Kristina and Austin: I keep not dying so he’s stuck with me

May 3, 2021


I thought I might leave him Suddenly Single when I had to go in for surgery for brain cancer, but I lived. So, he is stuck with me for the foreseeable future as long as I have anything to say about it.

We really didn’t know what was in store for us. Just kind of hope for the best and focus on the present.

I tried really hard to make it a little bit easier for Austin and prepared a whole bunch of notes for him, one an hour, for a lot longer than I thought the surgery would take. I did give him and if everything hits the fan kind of a note so that he would know what I wanted for my funeral and some promises I would haunt him if he messed things up for our kids, you know, sweet things like that. Unfortunately, that didn’t go quite the way I planned.

In the waiting room with the family and her parents, we were there for a while. We were told it would take between 4 and 8 hours. We were prepared for the long haul. We get past 8 hours, 9 hours, 10 hours…notes are long since gone, 11 hours 12 hours…yeah, it got a little unnerving there looking at that last letter haunting me.

I tried to be so thoughtful and give him extras. I think I wrote him 12 letters thinking it’ll never go past 12 hours. Unfortunately, I ended up leaving him there for 4 hours with just the not to open in case it all went wrong. But it was a great plan.

Just showing that I was there for her and not focus on what I was going through. For selfish reasons it was easier, but also that hopefully gave her less to worry about.

We’re really fortunate that her family is close by and her mother is very involved and that really helped out immensely. My sister also came out to help for I don’t even know how long at this point. It’s all a little bit of a blur.

In terms of relationships, I really learned that having a really strong relationship can get you through a lot. There’s so much that changes. It’s great that I survived, but there’s a lot that goes into survival. I had this marathon brain surgery and I had to come back from that. I had to get to the point where I could walk farther than the door of our townhouse to the car. I had to get to the point where I could sleep for more than a couple of hours without waking up in pain. Austin was fantastic so he would get up and give me my medication on the ridiculous schedule that I was on.

He did such a great job taking care of me. I learned a lot about our relationship as a couple and what we could endure together. A lot of people worry about their relationship with their husband, and he really did see me at my absolute worst. I looked like Frankenstein…bald head, staples up the back. It was really bad and he never left. He just stayed and that kind of security is amazing.

I learned about the importance of family. My mom basically took a whole year off from her dream to help me. We’re so fortunate to have her. I learned that those relationships are everything and to put energy into them. Not so that you can use people when you need them, but so you have that support and that love that those people and those relationships are so valuable and can be gone at any time. I’m never going to be sad about the time I put into my marriage or the time I put into my children because they could be gone tomorrow.

It reinforced that I’m pretty resilient. I think I already knew that but this was certainly a big curveball and then the power that perspective has. Seeing her after surgery and seeing her on the bed, the doctor had told me things had gone very well, but going to see her…you know, all the tubes and the different everything she was hooked up to…swollen and not looking like herself, bald and lot of bandages but she recognized me and that was a huge deal.

A lot of recovery for me is kind of hearsay. I hear about the things that I did but I don’t necessarily remember.

I was overjoyed at the sight of her. She could move her fingers and her toes and she knew who I was. My sister started freaking out. Ladies, that’s what you’ve got to find is a man that loves you when you come right out of brain surgery.

It gave me a lot of peace and a lot of joy to know that we had people who wanted to step in. I didn’t make a dinner for 9-months after our surgery. People filled our freezer, filled our fridge, sent pizza, sent casseroles. Don’t give people casseroles. My children still have PTSD about baked ziti. They see it and they’re like OMG, cancer!

People like to help. You’re not putting them out. You’re giving them an opportunity to bless you and to step into your life in a moment of need and to feel useful and to feel connected. There’s no shame in taking help.

After surgery and beginning of recovery, the support that we got was overwhelming. I’ve always been independent, kind of a self-sufficient person, and relying on others is not something I was particularly comfortable with or used to. It was a big change. It’s one thing when it’s your family but when you have complete strangers going out of their way to do things to make your life easier it’s a really foreign experience and gives you a renewed hope for society. There are so many bad things that go on around us in the news and even in the places we live but there are a lot of great people out there.

It’s not something you choose. It’s just something that happens and something you do. Every day something new happens and you’ve just got to roll with it.

I think one of the things that made it possible for us to get through this was we were able to still see each other. I remember a couple of times at doctor’s appointments just laughing our heads off about the most ridiculous things.

I don’t know. Am I going to be in a walker? Am I going to be in a wheelchair? What am I going to look like when we’re done with this? We found a way to joke with each other and connect with each other.

Anything you can do to maintain connection, anything you can do to find little pockets of joy in your situation, anything you can do to laugh together as a couple is really important.

Austin became my security blanket for that time. If he was there I was going to be okay.

My mama had already stepped in and promised that she was going to make sure the kids kept going to church and scouts and all the activities that they were a part of.

As much as I wanted to be there if you took me out it was still going to be okay. It might not be what I pictured but it would still be okay and that gave me a lot of peace.

I had tremendous faith that God had a plan for my family and it was a good plan even if I wasn’t in it. But it was hard, it was a hard thought.

Even with the hope that I had and even with the assurance that I had from people around me it was hard. Ultimately I did have a lot of peace knowing I Picked a great dad for them and that even if it wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be it would still be good.

I really focused my time and energy into taking the time I had with Kristina and the kids together and just preparing for that and being there for her afterward rather than trying to focus on how I was going to handle potentially becoming a single parent. Maybe that was stupid. Had things gone another way I would have been pretty unprepared but how much can you really prepare for that?

Every day is valuable because you never know. We knew so it’s a double-edged sword. We knew it might not go well. We might all be looking at tomorrow as benign our last day or our spouse’s last day and it’s just about appreciating each other and accepting the other person for who they are and valuing that time together because the things that make you crazy today may be the things you wish they could do tomorrow.

It could all change tomorrow.

Even on the worst of days, there are still good things that happen.

I keep not dying so he’s stuck with me.

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