So, you’ve been married how long…
Kathy: We’ve been married 36-and-a-half years. Dom: A long time ago, a very long time ago [laughs]. Kathy and I met in Junior Choir back when I was a senior and I think she was a junior. We’ve been together ever since that time.
Rewinding back to that wedding day, I imagine those vows take on greater significance today…
Dom: Yeah, definitely. It was a solid commitment and I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I was going to stick with Kathy no matter what. We knew there were going to be rough roads along the way, but we knew we were best friends and supportive of each other, while going through different things, and growing in our relationship.
So when cancer came knocking on our door, even though it was a blow to the stomach, we knew we could stand solid because, first of all, we had Jesus Christ in the center of our relationship and we are supportive of each other.
Even though this challenge was unique, we knew things were going to be okay. We had Christian community backing us up — and still do — which is phenomenal. Christ created the Church and he made us all to be a relational community. We covet the prayers and the relationships of our friends in the community we have.
Kathy: Getting back to the wedding day, yeah, I took it very seriously. I saw challenges in my parents’ marriage, but they always had a way of working things out. I just knew it was going to be until death do us part. I went into marriage with a little bit of rose-colored glasses because I was so much in love with him. But also with the reality that we’d be together for a lifetime.
How was the cancer discovered?
Kathy: That was breast cancer in the spring of 2001. I saw the signs and symptoms and they did a biopsy. Then with that I had to go through chemo.
My next adventure was ovarian cancer in November of 2002. They did a battery of tests which resulted in a hysterectomy. I didn’t have chemo at that time and I was okay for a couple years. In 2004, it came back. I felt the symptoms.
I’m at a IIIC which is the last of Stage IV.
Dom: Ovarian cancer is the silent killer and Kathy being a nurse and being very aware of her body knows the different signs.
Kathy: I live every day like a celebration of life. I don’t know if God’s going to take me today or 20 years from now, but I have complete joy and complete peace that He’s in control of the situation. He knows when I’m going to go. So I’m basking in His arms and He’s helping me. I’m still working part-time to fulltime. I have a lot to live for — a fabulous God — and I have a great family and kids and grandchildren, fabulous friends.
I always carry hope with me. I never give up the hope and say, Oh, this is hopeless. This is hopeless. Why do I want to go on? You know I never feel that way because God still might have people coming my way — I think that’s pretty awesome. Yeah, I think the fear factor is out and the faith factor is in.
Going back to that initial discovery, how was your marriage affected?
Dom: Now Kathy and I were pretty tight to begin with, very transparent and supportive, no secrets. As we were going through these trials of cancer, we drew so close to God and we felt God’s hand on us. We had total peace. I didn’t even know it was possible to get even any closer than we were.
I remember going through one of (Kathy’s) treatments and we would cry on Sunday nights. We weren’t crying out of fear. We would cry and rejoice that God was taking us through this whole thing and that he was just carrying us through. We have that peace.
Kathy: I don’t think we were taking each other for granted as much. I think in marriage you do tend to take each other for granted from time to time. It’s as though God ignited our lives so that we could see how much we have to celebrate — and that was a good thing.
Dom: Yeah, we’re treasuring the moment. You know we’re treasuring the memories.
You’re right; we don’t take anything for granted. I still can’t wait to come home and see Kathy — we have a great time together. We’re totally insane, laughing together and teasing each other.
And we do celebrate. We have candlelight dinners every night. We dance around the house like maniacs and we sing and talk in different accents to our animals and each other. We just party. We rejoice and have a phenomenal time together, all for God’s work.
Tell me about your family.
Dom: We have two grandkids that are just about the coolest little guys you’d ever want to see. We just went to visit our 17-month-old grandson, Leo. He lives in a town outside of Philly. Just about the coolest, smart little guy. And we have another grandson — his name is London — And those little guys are just the light of our lives and great medicine for Kathy.
Kathy: They both are really very unique. They are medicine to me. Through the chemotherapy sessions, it’s as though London takes the cloud away from the whole situation. I find myself sitting on the floor and thinking, This must be abnormal to a lot of people, but he brings so much joy to my heart. It’s pretty cool.
What scares you?
Kathy: If something other than cancer got a hold of me like having a stroke and having to be dependent on others — that kind of scares me. But then, again, God is in control and I’m sure He’d have a plan for that too. So that helps diffuse my fear.
Death doesn’t scare you?
Kathy: No. Death does not scare me. I’ve said that a lot. A lot of people are afraid of dying. I’m not because that’s graduation day. It’s graduation day to eternity — no more crying, no more anger — nothing negative, a celebration. So I’m looking forward to that.
What scares you, Dom?
Dom: What scares me is driving on I90 during rush-hour traffic [laughs]. That scares me more than the challenges of cancer. I really am not fearful.
One of the things that Kathy and I have talked about as a couple is that one of us is going to check out first — unless you go down in a plane crash or whatever. So every once in a while we talk about that like, What’s gonna happen? I always say, Geez, I hope I check out first because I know the kids will take their mother and take good care of their her. They will probably put me on a street corner [laughs].
Kathy and I even talk about when we leave this earth to be with Christ, I say, You know, Kathy, when we get home and we get our mansions in heaven, I hope they’re next door and we have a door that we can pass through and still hang out.
Think you’ll have an adjoining door like at the Holiday Inn?
Kathy: Yeah, yeah, that would be cool.
How have your priorities changed?
Kathy: I think that we’re more intentional about our prayer life. We pray more. We pray for a lot more people than we used to. And when we pray we’re more specific. Our whole relationship has grown by leaps and bounds. That’s a pretty cool thing.
What amazes me is the optimism, faith and the positiveness you’ve had through this experience. Aren’t there times when you ask questions like, God, why? There must be times when you’re angry.
Dom: You know it’s almost surreal because it’s rare that we are angry.We have this peace and sometimes we almost feel guilty that we have this peace.
I do remember, though, during this last chemo treatment I was angry. I was just angry at the whole situation because I wanted it to be over. I want my wife to be healthy and I want us to go on. Because Kathy’s white blood count was low and she couldn’t have a treatment, I was angry at the whole situation.
We have peace. I used to apologize to people that we felt so free and comfortable and I thought, This is a gift from God. Why am I apologizing? Why should I feel guilty about it? We just have amazing peace.
Kathy: I’m not dwelling on, Oh, my gosh. I’ve got cancer and woe is me. I’d rather still focus on, Hey, I’m alive. I’m well. I’m walking. And I can still help others. So it’s not about me. It’s about what God would have me do.
How is your faith different?
Dom: I think we’re relying totally on Jesus Christ. He is the focus of our marriage and our relationship and we have Him in our lives. We know He’s in control. The Holy Spirit gives us peace in our hearts and direction. We know that no matter what should happen: God wrote the story. He knew when we came in — he knows when we’re coming out — and so we have that peace. We don’t sweat the small stuff. God has honored us well through this whole walk and these trials. God has honored us well, carried us through. It’s pretty amazing.
Kathy: Every time I go to surgery I remember people asking me, Aren’t you scared? And I’ve said, No, because it’s a win-win. I win if I don’t make it through surgery and I win if I do make it through surgery. It’s totally up to God. He’s in control. If this is my day to go and be with Him, I’m okay with that.
So I think God gives us joy — I know He’s given me joy — through any circumstances, bad or good. If I do have those down days, I just share them with God. I talk to God. I talk to God a lot about how I’m feeling. So maybe part of the secret is that I do a lot of processing. I think that’s what gives me strength and the will to keep going because when He’s ready, I’m ready.
This is tough, painful stuff. Why would you say you’re blessed?
Dom: Because of the peace that God has given us, the friends He’s blessed us with. We’ve got some outrageous friends who have blessed us with prayers and gifts and gifts of kindness and God has revealed different truths through His Word. Kathy and I have a chance to open up God’s Word and open up the Psalms and be blessed by the promises and the truth. God is taking care of us. We have nothing really to complain about or whine about.
Kathy: We take one day at a time and let God guide us. I could be sitting down crying my eyes out every single day. I could be on Prozac. I could be on Zoloft — or whatever — but I choose not to be. I choose to be in the joy of what God gives you and if you really focus in on Him He’ll give you everything that you need. He’ll give you your heart’s desire in spite of what you’re facing. It’s just amazing.
Have you talked about when one of you passes and what that memorial service will look like?
Kathy: We haven’t setup anything formal yet, but, yeah, we talk about it because part of living is preparing for your death. Being purposeful with the music, thinking what might impact people — so there might be a little seed-planting going on.
So the wake and the service could be an outreach?
Kathy: Absolutely. Absolutely. If I go first, I want it to be a celebration of life — my life and others’ lives.
Kathy: Don’t let people steal your joy. Get your joy from God. Be joyful in all circumstances no matter where they are.
Dom: Don’t let anybody take your hope away. We have a sign at home, that says, “Hope” and we look at that every morning when we come down our stairs and nobody will ever take our hope away. Our hope is in Jesus Christ and Him alone.
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