Steve Miller / December 6, 2018
“I’m sorry, your wife has cancer.”
Those words remain etched forever in my memory. The surgeon removed a large tumor, but the cancer was aggressive and had spread to her lymph nodes and to her lungs.
In January 2019, my wife, Susan, will celebrate 20 years as a survivor. But, in those grim days following the diagnosis, the future was anything but bright. I contemplated losing what I most cherished in life and raising our two young daughters by myself. I wondered if they’d ever remember the wonderful woman who had given them life and loved them beyond measure. My sister urged me to cut a lock of Susan’s hair so our daughters could someday stroke the golden hair they would not be able to remember.
A shift in perspective
Having many blessings throughout my life, I now knew what it felt like to be all alone—helpless and lost. I thought of all the people who wake up each day in such a state of distress.
When tragedy struck, I expected a team to rush to our assistance. After all, this was my young wife and these were my tiny children; something had to be done. But, no team sped to the rescue.
As we pulled our life together – and used the skills I had as a lawyer to research and solve problems – we realized there were resources in our community, but they were not connected in any intentional way. My wife and I would have to drive around the city to various doctor offices to seek out surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists—not to mention all the other resources necessary for this fight of a lifetime.
The odds were daunting, but we began exploring how we could bring together resources to give Susan the best chance of survival. We found a cancer center that was beginning to embrace a team approach to medical treatment, and I began bringing together a nutritionist, psychologist, physical therapist, acupuncturist, spiritual director and many others (along with friends and family) to create a coordinated team to support Susan. We might lose this battle, but it would not be without knowing we had done all we could. After all, one small thing could mean the difference between life and death.
A lingering impact
I’m thankful that through loving support and the work of brilliant health care professionals and wonderful caregivers, Susan survived, and Maddie and Lucy have grown into young women forever shaped by the presence of their mother.
Cancer is a horrible and chronic disease; it can lead to years of suffering with no hope in sight—not dissimilar from some of the problems our community faces such as education and crime. Just as I discovered with Susan’s cancer, there are resources and talented professionals in our community, but they must be integrated in an intentional and coordinated way. I’ve seen the power of connecting resources to the most difficult problems.
That’s why I want to be mayor—to use my 35 years of experience with the most complex problems as a lawyer along with my relationships in the business, nonprofit and public service communities to connect the resources we need to tackle our most serious problems.
Miracles are possible when we all come together. But first, we must connect.