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My wife Barb and leukemia

This one isn’t about beer, it’s about my wife Barb and life.  Rather than attempt to talk to all my friends and acquaintances in the beer business about this, I thought I’d post some thoughts.  Many of you have met Barb, most recently the West Virginia wholesalers had that pleasure as we enjoyed their hospitality on the Outer Banks.  Barb has accompanied me to many beer conventions… she even used to work my trade booth when I did such things – she’s be working the booth and I’d be out drinking beers ;-) 

 Life is a surprising thing… you’re rolling along and wham, things can change in an instant.  My wife and I had one of those moments when a week after her 49th birthday she was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia.  Trust me, that ain’t a good thing.  Diagnosed on a Tuesday, talking to the bone marrow transplant folks on Wednesday, in the hospital Thursday, and a 7 day chemo regime started on Friday.  As of this writing she is just finishing her 7 day chemo… still feeling great. 

 Those who know me know that I try to be straight-forward about all things – as readers know, I often note that what we want doesn’t change what is.  This one definitely stuffs that reality in your face… it’s a guaranteed death sentence if the treatments don’t work.  Don’t want to do the treatments?  Dead in 60 to 90 days… kind of makes the choice an easy one.

 One of the first things we needed to do was to get our heads on straight regarding the treatments, chemo and others.  Barb and I found ourselves fearing the treatments… dreading them.  But this is ass backward.  The treatments are freaking scary for one reason, they make the reality you face VERY real.  But you’ve already got the bad news… it’s kind of like fearing something that has already happened.  Our bad news is AML, not the treatments… and there is nothing we can do about the AML, it is what it is.

 That chemo is my savior.  That chemo is my joy juice.  That chemo is the only hope we have… I do not fear it, I rejoice that it exists.  As I watch the shots and the drips I think about badass paratroopers jumping from their plane and racing to confront the enemy.  I cheer them on with every ounce of my being.

 From here on out neither Barb nor I will fear any treatments that come our way.  They are good… the bad has already happened.  I’m certain almost every reader of this site has had a cancer or disease hit close to home… keep the above in mind when talking and thinking about the problems you face.  Reframe your thinking to see the treatments for what they are… a Godsend.  Cheer them on.  In my sales training I always emphasize that the best “sell” is always the truth… the above is the truth.  Don’t run from it, embrace it and find strength in it.  And help those around you understand the truth… don’t ahhh about the treatment… that’s not the bad.

 And to get on my political soapbox again… screw ObamaCare and the planned government takeover of our medical system.  I want those freaking pharmaceutical companies to make a lot of money… I want them investing in new drugs so they can make a lot of money… I want the freaking government to NOT screw up the best medical system on the planet… because ultimately, those “evil” drug companies are the only thing that is going to save a hell of a lot of folks… my wife being one.  My mom being another a few years back and my dad being another just a few months ago.  I’m certain almost everyone reading this has had the same experiences. 

 Which leads to another get your head on straight moment.  Although an AML diagnosis at age 49 isn’t the best news one could get ;-) one needs to stare the facts in the face… and as usual there is a lot more good news out there if you just open your eyes to it.

 Let’s take a worst case analysis… we often respond to this type of bad news as if the death sentence was something abnormal, something only these poor saps have.  But of course that isn’t the case… everything that lives will some day die.  We all are going to get that ticket punched sooner or later.  For Barb, it might be sooner but that is the only difference.  Sure we wish it would be later but sadly our vote doesn’t count in this.  

 But by over-reacting to this information, we make the situation seem far worse than it really is.  Sure it would be nice if Barb had another 20 or 30 years (and we pray she will) but if that isn’t God’s will, then it won’t be.  But the choice is ours… we can cry and bray about what might not be or we can celebrate and remember what is and has been.

 And death isn’t some strange, unfamiliar thing… it is OK, and most likely just the end of this physical aspect of our lives.  It was only a generation or two ago when almost everyone was much more familiar with death… almost every family lost a young child or two… childbirth was a dangerous thing which caused the death of many women… “normal” everyday diseases used to kill with impunity.  It wasn’t that death was a welcome visitor, but it was a very normal part of life... with most of these deaths occurring at home.  People were just more familiar with it.   Although I don’t want to go back to those days, there were some advantages.

 Barb is a devout Catholic whose faith is unshakeable… in some ways you could consider the sooner part a blessing… she will nestled in God’s loving arms that much earlier.  She has a great life, starting with being born in the greatest, freest country the world has ever seen… at a time when women’s rights were flourishing.  Great parents, loving family with an older brother and sister and a younger brother and sister (and we’re hoping that one of them is a good bone marrow transplant match).  Grew up with a simple life, with a “jump the fence” friend (Gaye) right across the backyard.  She has more friends that I can count… including her “jump the fence” friend of well over 49 years ago… well basically since they were born!  One friend describes Barb as “buoyancy personified, life force itself”.  That is very accurate.

 She’s traveled the globe, lived in Belgium for a few years, has the most incredible son one could ever hope to meet.  She loves geography, has an undergraduate degree in it and a Masters in Library Science.  She’s the librarian at a middle school and she really loves the kids… and they her.  As for me, I consider most children disease carrying rodents but not Barb.  All in all Barb has lived an incredible, happy, simple life.  I was blessed to find her – I think she got the shorter end of the stick in that deal ;-)  So regardless of how this ends, we don’t have any complaints.  A damned good life and an incredible gift from God.

 But I can say all that, and it is all true, but that doesn’t stop my heart from aching beyond belief.  Those who coined the phrase heart ache got it exactly right… my heart doesn’t hurt, it aches.  And of course I cry more than a freaking over-emotional school girl – with apologies to school girls everywhere ;-)  This really messes with my macho image ;-)  If the pain I feel is any reflection of how much I love Barb, I have to admit I love her more than I imagined.

 Hug your kids tonight.  Hold your spouse like they might die tomorrow.  Thank God for every minute, every second, every moment of our lives… they are gifts beyond description but they do expire.  Don’t waste a moment… and when the time does come – regardless of the age, don’t fill it with dread, fear and despair.  Fill it with love and joy – a celebration of what was, not wailing about what won’t.  I’ll get off my soapbox now…

 And for those who are wondering… yes I’m still working.  Steve Cook and I are still rolling along.  Work is about the only thing which helps me take my mind off things I can’t change… our open for business sign remains brightly lit.

 Enough of this… next post back to the beer business.


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I will be praying for a speedy recovery. I know your faith is so strong that it will carry you through this treatment. I wish you all the blessings in the world.
Best Regards,

Thank you for sharing your feelings. My wife and I will pray for you and Barb. Her faith is an insiration to us all. In Psalm 112: 6-9 you may find comfort.

Read "The Emperor of All Maladies", a history of cancer. It will help you understand the science side of Barb's illness.

There are many ways to treat cancer so second to love and support of family, information is vital

John, May God be with Barb, you and all those who touch your lives. I saw your macho image flourish with this post sharing wih all of us the depth a man can feel being a husband and a partner. Barb and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

John and Barb,
My prayers are with you both on this journey back to Health. I to am a Catholic and do believe that God hears and answers prayer and walks with us through the times we find it hard to walk alone. I am very proud of your positive attitude and outlook and that's a big part of fighting the fight.
God bless you and your family.
Pam Firich
Matesich Distributing Co. Ohio

John and Barb, You will beat this. Prayer is the key and God given medicine (along with the chemo). I am beating cancer also. Believe and keep the faith. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, then you may ask for whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. - John 15:7. Novenas are also a miraculous tool.

I've never met you personally, but I have been an avid reader and, while I don't agree with all that you write, I certainly find your point of view stimulating.

A man in this business needs a good spouse to keep him grounded. Your wife has done it again - granted the hard way. I pray for her recovery and for you to provide her strength and comfort.
Lou Enriquez
Ace Beverage Co.

John and Barb,

My prayers are with you as you travel this rocky path.

May God bless Barb with a strong response to the treament and good attitude while she deals with the pyhiscal effects the treatment will have. May God also bless the doctors and nurses with extra-ordinary wisdom and kindness. May God bless the family with the peace the only comes from knowing you are His child of God and where your home is.

My prayers for you.

Joel Grimm
Avilla, Indiana

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