls, carrying you on.
    Jacqui and her family milk 800 cows and run 1,200 acres of crops in the northeastern corner of Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her children, Ira (14), Dane (12), Henry (7) and Cora (4), help her on the farm while her husband, Keith, works on a grain farm. If she’s not in the barn, she’s probably in the kitchen, trailing after little ones, or sharing her passion of reading with someone. Her life is best described as organized chaos – and if it wasn’t, she’d be bored.