Stephen Sylvester, Husband, Father, Teacher, Musician, Occasional Writer
When my wife and I had been married for about a month and a half, she started having stomach pains. Strange bruises appeared on her legs, and she felt off most of the time. A trip to urgent care led to a trip to the ER, which led to a trip to see an oncologist at the hospital in the big city near us. She had leukemia.
Treatment started immediately, and we had no way of knowing what would happen. I prepared myself for the worst while trying to be strong for her. I could do it most of the time. After two weeks in the hospital she came home, and we started our new life that revolved around managing a disease that she still deals with to this day.
Cancer wasn’t the hardest thing to overcome.
Months later, I walked in on my wife’s boss shouting at her about how bad of a job she was doing. He knew she was getting used to being a sick person, and he wasn’t clear about his expectations for her, so he took out his frustration on her all at once. She was in tears, and I removed her from the situation as quickly as I could. That night we decided to move. It didn’t matter where as long as she didn’t have to work for that man anymore.
I frantically began job searching, getting a handful of interviews and not feeling right about any of them. Out of the blue I got a call from my old boss who wanted me to come back and work full time for him in the same town where my family lived. He said “Bring your wife too, she can work here as well”. We cried tears of thanksgiving that we were going to be ok, and then we prepared to move our whole life to a new city and new jobs.
Rapid change wasn’t the hardest thing to overcome.
Three years and three babies later, we found ourselves in dire financial straits. Having children quickly was rewarding but incredibly stressful and busy, and our lives now revolved around them instead of my wife’s illness. In a way that was a blessing. It also meant we had very little money left after bills, and some months we had to borrow from friends to buy groceries.
Both my parents and my wife’s parents had financial woes of their own, so we had to turn to friends often. The most humbling conversation I’ve ever had was asking friends for financial help, and feeling shameful about being in this position. Every single time our friends were more than willing to help. And every single time we were eventually able to pay them back, by the grace of God.
Financial hardship still wasn’t the hardest thing to overcome.
The hardest thing in life to overcome is despair. It is a crushing weight that can strangle the life out of your will to push through the troubles of life. Despair is the one thing that was always in the background for us through everything we dealt with, and it would have been easy to just give in and believe we would not make it through the trial. But we knew it was a lie, and kept believing that we would be ok.
No matter what you’re dealing with, no matter how hard your life is, no matter how hopeless everything seems, do not fall into the lie of despair.