Cancer Changes Everything (but Maybe That’s OK)

Pedro challengeAt one point during Pedro’s illness, he promised himself that he would forevermore have a positive attitude if someone asked him to do something or try something that he wasn’t sure he could or wanted to do. This led to some crazy adventures post cancer.

A year after cancer, my dad invited us to climb Mount St. Helens again (we’d climbed it ten years earlier when I was pregnant with our second child). Pedro said, “Sure, why not?” and so we started out on a crisp July morning that eventually turned into the hottest day of the year thus far. Every twenty feet throughout the last (really long) mile, Pedro uttered the same phrase, “This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I should have said, ‘no’. What was I thinking?” Secretly, I’m pretty sure he’s glad he did it.

Two years after cancer, the school I worked for needed a last-minute male chaperone for a mission trip to Honduras. And so, you guessed it, Pedro said yes and spent two weeks building a school on an island off the coast of Honduras.

Three years after cancer, a motorcycling friend invited him to ride to the top of Mt. Baldy near Bozeman, MT. Pedro said, “Sure, why not?” and almost died. But he did have fun on the ride. Six years after his escapade, I finally climbed Mt. Baldy (my motorcycling skill set does not include climbing 9000 foot high mountains with sharp drop offs). I couldn’t believe Pedro went up it on a motorcycle!

Cancer disrupts a lot of things—like financial security and job security and plain old life on this earth security (not that we ever really have that). (Click to tweet) Pedro’s teaching job pre-cancer evaporated with his illness, and so he slogged through substitute teaching for two years, and then decided to build a house on a lot we’d purchased. He found a contractor that would work with him and he jumped into the unknown of building a house.

I think he did a beautiful job building a house!

I think he did a beautiful job building a house!

After that adventure, the building bubble burst in Bozeman and Pedro just couldn’t see himself returning to substitute teaching (teaching jobs in Bozeman were few and far between), and so he found work with a concrete construction company. He learned a lot, spent a lot of time away from home on out-of-state jobs, got promoted, and then the company went belly up about the same time he discovered that he’d need hip surgery to repair damage from the chemo and the cancer.

During his recovery, he spent a lot of time praying and thinking about the direction he should go. While he never said anything, I know the lack of a steady income bothered him—not bringing home the bacon (or Stripples, in our case, since we’re vegetarian) can wear a man down. I’d had the same job and great insurance throughout the whole cancer/recovery/new career phase, but Pedro longed for something purposeful as well. He’d even applied for a teaching job at the same school where he had first worked when he received his cancer diagnosis. Every door seemed sealed shut.

So he decided to return to school to get his endorsement as a school principal—a dream he had set aside whilst we raised our daughters (he always dreamed of being a principal, but not until our girls were in college) and cancer had eaten away at his teaching profession. Paying for college gets a lot harder once a person has a family (two teenagers at this point, one who would head off for college at the same time Pedro would return to school). But we scrimped and saved and made it happen (Pedro returned to subbing and I started moonlighting at a bookstore).

God has a funny way of working things out. (click to tweet) Pedro had completed his requirements for his principal endorsement (but Sarah had one more year of high school), so he started applying for jobs again. He finally put himself back on the sub list for the local school district, and it seemed as if all of his hard work in school would never pay off. The lack of an interview from all of his applications wore him down, too.

Just when it seemed as if things couldn’t get any lower, a friend from church hired Pedro to work for his helicopter company as a driver (delivering fuel to the choppers in remote areas and driving vehicles as needed). Occasionally, Pedro got to ride along in the helicopters (and what man wouldn’t love that?). The friend understood that Pedro might need time off to go to interviews—and that’s exactly what happened. The first two interviews went well, but nothing came of them.

And then Pedro’s old boss called out of the blue to ask Pedro if he’d heard that Holbrook Indian School needed a principal. The former boss went on to say that he had given Pedro’s name to the board chair of the school as an excellent candidate for the position.

Pedro had seen the job posting earlier (I’d even asked him if he had though about applying), but he thought he had to be a native to qualify for the job. But God had been preparing him for the last ten years. Pedro knows hardship on a first-name basis (and many of our students and their families do, too). Pedro’s experience in construction serves as a perk in running a school that operates on donations and prayers and is built and remodeled by mission groups.

The locusts may have eaten two years of his life, but God has more than repaid us with the dual blessings of Pedro’s health and his dream job. He loves going to work each morning (ok, 95% of the mornings) and he loves having the time to dedicate his expertise to the needs of the school. He certainly hasn’t lost his sense of adventure, either—on weekends, he often takes groups of students out mountain biking or four-wheeling.

And he still has that ‘Sure, why not?’ attitude—after all, he even goes birding with me occasionally.

I’m linking up with  the Not So (Small) Stories community over at Kirsten Oliphant’s blog.  This week’s prompt is “Dream or Memory.”  Join us?