Dealing with Cancer #4, You Can’t Go It Alone

Lesson #4

A reliable support system is mandatory.  Despite how physically, mentally, and spiritually tough you think you are, you cannot face this challenge alone.


In his 2017 life manual Make Your Bed, Admiral William McRaven discusses 10 things that ‘can change your life and maybe the world.’  Number 2 on his list is ‘You Can’t Go It Alone.’

“None of us are immune from life’s tragic moments. Like the small rubber boat we had in basic SEAL training, it takes a team of good people to get you to your destination in life. You cannot paddle the boat alone. Find someone to share your life with. Make as many friends as possible, and never forget that your success depends on others.”

Admiral William McRaven

While I am certain I have applied this all my life, it has been of utmost importance as I’ve confronted cancer.  I think I’m a pretty tough guy, and I can point to events throughout my life that I believe support that contention, BUT, I am certain beyond doubt that there is no way I could face the challenges thrown in my path throughout my life, and particularly over the last year without a strong and reliable support system.

I can’t go it alone.

Family, the First Line of Defense

So as not to mislead, God, faith, and prayer are essential – and that aspect will be discussed in Lesson #5.  But God gives us the choice to surround ourselves with family and friends.

with my family on my 70th birthday in Minnesota in 2019

Mrs. tVM is the field general who has manned the front line unflinchingly since this journey started last summer.  Through prostate surgery in September, leg surgery in December, and chemotherapy from January through May, she has bathed me, clothed me, prepared my meals, laundered my clothes, managed the farm, taken care of Clarence who has encountered valley fever, and done a myriad of other things unheralded and unacknowledged through 49 years of marriage.  She has been positive and upbeat from the start.  If you are the spouse of someone dealing with cancer, that is how you must be:  positive and upbeat, even on the bad days.  If you are on the receiving end of the care, don’t hold back on expressing your gratitude with actions, words, and deeds.

Our kids are next in the chain of command.  The longer we go into chemo, the less talkative I become, so the kids call their mother every day.  From my perspective, it is more important that they discuss her mental, spiritual, and physical condition than mine.  I know their reassuring words are critical to Mrs. tVM’s health.  Jesse and his wife Erica work with Mrs. tVM at the farm, and Brad frequently takes her shopping at the mall to give her a break from the rigamarole of caregiving.  We are both extremely grateful.

I receive frequent calls from my nephew and nieces and even received a surprise visit from my niece in San Francisco.

The words, the voices, and the touches keep my spirits high.

I can’t go it alone.

I am  blessed with an incredible circle of friends

Me and USAFA teammate Danny,
friends since 1967

My friend Dwight of 40 years is building a house next door.  In four decades, we’ve been through a lot in our travels around the world.  We share coffee early every morning and solve all the situations each of us is faced with.  While I still maintain contact with an early grammar school friend, my friends from 50-plus years ago at the Air Force Academy remain my closest.  Teammates, classmates, and squadron mates who served with me in the Air Force after graduation continually communicate with me.  I am grateful for their support, and the journey would be far more difficult without them.

Friends from other aspects of my life over the past years  – like my friends and kids in Haiti – stay close through words and pictures, and rally around me and give me the support I need to continue and complete this journey.  There are far too many individuals to list, but I am thankful for each one.

Your caregivers need a break too.  Give them the opportunity to get away.  Thank them often.

If you’ve not maintained a positive relationship with family and friends, now is the time to reach out. God’s love is unconditional.

I can’t go it alone.

Lesson #4

A reliable support system is mandatory.  Despite how physically, mentally, and spiritually tough you think you are, you cannot face this challenge alone.

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  1. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with You, Gene, and thanks for sharing all your insight, and words of wisdom !! God Bless You…. And Marie, and your “Large and Loving” Family as well….ACTUALLY….He Has….Blessing You with the “Gift of Each Other” !! Keeping You in our Prayers throughout each day !!
    Sending LOVE, and Healing Hugs,
    Bette and Ernie

  2. There’s a lot of love surrounding you, my friend. Keeping you in my prayers. ♥️

  3. I wanted to underscore the importance of maintaining relationships with children. I run into people our age regularly who are estranged from their children. If that is the case, don’t put off reconciliation.

  4. Well said. Mom has been a champ like she has always been—I’m grateful that you have a great support system in place that can be there in many ways. It makes a crummy situation better, and keeping a sense of humor is imperative.