If you settle for your wildest dreams, you will be selling yourself short.
The Man I Love
"and these are the moments I thank God that I’m alive,
and these are the moments I’ll remember all my life,
I’ve got all I waited for
and I could not ask for more"
I would like to introduce you to an extraordinary man. His name is Charlie and he’s my husband. Charlie has metastatic pancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma, an extremely rare form of cancer. He has had two operations (one to remove part of the pancreas and one to remove the left lobe of the liver), however, the cancer has now spread to the right lobe. At this point, his cancer is neither operable nor curable.
So now Charlie and I face the greatest challenge of our life. And the people, Charlie has touched are concerned about him, his closest cousins (Kevin, Donny, Joe A., Tom, Liz, Maryann, Theresa and Joe M.) and their wives and kids, my brothers, Barry and Jack and their wives (Joanne and Maureen) and their kids, (Carolyn, James, Kathryn and Erin), his mentor, Mike and his wife, Judy, my best friend, Carol, his best friend Dave and his son, Cam, our friends, Donna and Bobby, and my friends, Louise, Rosemary, Ruth, Ann, Michelle, Sherryl, Judy, Andy, Paul, and Pam.
My life has been touched in ways that are hard to express by my connection to this wonderful man. During the 30 years we have been together, Charlie and I have surmounted obstacles that would have crushed other people, but Charlie never wavered in his commitment to our marriage and to me. I am incredibly grateful for the day I met him. Everyone who has met Charlie is touched by his spirit, his innocence, and his very simplistic view of the world.
Our Love Story
I met Charlie in 1979. I was working at an attorney’s office and Charlie was a sales associate at a wallpaper and paint store across the street. Every night Charlie would come in and ask for "the key." Charlie needed it to access the back yard, which he maintained. He was painfully shy, he stuttered, he was legally deaf in one ear, and he had a limp. To me he was handsome, so each night he came in, I asked him if he wanted to go on a date. After two weeks of no response, Charlie finally said "yes." Later, he told me he agreed so I would stop bothering him.
As I dated Charlie, I learned about his difficult childhood. Charlie and his sister, Andrea, spent the first nine years of their life in an orphanage; their parents did not want to raise them. When their parents did bring them home, they faced a physically abusive father and an emotionally unavailable mother. The physical abuse left Charlie’s one leg ¾" shorter than the other and untreated infections had left him legally deaf in one ear. At 10, Charlie started working to help support his family, they were on welfare. At 14, his mother left home with Andrea, but without Charlie. Charlie’s father, who had labeled him retarded because he stuttered and was hard of hearing, tried to have him committed. His school counselor kept this from happening. So what I found when I met Charlie was an intelligent, hard-working, compassionate, loving and giving man.
In April, 1981, against my mother’s wishes and his father’s attempts to sabotage our relationship, we got married. My mother relented, his parents did not. In April 2009, we will celebrated 28 years of marriage, a bit of an anomaly in this day and age. During these years, Charlie has been steadfast in his commitment to our wedding vows. Charlie promised to love, honor, respect, and cherish me, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poorer, for better, for worse, for as long as we both shall live. I had no idea when Charlie took these vows that he was laying a foundation for an exceptional life together, because all of our vows have been tested during our marriage. We have overcome tremendous obstacles (death, illness, infertility, miscarriage, financial hardships, disability, cancer, financial support of loved ones, funeral arrangements and hospice care), and we have been blessed on the other side. Our life today is second to none. I attribute this to Charlie, who despite the hardships we faced, never left my side.
In 1999, nine months after moving to South Carolina, Charlie was diagnosed with neuroendocrine carcinoma. He had 2/3rds of his pancreas removed and he was placed on a diet and medications. It took Charlie three months to recover from the operation, but he hung on to his spirituality, one of his more charming qualities. He also picked up a new friend named Duke, a very sickly puppy. Charlie discovered that he loved dogs. He nurtured and cared for Duke while he recovered. They became constant companions.
In August 2006, Charlie’s cancer returned. We were rocked to the very core of our beings. Our emotional, physical, spiritual and financial lives were effected, but we were still in love and we knew we would get through this. Charlie was hopeful and optimistic.
In January 2007, we were told that Charlie’s cancer was inoperable and incurable. He now had 10-12 tumors in his liver. We began our search for an oncologist who could help us. After MD Anderson and Johns Hopkins, we ended up at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center with an oncologist, who specialized in neuroendocrine carcinoma of the pancreas. The news wasn’t much different, except he thought he could buy Charlie some time. He placed Charlie on a cancer medication that he hoped would slow the growth of the tumors.
The same month, Charlie was diagnosed with diabetes. While he was frustrated by this news, Charlie accepted it and remained optimistic.
In April 2008, we were told that Charlie’s tumors were growing. The oncologist suggested a new treatment (not FDA approved) in an attempt to buy Charlie some more time. After a two week battle with the insurance company, we were able to get the chemotherapy drugs covered with the help of Charlie’s oncologist. He will not, however, give us a prognosis. Charlie’s biggest frustration now is the time he spends in doctors offices, at hospitals, in path labs, and on the road to appointments. Almost all of his days off are spent on follow up of his medical care. And with this latest news, the time needed for his healthcare will only increase.
In February 2008, we received some of the best news we have received in a while. Charlie’s tumors are shrinking. And while, the oncologist reminded us that he is not curable, this is still incredible positive news.
Charlie’s Philosophy about the World:
In South Carolina, Charlie had his own landscaping business. One of his clients’ properties was across the street from a small AME church. Charlie noticed that the property was unkempt, so one week he decided to take over the care of this church’s property. Every week, Charlie mowed and edged the lawn, cut back the bushes and blew down the parking lot. After a number of weeks, the pastor approached Charlie. He wanted to pay him. Charlie convinced him he did not want to be paid for his work. The pastor graciously allowed Charlie to care for the church’s property. Charlie felt the universe had provided him with an opportunity to do service.
Charlie has always been very accepting of my idiosyncracies, especially my pension for rescuing animals and troubled women. Charlie says that he never knows what he will come home to, a two legged or a four legged rescue. Recently, I met a woman who was being abused by her husband. She called me on Christmas Eve night and said she wanted to leave her husband. I spoke with Charlie and he agreed we needed to help her. So on Christmas morning, we rode up to her place, picked up her and her things and brought her home with us. Charlie was so nonchalant like he did this all the time, but I felt a special warmth in my heart for his unselfishness. More importantly, Charlie is passionate about protecting abused women and children.
When you multiply these acts of kindness over a lifetime, you will understand why so many people love Charlie.
Here are just a few examples of the challenges Charlie has walked through and the gifts he has given to the people in his life:
In 1979 when Charlie met my younger brother, Jack, Jack was struggling with his life. Charlie took him under his wing and helped him. To this day, they are the best of friends. Once you are Charlie's friend, you are his friend forever, and Charlie’s loyalty to his friends has always been unwavering.
From 1979 to 1981, he went through countless operations on his ear to try to restore his hearing, only to discover that nothing could be done to repair it. Charlie didn’t rant or rave, he just accepted this. Last year, Charlie was able to get a Phonak hearing aid that allowed him, for the first time in 30 years, to hear the world the way I do.
From 1980-1981, Charlie struggled with the effects his engagement had on his immediate family and with their efforts to stop the wedding. His family disowned him, but Charlie stood by his love for me. Given Charlie's love and loyalty to his family, this was an extraordinary act of love for me.
In 1981, we moved to New Hampshire to live with his foster sister, Nita, because she was going through an abusive divorce. As is Charlie's nature, he helped her and protected her during this difficult time.
In 1983, Charlie stayed with me when I was told I couldn’t have children, even though children were very important to him. His commitment to me and to our vows was a true gift.
In 1986, Charlie’s older sister, Andrea, became a single mother with three children. Charlie brought his niece and nephews over every weekend and took them on many an adventure. He feels that family is very important and it is his responsibility to reach out whenever someone needs a hand.
From 1992-1994, I went back to school to get my MBA; Charlie nurtured and cherished me the whole time. He made sure I ate and slept, and had everything I needed. He was so proud of me at my graduation that he cried. He, also, organized a huge party with all our friends, our family and the faculty from the school. After I got my first job, Charlie carried around my business card so he could show it to friends.
In 1993, Charlie’s father died. He had not spoken with Charlie since our wedding. Charlie, however, took responsibility for the funeral arrangements and he spoke, stutter and all, at his funeral. He recognized that other people loved his father and needed to grieve. He had finally forgiven his father.
In 1995, when Charlie’s mother died, he, again, took responsibility for the arrangements. His mother was Jewish, so he researched the way to have a service, found a rabbi to perform the ceremony and sat shiv ah out of respect for his mother. He felt despite their relationship, she deserved the best and so did her family.
In 1998, I asked him to move to South Carolina for a job opportunity. He didn’t complain at all, he just asked me when. He left behind New England, which he loves, and friends and family. It has always been significant to Charlie that we have a mutual respect for each others' wants, needs, and desires.
In 2002, when I became disabled, Charlie was very supportive and did everything possible to make my life easier, physically. His concern and protectiveness were very tenderly given.
In 2005, he agreed to move to Florida so we could buy a smaller home, find him a job with benefits, and hopefully retire in 20 years. He gave up the home of his dreams, his beautifully landscaped yard, his business (including his clients who adored him) and the children next door, who loved him. Charlie, who is very hard working, coordinated the entire move.
During the same year, Charlie offered me a shoulder to lean on when my father died.
In November 2006, I lost my brother, Bryan, to a fatal heart attack. He was only 57. As always, Charlie was there by my side to help me with whatever I needed.
In June 2007, my brother, Joel passed away. This news emotionally destroyed me. Charlie and I had spent the previous Thanksgiving with Joel, so Charlie kept reminding me of the memories I had with Joel. This helped me to focus on the good instead of the loss.
In August 2007, we received a phone call that Charlie’s sister, Andrea, who had been battling with lung cancer, was in the final stage and no more treatments were available to her. Her children were unable to provide for her, so Charlie assumed the responsibility. We found a hospice in Dover NH and made all the arrangements for her to spend her last days there. We were on the phone every day (several times a day) speaking with Andrea and/or the staff. We flew up to see her before she passed into a coma. Charlie made sure that whatever Andrea wanted she got (new pajamas, chocolate shakes, oranges, apple pie, Garfield, a bird feeder outside her window, etc.) whatever the cost. Because of Charlie, her last days were peaceful. He made sure her children did not bother her with unnecessary problems. When she passed away, Charlie took care of her arrangements and read a poem at her memorial service.
I think the thing that amazes me the most about Charlie is his philosophies on life and his character. Despite a very difficult childhood and a very challenging life, he has always remained positive and optimistic. Here are some of the characteristics of this wonderful man: compassionate, loving, giving, supportive, honest, loyal, faithful, hard-working, intelligent, optimistic, nonjudgmental, tolerant, considerate, generous, good-natured, gentle, forgiving, calm, accepting, unselfish, reasonable, open-minded, respectful, hopeful, cheerful, funny, realistic, courageous, consistent, thoughtful, sincere, responsible, trusting, purposeful, focused, modest, humble, positive, spiritual, friendly, grateful, concerned, protective. Charlie believes we were meant to be together forever. He lives life one day at a time and every life he touches he makes a little bit better. And he doesn’t ever ask why because he passionately believes in God. Some days I just wonder how I got so lucky.
Our Love Is.... you
Our Love, our promise, to love, to honor, to cherish, for better or for worse,
Our Strength, Courage, Selflessness providing safe harbor in sickness, in health,
Our Love, the richest asset we own, will carry us as life happens,
To have and to hold each other, when the worst is still ahead of us,
To forgive and forget, when we experience the extraordinary miracles on the other side,
Without Our Love, life's challenges can cause devastating heartache and pain,
Instead they are the pathway to Joy, Hope, and Faith,
Our Love Is Found in the Humility When We See the Vulnerabilities in Each Other.
Our Love, words of praise, affirmation symbolize the heart and soul of our relationship,
Holding hands, the nearness, the tenderness, the caress, saying "I Love You"
Acts of kindness, little sacrifices, because we want to, we love to,
Awakening, thankful for your touch, appreciative of your time and grateful for this moment,
Our Love, reaches out to those around us, a reminder of our dedication to each other,
Our Love Is... A Sense of Wonder, A Sense of Amazement, Because We Are
Our Love, a twinkling, an instant,- embraces, affection, compassion, comfort,
Knowing your strengths are my weaknesses and acknowledging the fear,
while balancing the countless demands of our unpredictable life,
Sharing all those dark secrets, which no one else will ever know,
Believing we are extraordinary, even though we both recognize our idiosyncrasies,
Expressing the words in my heart, so you understand and don't need ESP,
Accepting each other exactly as we are, not what we wish we were,
Our Love Is...Seeing the Miracles in Each of Us and Celebrating When They Happen.
Our Love is Each Moment of Living, Loving, Laughing
Never Wondering "What Did I See in You"
Being in Awe of Our Time Together,
You Still by My Side,
But Mostly Love Is... You!
Web Site: Copyright Diane V.