The Long, Painful Wait


In March 1994 I spoke at a conference in Michigan and ended up staying over the weekend. I remember lying on my bed Saturday afternoon reading a newspaper article about John Kruk, the first basemen for the Philadelphia Phillies. This article mentioned that during Spring training he had been hit in the groin with a fast ball that was hard enough to break his protective cup.

Sometime later he noticed a problem with one of his testicles. He assumed it was from being hit and was concerned, so he got it checked out. Fortunately for him, he got it checked early. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer, which the doctors removed and treated with no long-term effects. John returned to his team and played the rest of the season.

The article described the symptoms of this particular type of cancer, and I immediately started worrying because I had several of the same symptoms. I called home and talked to my first wife, Carol. I told her I was certain I had testicular cancer. She was concerned, but we both knew that there wasn’t anything we could do until I got home Monday.

It was a long weekend and being alone in a hotel room was not helpful. My imagination ran wild, my nerves were shot, but I couldn’t do anything about it except worry and pray.

First thing Monday morning I called the doctor for an appointment. He got me right in, examined me, and promptly referred me to a urologist, who was able to see me the next day.

After examining me, the urologist asked one question, “What are you doing tomorrow?” To which I responded, “Whatever you want me to do!” He then said, “Meet me at the hospital where I will operate on you because you have testicular cancer!”

The operation took place on the first Thursday of April. It was an outpatient surgery, and, before discharging me, the doctor said, “Call me on Monday and I will let you know if it has metastasized,” then he turned and walked out of the room. I wanted to ask more questions, but he wouldn’t talk to me, so I hopped off the bed and followed him down the hall, trying to get his attention, but he ignored me.

Saturday afternoon my oldest son, Paul brought my two-month-old grandson, Calvert, to the house to see me. I was lying on my bed when they came in. Paul handed Calvert to me and in a few minutes, they were both lying down beside me. Before long Paul was asleep and lying in my arms was Calvert, who fell asleep as well. Looking at my son and grandson, my eyes teared up as I wondered whether my cancer had spread.

I started thinking of my wife, my youngest son Peter, my daughter-in-law, and how much of life I would miss if this cancer took me at this point. I thought about missing Calvert growing up and Peter maturing and my personal growth with Carol. I wouldn’t get to know any other grandchildren that the future might bring (turns out that there would be nine others and four great-grandchildren, so far).

I realized that the most important thing in my life was my family, and I didn’t want to leave them. I wanted to be there as they grew older and developed their talents and chased their dreams.

It was a long weekend filled with anxiety and worry. When Monday finally arrived, I called the doctor and was told that he couldn’t talk, but the receptionist said she would have him call me back. By late afternoon he still hadn’t called, so I called the office again and was told he had left for the day. I was upset and expressed my frustration to the receptionist who transferred me to a nurse.

When I talked with the nurse, I told her about my situation. She said she would check the report, which she did. She explained that the doctor would call me the next day and give me the full report, but, without his approval, she did me a huge favor and said, “I can’t let you worry another day so I will tell you the results, but please don’t let the doctor know.” I assured her I wouldn’t, and she said, “The cancer was localized and hadn’t spread!

Relieved, I thanked her and had a great evening with my family.

I learned two great lessons from this experience that helped me become a better father, grandfather, brother, husband, and son. First, of course, is that we never truly know what the future holds and a brush with death at any age reminds us of what is most dear in the big picture of life. Second, but not less valuable, is that no matter how small we think someone else’s problem might be, it is important to them and deserves our attention.

I will always be grateful to my doctor for his surgical skill, and I still don’t know why he was insensitive to me and my feelings at a vulnerable time. The experience forever changed me and inspired me to listen more carefully to others, regardless of how serious their problem seems to me.

Whatever challenges you and your family face right now, I hope you’ll join me in a renewed commitment to listen a little longer and a little deeper to those we love, to show our love by being there for each other in the big moments and the little ones. And really, who is to say which are the most important?

Happy Failing Forward,

Calvert Cazier

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