Bill and I went to MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston recently, hopeful that they would have some answers for us in his battle against abdominal cancer. Unfortunately, that was not to be. While we were there, the impact of Bill’s cancer on his body began to manifest itself in a way that we had not anticipated and for which we were not prepared. As a result, he was hospitalized for a week and had to undergo two procedures just to keep his body functioning.
It happened so suddenly and was the second time cancer caught us off guard. The day he was diagnosed he went to the gym and ran 2-3 miles. We went to Houston with him looking fit and healthy, carrying his own luggage, only to return in a wheelchair looking fragile and frail. On Sunday, Bill stayed home from church for the first time in our 35 years together. I managed to preach and make it through the service. It felt so wrong, though, like a part of me was missing, because it was.
We, of course, are not the first couple to take this journey, and, unfortunately, we won’t be the last. I know other couples love one another as deeply as we do. If anything makes us unique it is that we started this journey in a day when the odds were stacked against two young men in the South and in the church making it. Because of this, we became partners in profound way that made it nearly impossible to tell where one of us stopped and the other started. Oh, I know people who didn’t know us well thought they knew, but they never really did.
During the course of my career, I have received many accolades for my accomplishments. People often are amazed that I could work multiple jobs, raise a family, write a dozen books, and always have clothes that looked clean and pressed. Of course, those who are close to us know that the illusion has been maintained because Bill makes it all happen. Couples all have different relationships, and that is as it should be. For us, Bill is at least 50 percent responsible for everything I’ve ever accomplished. The one reality we have learned is that partnerships work to enhance all the good you can do in life, and to sustain you when the tough times come.
For the record, though, I prefer the times when we were getting good things done.
Rev. Michael Piazza