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Which Way.jpgThis post has been a long time in the making. Just after the world rang in the New Year, I posted that I had come to a life altering cross road in my life. Being the person that I am, I tend to turn to only a handful of people in my life that I can trust. This life altering event has its roots in July 2008. That is when my best friend and wife was diagnosed with BRAC2 breast cancer.

BRCA1 and BRCA2 are human genes that produce tumor suppressor proteins. These proteins help repair damaged DNA and, therefore, play a role in ensuring the stability of the cell’s genetic material. When either of these genes is mutated, or altered, such that its protein product is not made or does not function correctly, DNA damage may not be repaired properly. As a result, cells are more likely to develop additional genetic alterations that can lead to cancer.

Specific inherited mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 increase the risk of female breast and ovarian cancers, and they have been associated with increased risks of several additional types of cancer. Together, BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for about 20 to 25 percent of hereditary breast cancers and about 5 to 10 percent of all breast cancers. In addition, mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 account for around 15 percent of ovarian cancers overall. Breast cancers associated with BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations tend to develop at younger ages than sporadic breast cancers.

A harmful BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation can be inherited from a person’s mother or father. Each child of a parent who carries a mutation in one of these genes has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the mutation. The effects of mutations in BRCA1 and BRCA2 are seen even when a person’s second copy of the gene is normal.
(Source: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/BRCA)

The journey through five major surgeries, eight rounds of chemo over sixteen weeks, and many more events than I care to remember was everything but easy. Early in the journey my wife told me, “you need to be my pillar of strength”. I have never been comfortable around hospitals, emergency rooms, bleeding or sick people. But I recalled my wedding vows of “for better or for worse”. I knew that I would have to overcome many of my own weaknesses to help my wife through this battle. The first surgery was the worst. A compassionate recovery room nurse could see the concern and strain on my face and gave me a comforting hand on the back. I was at every surgery, chemo infusion, emergency room visit and nearly every doctor appointment for the next three years.

In January of 2010 I had my first MRI of my back and surgery was recommended. Due to the fact I was caring for my wife at the time I put off surgery. In October 2010 I had a second MRI of my lower back and the surgeon said there was a seriously herniated disc at L4/L5 that needed immediate surgery. The Monday after Thanksgiving I had spine surgery. Fifteen months later at the end of February 2012, the same disc needed additional repair. It was almost a year after the second surgery before I felt like I was getting back to a normal life.

For reasons I do not understand to this day, our rock solid marriage started to have problems as I was recovering from my second spine surgery. We sought out a marriage counselor who was unable to help after four months. Our pastor picked up where he left off and worked with us every week for almost a year at no cost. And then it happened. On a Sunday afternoon just before Christmas (2013), I noticed a large sum of money missing from the savings account. Upon questioning my wife, it was then I was told that she had filed for a legal separation. This day was 28 1/2 years to the day from when we got married. While we were engaged, we both agreed that divorce would not be an option and no matter what life threw at us, we would work together through the problems.

CDJIn the state of California, a legal separation or a dissolution (legal term for a divorce) requires the division of all assets. The respondent (that would be me) has no choice but to file a response or forfeit all their rights to property, assets, and debt. The proverbial rock and a hard place. Being a Christian, this situation put me between my Biblical beliefs concerning divorce and what the law requires me to do. When I looked at all the facts before me, and after finding an attorney I could trust, I responded to the lawsuit with a dissolution. In the end I had no choice. My best friend refused to drop the lawsuit and seemed determined to destroy my reputation. All I could do was to hang on to my faith in God and hope and pray I make it through this mess.

At the end of June, I will pass the six month mark which is the end of the “cooling off period”. This is the earliest a Judge can sign the final agreement. So what have I learned so far about divorce.

    • The whole process really sucks.
    • The division of property, assets, and debt (which is supposed to be 50/50) is not an easy process.
    • It is cheaper to let go of possessions than it is to pay my attorney to fight the battles.
    • So far I have had to give away more than 50% of the community property to control attorney fees and been required to assume the vast majority of the debt.
    • Justice is neither blind nor equal in California.
    • I have to help pay my wife’s attorney fees!
    • Based on the bullets above, as well as other events, my stress level has never been higher.

As bad as all of this sounds, God is Good. A good friend (also a Christian) and mortgage broker, along with my attorney’s understanding of the law and wise counsel, were able to help me refinance my home so that I would not have to move. This will allow my two children to have a place called home. I also don’t have to go through the stress of moving which would have also meant having to commute to work. I have also learned that sometimes in life there is no answer to the question why? It just is what it is. So with that thought, this too shall pass. Each day is a new day.

I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it. ~ Groucho Marx