Tuesday, February 08, 2011



Stephen and Janet Bly

Paris has been a destination place for us ever since Janet’s years of studying French in high school and college. And Steve insisted that Rome was the city of his choice. So, we found a European tour that included both, plus gondola ride in Venice, cable car trip to top of Alps in Lucerne and London thrown in too.

Bussing along the French and Italian countrysides proved tres magnifique.

So, we celebrated Janet’s birthday that year in Paris. We stood on a wintry, February day, snowflakes falling all around us, hand in hand at the Eiffel Tower. 

More romantic than we could have dreamed.

Then we went home. And that was when we got the news.

Within two weeks, we huddled in a tiny, sterile doctor’s exam room to listen to the light banter in the reception room, a surreal sound as we waited for the biopsy report. We had discussed the possibility of the diagnosis. But nothing quite prepared us for the official stunning announcement: “Mr. Bly, you have an aggressive prostate cancer.”

We couldn’t breathe. We wouldn’t think past that harsh fact. These words threatened to suffocate us, consume us, shatter our peace, puncture our faith. Cancer changed our whole outlook. It defied our future together. It questioned our financial foundation.

Sometimes life tosses a bomb like that. But we were thankful we still had memories like Paris.

Meanwhile, we’re learning the secret of being okay whatever the circumstances. Whatever the reports from each doctor visit. Every test taken. And we’ve fully enjoyed the months we’ve been given of reprieve between treatments.

This news intensified our already close relationship. It has also brought many shifts and changes. Steve had to adjust in major ways. He went from physically and psychologically and sometimes emotionally taking care of Janet. . .to now needing her to take care of him. This has been a difficult transition.

Janet says: “I’ve appreciated being able to do for Steve in ways he refused or didn’t seem to need before.”

Steve adds: “I’ve even apologized for not allowing her to be on the giving end more in our relationship.”

The news changed other aspects too. We don’t like traveling without the other as much as we used to, unless it’s unavoidable. Every hour that we get to be together is a special gift, a treasure. Nothing’s taken for granted. Every touch is sweeter. The laughter and shared events seem brighter.

Here’s advice we’d give any couple when one spouse struggles with health issues. . .about keeping love alive when every day seems a struggle. Sickness doesn’t have to signal the end of quality of relationship or nullify romance.

 1.) Renew your heart. Refresh the ways to express your love. Each day look for some word or action that’s a bit different than you’ve done before.

2.) Be honest about how this altered state of illness affects your life together. But also affirm what are you still willing and able to be and do for each other.

3.) Recall the fun things you did in the early years of your marriage that you could revive again.

4.) Determine to quickly forgive perceived slights, short retorts. Worry. Fear. Fatigue. Weary of the unrelenting strain. Not feeling well. Admit that neither of you has ever been a saint, even less so under these circumstances.

5.) Accept your new reality, but look for creative responses. 

6.) Adapt to each change of the program or treatment or phase with transparent emotion, but also statements of faith you’ve both chosen and developed.

7.) Depend on God’s ability to perfectly write each episode of your revised personal story, to walk you through your adjusted journey, and to fulfill a glorious purpose.  

Steve scribbles one sentence notes on heart Post-its® and sticks them on the bathroom mirror every night. That way Janet knows he’s thinking about her, and she also knows what he’s going through. “I hurt today” keeps us connected as much as “Have I told you lately that I love you?”

Janet doesn’t press for details when she knows Steve struggled with a bad dream or the assault of frightening thoughts. She prays daily for him. She lets him know that he still seems desirable to her.

”I took up golf again, a sport I had mostly put aside since college days,” Steve says. “This helped me both physically and mentally.”

Even though Janet doesn’t join him on the links, she enjoys riding in the cart on occasion and it gives us another topic to discuss that majors on something he does well. When he feels good about himself, we can feel good about us too.

We also watch romantic movies together, lately from the 1930s and 40s. We talk about the characters and how we relate or not, and what memories this brings up from our own dating and younger days together. Our most asked question at movie’s end, “Do you think those two can make it together?” This is one of the activities that provides welcome relief from being riveted on The Disease. 

Some days Steve needs a full back massage. Other days only a gentle touch on the cheek. We express affection how we can, when we can. Sickness doesn’t have to be a barrier to intimacy. In fact, this can often reveal a deeper oneness with each other even more.

Our theme verse the past few years:
“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:12 NIV

This article was adapted from a “Romancing The Authors” interview feature with author Patricia Hickman (The Pirate Queen, Painted Dresses, Fallen Angels). Check out her website: http://patriciahickman.com/


Connie Sue said...

Having gone through a time of a spouse being ill and all the way to the death process, I can look at what you wrote here and say "yes" and "amen" to each suggestion. We all have a "Paris" and all have heard news we didn't want to hear whether it be health related, financial, kids making bad choices, or whatever. The answer is ALWAYS our loving Heavenly Father is right with us even when we don't fell His presence....and He will guide us. This verse does say it all: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.” Philippians 4:12 NIV
Of course we continue to pray that God will heal Steve and allow him to be with us another 40 years or more. We do know that His plans are THE BEST for us. Thanks for your heartfelt sharing. Love you both

Stephen & Janet Bly said...

Connie Sue: So appreciate what you shared here...out of your heart and your life. Well expressed!

Trinity Rose said...

This is just a beautiful post.
Thank you so much for sharing all of this Steve and Janet.
You both are very precious people to many people.
We love you.
Trinity Rose

Stephen & Janet Bly said...

Dear Trinity Rose: Thank you so much for your kind words!