The Ugly Present

In the days after being released from the hospital, Yvette asked me many times if I was planning to write a blog. At first, I chalked her constant questioning up to the good drugs, she was not very lucid. At some point I realized she was serious. My response was the same each time. No. Who wanted to read about drains, tumors, death, and loss? That was all I had.

First, I did not feel like it. Second, I had nothing to say. My message of peace and fearlessness was going to be a stretch. I was neither. Even filled with pain medication, my wife was pushing me forward. Cancer is ugly. Death is hard. These are my least favorite things in the world and both are front and center. Both are perspective changers.

I had a decision to make. In the past few weeks I have wrestled with the idea of ending my run with the blog and my Switching Teams book journey. Obviously, I did not. Truthfully, I was feeling overwhelmed and lacked any control over what was happening around me. So, in true Dawn form, I reacted by thinking about something I had some control over. My book. I am nothing if not predictable.

What do you do when the present moment includes gifts that have smashed bows and brown paper held together with dental floss? Be fearless and authentic anyway. Yuk. I reached this conclusion as I dropped off the bag of my wife’s bras at the donation site.

It was my first errand yesterday. I drove up to the site. I did not even get out of the car. I rolled down the window, grabbed the personal belongings bag from the hospital off the passenger seat, handed them to the attendant, and declined a receipt. Simple enough right?

Nope. Before I even had the window up, I lost it. The timing was shocking and unexpected. I had ten other places to go and was completely caught off guard by the flood of emotions in that moment. Reality hit. Up until that instant, there have been many reality filled moments, none of which caused a tear to fall. Waiting during surgery, talking to the surgeon afterward, or emptying drains did not register reality.

Fair warning. What you are about to read may not be the typical shiny holiday story but rather a tale of coping with the hard stuff. Raw and real. There are no flashing lights, cute inflatables, or jovial men dressed in red slinging gifts. Sounds pretty bleak doesn’t it?

If you take everything at face value it is. Times like these require the ability to look deep within the heaviness to see the beauty, grace, and love present in all of it. I admit it seems like an impossible task. There have been many moments in the past weeks when I have struggled to find the bright and shiny side.

Within a twenty four hour period my step mom died and my wife underwent a double mastectomy. I have yet to truly begin the grieving process for my step mom. I know it will happen but right now every bit of my energy is focused on taking care of my wife as she recovers from her surgery and helping her adjust to her new flat and fabulous life.

My thoughts are scattered and often of my dad and how he is doing. My dad and I are cut from the same cloth. My wife jokes about how similar we are in how we approach life and handling things. I believe the word she prefers to use is clone. We would rather do something than discuss feelings. Our shared dislike of being emotionally uncomfortable and not being able to fix things for those we love is legendary.

The timing of everything has thrown both my dad and me. He had a head start in the “my wife has cancer” race. Worth mentioning is the common bond my dad and I have for our dislike of hospitals and sickness. For the past two years, I saw my dad take incredible care of the love of his life. He has been a rock for Diana. Watching him has been inspiring and has helped remind me of my own strength and courage.

As Yvette was preparing for surgery, my dad was sitting in hospice. I was not able to reach out to him for one of his epic pep talks because of the circumstances. His struggle became my strength. If he could do this, I could too. We all could. This was his and Diana’s early gift to me. The holidays are different this year. Our house may not be decorated, or Christmas cards sent out, but rest assured there is love and light, even in the sadness.

The lessons of this season have taught that I can handle much more than I think I can. I have learned that the sum of the Waters Chicks is definitely greater than our separate parts. My wife is a warrior and the most inspiring person I know. Little victories are the theme in our house lately. Getting more than two hours of sleep at a time and being able to shower without help top the list.

I understand the gift of joy which comes from taking a break to watch my son play goalie for the high school varsity team or sitting on the couch with my family. In these moments, I remember that it is possible to feel peace in the midst of a storm.

I am reminded in all of this that the journey is not always pretty or wrapped in expensive silver paper and adorned with perfect bows, but it is still beautiful. The lessons of this particular season are lurking within the pain, grief, and fear. These are the gifts that keep on giving when death and cancer are sitting at the family dinner table. However, they are not the only gifts to be opened.

Even in the ugly, authentic, real, emotional muck we are blessed. Yvette and I appreciate every good thought, prayer, and message of support we have received in the past few weeks. We have a renewed appreciation for each other, our family, and life in general and are grateful for the ongoing reminder that the most important things in life cannot be found in a store or online.

Wishing you and yours a happy, healthy, and safe holiday! Peace!



  1. You write beautifully. You must have inherited your dad’s brain as you are his clone.
    I feel lost without Diane & wish I could articulate about it as well as you do.
    Wishing positive thoughts for you & Yvette. ❤️

  2. Dawn, you have a gift.
    I enjoy reading your blog.
    You and Yvette are a blessing to us.
    Merry Christmas to you all.

  3. Wow!! Indeed a difficult time for you and yours. Cancers a hard thing to deal with when it’s staring you in the face. Though I have no wife going through this I’ve had several family members that I’ve taken care of until the end.God bless you and Happy Holidays!! Stay positive!!

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