Strength in Numbers

The internet is such a wonderful place to turn to for answers to trivial questions, the latest news, for spewing your heart out and in my case, finding your heart! My husband and I met online through a dating site and I was apprehensive because his job title said “Police Officer.” It wasn’t that I didn’t like police officers, it’s more that I’ve always been a rule bender per say.

Either way he had a smile that got me hooked. It wasn’t until a few months later I actually saw him in uniform! Ladies, you know what I’m talking about when I say “SOLD!” I’d never dated the law before because I spent most of my teen years trying to avoid it! It wasn’t until I joined the military that it all started to make sense. The camaraderie, the sacrifice, the dedication, the pure joy and love of giving back and being that strength for your brother or sister in uniform. There’s a strength in numbers in uniformed careers that just can’t be explained. One thing I have also noticed is the strength that comes with the fellow LEOWs who get it. They know the struggle is real. Managing a household, careers, school, after school activities and keeping at bay that fear of your spouses’ job.

It’s a new year and I am hopeful that with that comes a new view on how society feels about our LEOs. I wish they would realize that we are people too just out there trying to support our community. Sometimes you want to believe your spouse is invincible and unstoppable and that’s really what gets you through every shift they go on without letting a tear fall. The truth is we all know they aren’t. You prepare yourself for the worst and hope and pray for the best. I think every spouse understands this concept and again that’s why there is a strength in numbers.

A lifestyle far from ordinary

The strength doesn’t only come from those that share the uniform but those that share the lifestyle. A lifestyle is indeed what it is. I never saw it coming, falling in love with a cop and showing up to events alone or without that extra set of hands for our daughter. I always envisioned a cookie cutter lifestyle where we went to family functions as one unit and matching shirts! I do still make him match us for photos and he’s always so excited about it (insert sarcasm). He will appreciate them one day I’m almost certain!

But, what do you say when the kids ask, “How come daddy isn’t here?” or “I thought we were a family?” There’s a constant reassurance to our kids that the other parent loves them very much and assurance that they will see them soon. But, as you mutter those words your heart skips a beat because on any given day, it could be a lie.  No one wants to lie to their children unless it’s about Santa, the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny. We tell little white lies as parents to keep the wonder in their eyes, but day after day we take a chance on a lie that would have a greater impact on them than finding out Santa isn’t real. That instead daddy or mommy picked up an extra shift to make ends meet… and maybe that was the shift that they don’t come home from. It’s heartbreaking to think about but it’s a constant on our minds. The strength we find in each other; the fellow LEOWs makes all those worries stay subdued because should tragedy ever strike, we know we’ve got strength in numbers there to lift us up.

Much is true about this strength especially for us this past year. As wives we prepare our hearts and minds for injuries, close calls, and the heartbreaking possibility of it being the last kiss goodbye. With all of that worry, I personally, never once thought about illness. I never prepared myself for the other side of worry, the other side of uncontrollable circumstances.

"They think I have cancer"

Police officers are always told “there’s no such thing as routine” and how true that is in their job and in life. He could have a set schedule but even then things can change. Every call is new and they learn to be prepared and we as wives learn to be prepared as well but on June 4th,  2016 he called me with news I never saw coming.

“They think I have cancer.”

Cancer?! How on earth do you prepare yourself, your kids, and your family for that?! How do you take your pillar of strength out of uniform, shave their head and watch them struggle to survive? It’s an unimaginable feeling of loss of control and an unknown future. You can spend countless days being angry at God and wondering how you’re going to get through it or you can strap on your big girl panties and jump into the pillar of strength role when your spouse needs it the most. I chose to buy a few pairs of big girl panties because there were days so terrifying I may have peed a little… ok, so I didn’t actually pee myself but the fear was very real and what choice do you have as a parent, sister, LEOW other than to buck up and manage this situation like you’ve managed this lifestyle for years. The lifestyle is tough and cancer is tougher but together we are toughest. He was always my strength when I needed him and now the roles are reversed. I have a team of wives I know I can look to for help and guidance and he has brothers and sisters in uniform rooting for him all over the state.

His partners have even reached out to me and been there for me as well. It’s not just his department that has reached out, it’s the entire state of law enforcement, the community in blue that has your back through every expected and unexpected scenario. I don’t know where else someone could find that support. People I’ve never met before coming to my aid in our time of need.

My husband has always been a man of few words and heaven forbid he has to ask for help. Being in such a vulnerable state is not easy for him, for me, or any of us but there’s a special strength that comes in knowing even the smallest request will be fulfilled if only we ask.

I was reminiscing of a time I chose to ride along with my husband and we had a chase; he was behind the wheel, lights and sirens going and foot heavily on the pedal. He was so calm appearing and ready for the up and down and curving streets. I, on the other hand, was petrified by the speed and probably left nail marks in his passenger seat. He was in control and I think that alone was enough for him to be at ease even if what followed would be anything but routine. I was proud to see him maintain composure under such stress but also chose to never ride along again! I can’t hang out with stress by choice! It’s just not for me!

This fight is different

Watching him fight back against cancer knowing he doesn’t have control of the wheel has been a rollercoaster. There are even more ups and downs, a few dark tunnels and some days it feels like we are going 100 miles per hour while on other days, time stands still. Even on a rollercoaster, it’s more bearable with other people, some you know and some you don’t, but you all hang on and ride together. I feel like we are front and center in the first car and our family is riding behind us. We may not all fit on the same ride at one time but there’s complete strangers waiting in line to jump on board and be waiting there before, during, and after this ride is over. Strength in numbers.

I think our lives were a small rollercoaster even before the diagnosis. Being married to a police officer is always an ongoing challenge full of ups and downs but it’s a choice to stay and continue to be by their side even on the toughest of days. A choice that is not always easy, but in my opinion, is always worth it. Cancer has brought us closer together because he sees my strength and dedication to him. Before I think he never acknowledged it because he would leave for work while I stayed back to tend to our daughter and be the quintessential “house wife” while still managing school and work. They sometimes forget how very dedicated we are and the sacrifices we as wives make to stay by their side. It’s in their forgetfulness and our need for gratitude that sometimes needs get missed. However, we have grown to be more vocal these days and to make sure the other knows wholeheartedly how we feel. Some couples are both in law enforcement and that’s a struggle I can’t even begin to fathom. Cancer has also given me a better understanding of my husband. Never before had I seen him so vulnerable. I had all but forgotten that behind the uniform there is weakness too. So often I saw him as a pillar of strength never thinking he could be so weak. Never did he cry in front of me when things became too difficult to bear. But, here we are, eyes wide open and tears streaming down in a fight we never saw coming.

We were in the prime of our lives building our first home, having our first child, getting our dream jobs and really beginning to enjoy everything we had worked so hard for. In three small words it all changed, “You have cancer.” We took the bull by the horns as we had with many tough times before and chose to move miles away from our family and friends to receive the best care possible. We didn’t waste time being angry with God or feeling sorry for ourselves. We instead chose to make plans to overcome this obstacle as we had many obstacles before. We leaned heavily on our faith and the knowledge that it takes a village to raise a child. We have family and trusted strangers watching after our daughter and our family picks up after work hours. We have family and neighbors looking after our home and family watching our dogs. We have friends and strangers helping and an entire community praying for a safe and healthy return.

It has been a humbling experience to say the least especially after those three small words rocked our entire universe. But in the face of fear and in our eyes our own tragedy; love and faith prevail and we found an inner fire we never knew by leaning on three words we’d always heard but never truly realized until it was our time to face the unthinkable, “strength in numbers.”

Support like no other

It’s the strength in numbers only the blue community can explain. Those three words bear so much more. They bear faith, hope, and love; they show kindness, empathy, and encouragement; they live by loyalty, duty, and respect; and they show us what it means to serve others. In sickness and in health their love for their community, friends and family shines bright and when they are weak, they are uplifted by those around them who support the badge. Brothers and sisters together with their families come to the aid without ever being asked because we, as a community in blue, uphold the standards that our spouses chose to serve under. We feel our responsibility lies in following that same code of ethics and it makes us better parents, better partners, and better friends. We may not always understand the pain but we always understand the need for strength and when we band together to give such power to those needing to be uplifted, it’s an indescribable feeling from both sides. When we are on the receiving end, we feel so loved and not enough thanks can be given and when we get a chance to give back, there will be no words to describe the feeling because the support is beyond words and we can only hope to give that same feeling back.

Being a LEOW was never in my plans, then again, neither was cancer but we’ve found a way to stay devoted to our life and each other and stay strong when the other is weak. One cannot simply be strong 100% of the time although we try very hard to be. It goes without saying the dedication the thin blue line has to each other and their families and it is through that unspoken bond that we find strength in numbers. 

About the blogger:
Natasha is a proud Trooper wife, mom of 1 and has 2 dogs. She loves singing, coffee and brownies. She has been a member of Backing the Blue Line for a year.