- Casper de Leuw
2022 – A Husband’s Perspective
2022 has been quite a year. But when people ask me how I am, I actually don’t know how to answer that question. I’m ok, I guess? Could be better? Could be worse?
Could be a lot worse actually. So let’s start at the beginning.
2nd January 2022. I’m working on the roof top of our house, waterproofing. Angele is out in the fields, playing with 2 new kites with the children. I can actually see them in the distance from our roof, so whenever I take a break I look at them from afar. It’s a lovely sight…
She’s been having a few rough months. The kids took turns in being sick, and they’ve been whining and holding on to her for weeks on end. I was extremely busy with work, making crazy hours due to deadlines, so I was not there to help her either. She had been complaining about pains for a while, but today, it seems to be worse. Back pain, chest pain, basically pain everywhere. It becomes so bad that she calls me while they’re walking back, and tells me to drop everything and take her to the ER. So I drop everything, we leave the kids in the hands of her sister, and off we go to the hospital. It’s a 15 minute drive from where we live. It is a route we have driven quite regularly but this year I really lost count of how many times I drove it. At least 50 times, twice while chasing an ambulance, dodging traffic, hoping that she would make it…
That day, our worst fears became a reality. Stage 4 breast cancer, spread to the chest, spine, lymph nodes and liver. Medically speaking that is considered a terminal disease. Initial prognosis: around 2 years. “But don’t count the months” the doctor said.
For the first few months I did not even have the time to count them. January was really rough. Angele was getting worse rapidly while we were waiting for the chemo to start. She was in a lot of pain, had no physical strength to get in or out of the bed, was throwing up from the pain and medication and lost roughly 10 kg. I was full time taking care of her and the children. Jessie, about to turn 3 at that time, and Tobias, 1 year 8 months. They did not really understand what was happening. Jessie understood that mama had to sleep a lot and was in pain. Tobias replaced his screams for mama to pick him up with screams for papa to do it.
Working was not even an option that first month. People were understanding so that was ok, but not a situation that could be like that forever. Rational decisions had to be made, especially with the risk of any form of infection once chemo would start in combination with two little children that could pick up anything from childcare or school. So we decided that Angele would move in with her parents, while I would take care of the children and get back to work.
I basically became a single working dad with 2 toddlers overnight. Yes, of course there was family to help out with pickup from school and babysitting, friends that cooked proper meals for us. But I was quite alone. Working as hard as I could in the few hours I had. Being CEO of a small company started to become quite a challenge. Driving across the island the rest of the time, busy with drop off, pickup, baby ballet, drama, groceries, laundry. Endless laundry. If I was lucky I had a little bit of time to visit Angele.
One of those visits in late February I found Angele with a massive fever. So bad, that I had to call the ambulance to take her to the ER again; this was the day she nearly died. The weeks after were really tough. Angele was slowly recovering, but she spent 3 weeks in hospital. Pressure at work was increasing. The partners and employees were understanding but at the same time expected a different kind of leadership for the company, something I couldn’t fully give. Angele was fighting for her life, and I was fighting with her, while fighting to keep my job, while trying to stay as happy and positive as possible towards her and our little monsters.
Eventually throughout the months that followed it became clear that the situation at work became unsustainable and we decided to end it. Angele meanwhile was recovering quickly and after her last chemo session she came back home end of June.
So there we were. Both jobless, no steady income, savings to survive till the end of the year, 2 little children. And Angele was doing good, but still barely able to walk, unable to lift the children, frail and fragile.
The months after were the best months we had though. We spent time together as a family, Angele was getting better day by day, and I did an odd job here and there. Family was visiting, friends were coming over, we could take it easy and life was good. My main tasks as a caretaker of the whole family became less and less needed.
Fast forward to today. Angele is doing better than ever. She’s the most positive and powerful she has ever been. Radiating positivity and strength towards the people around her. When people ask me how things are I tell them exactly that. And the children? They’re doing really good. Happy adorable strong-willed stubborn little monsters. This year has been tough on them and sometimes it shows, but they are so loved by everyone around them that we for sure will find a way on how to deal with that.
So, back to the original question. How am I doing, and how do I feel?
These last few weeks I’ve been struggling. Doubtful and uncertain about myself and what to do. I was a bit lost. I need to find a new purpose. I think I know what I want but I am not sure of whether or not I can make that sustainable. We do need to pay our mortgage after all. I think I lost a bit of confidence in myself with losing my job.
But I actually know how I feel. I feel grateful. Grateful for having Angele and our kids next to me. Grateful for all the people that helped us in one way or another, either from close by or afar. I feel happy that I had the time to spend with Angele the last months, with the freedom and happiness that we felt. I feel pain and sadness looking back at what I had to go through, what we had to go through, to end up where we are. I feel thankful, for realizing how precious life is and how lucky we are.
Looking back, 2022 has been the worst and the best year of our life. I realize more than ever that whatever life throws at you, it all comes down to how you deal with it and what you do about it.
And looking forward: 2023 is going to be an even better year. I don’t believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I will do everything I can to make next year a beautiful year, where I stay true to myself, chase my dreams, do anything I can to support my lovely wife and children, to be the best husband and father, and most of all, to become the best version of myself.