Phil Mickelson and I have some important things in common. We also have some differences, none of which are all that important, as far as I’m concerned.
The differences between Phil Mickelson and Scott Pratt?
First of all, Phil Mickelson is famous. I’m not. I labor in obscurity writing books, and am happy to do so. He’s a great golfer. I’m not. I haven’t played golf in years. When I played, I was pretty good at it sometimes, but Phil has won the Masters three times. I’d shoot a hundred at Augusta. He’s a multi-millionaire. I get by okay.
The things I have in common with Phil Mickelson, however, are far more important than the differences. Despite the fact that we’ve never met, we share a bond so strong that it defies description. It’s a bond we share with millions of people all over the world, and sadly, there are more and more of us every year.
Back in 2009, Phil Mickelson found out that his lovely wife, Amy, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Like me, Phil is a devoted husband and father. He immediately shut down his schedule on the PGA tour and went home to help Amy and his children get through a terrifying and difficult time. I know exactly what they went through.
I’ll never forget the moment in April of 2007 when a doctor told my beautiful wife, Kristy, and me that the lump in her breast was malignant. “Invasive ductal carcinoma” was what he called it. We hugged each other, she wept. We told our teenage children that evening. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done.
Over the next couple of weeks, things got worse. The lump in Kristy’s breast had been there for some time. She was stubborn, however, (and more than a little frightened) and had refused to go to the doctor. There was no history of breast cancer in her family. She convinced herself that it was a benign cyst. But when the thing started to spread out like a spider web, she finally went. And by the time she went and allowed the doctors to do what they needed to do, the tumor was Stage Three and that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. The tumor had also attached itself to the skin on Kristy’s breast. It didn’t look good.
There are really only three ways to kill cancer cells: you can poison them with chemicals, you can burn them with radiation, and you can cut them out of the body with sharp instruments. All three of those treatment plans involve painful side effects and dangerous risks, and Kristy dealt with it all: two rounds of chemotherapy that lasted a total of six months, thirty radiation treatments, and more than a dozen surgeries, a few of which have required extended stays in the hospital. Our family has been there with her every step of the way, but Kristy is the one who has had to deal with the loss of her hair, the sickness that accompanied chemotherapy, the pain that accompanied radiation treatments, and the infections and pain that have accompanied all of the surgeries. Her courage has been nothing short of monumental.
So why am I writing this blog? Why, after so many good people like Phil and Amy Mickelson have done so much to raise awareness of breast cancer, do I feel the need to talk about it in a public forum?
The answer is simple.
Women all over the world are still being diagnosed at record numbers. Women, and their families, are still suffering from this horrific disease. And women are still dying. Two hundred thousand women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States this year – fifty thousand of them will die. Worldwide, over 1.3 million women will get breast cancer in 2011; nearly half a million will die. There is still no “cure” for breast cancer. The causes remain a mystery. And when you think about it, the treatments – poison, burning, and cutting – are almost barbaric. But for now, they’re all we have.
As I said earlier, Phil Mickelson is a famous golfer. He and Amy chose to go public with her fight against cancer more than two years ago, and very little has changed. I am a writer of novels. I write fiction, legal thriller/mysteries that are mostly about a lawyer named Joe Dillard and his family. When I wrote my first novel, Kristy had not yet been diagnosed. But in the next three, I, too, chose to “go public.” I examined very closely the relationship between a husband and wife during a long and agonizing battle with cancer. By doing so, my hope is that people will gain more insight into the suffering and misery caused by this terrible disease, and at the same time recognize that with a powerful mixture of love and courage, even cancer can be overcome.
Phil Mickelson is a hero to millions of golf fans around the world. No offense to Phil, but as far as I’m concerned, his wife is just as heroic. And so is mine. I love and admire Kristy even more now than I did before, and believe me, that’s saying something. Even now, after four years, she still faces at least one more surgery. But she’s cancer free and she’s very, very much alive. If you, or anyone you care about, have been affected by breast cancer, my thoughts and prayers are with you. My best advice is to keep loving, keep hoping, and keep living.
And if you might be so inclined, the next time you hear or read about an opportunity to help in the fight against breast cancer, please take that opportunity, and please drop a nickel or two in the collection plate. We still need all the help we can get.