“I try to stay in today; I can’t live for what could’ve been yesterday or what will be tomorrow. Where we are, is where God wants us to be.”
Stephanie Socha relies on her faith to stay positive throughout her husband Steve’s cancer journey. His diagnosis of Stage IV prostate cancer came without warning for she and their five children last year, despite Steve’s annual physicals and family history of the disease.
“God gave us a gift with this, in that He has told us that our time is limited and to truly take every day and make the best of it,” Stephanie added. “Unfortunately, that’s great if you don’t have bills you have to pay. My mortgage company doesn’t really care that my husband has cancer. I’m sure they’re all willing to work with you a bit, but in the end, they want their money. We still have to figure out how to pay our bills. Taking away half of our income was a huge fear for us. What are we going to do? We no longer have the income to do this.
Fortunately, a hospital social worker attended at the couple’s first appointment with the oncologist. “Steve wasn’t going to be able to work and that was terrifying,” said Stephanie. “I certainly couldn’t support our family. She pointed us to New Day and said ‘they’re amazing.’”
“Steve has always taken great pride in providing for our family,” Stephanie continued. “To this day, his biggest fear is what happens when he’s gone. For him to have some of the stress removed by New Day and Game on Cancer, it enabled him to focus on what he needed to focus on, rather than stressing out.”
New Day Counselor Chrissie Jostock stayed in close touch with Stephanie throughout the process. She delivered a gift bag including a Red Wings blanket – which Steve uses everyday – and a copy of Gina and Michael’s book, “The Color of Rain.”
“It was nice to have that – just knowing that she was there,” said Stephanie. “She met me in person at the hospital and went over the financial part….I was in tears at that point. I had no idea; they made it so easy for us. They handled everything; they just did it all for me. To meet her and have that personal connection was such a treat.
“I read the book while camping one weekend, and I think I cried the whole time because so much rang true. Steve is a man of great faith, and when Gina would talk about Matt, it was like reading about my own husband. It was wonderful and horrible at the same time, knowing the outcome.”
When he had back pain, it wasn’t alarming. Every contractor has back pain; the doctor recommended taking Motrin. The pain got worse over the holidays and Steve went to a new family doctor when nothing was improving. A CT scan and X-ray showed nothing, so physical therapy and pain medication were prescribed. By the end of January, Steve was at work and noticed that while on a ladder, a cough or sneeze sent an electrical shock through him from head to toe. The couple thought it was a pinched nerve when his walking was affected, and finally went to the ER to see a neurologist.
Steve and Stephanie were shocked when tumors were found all along his spine. In just one day, he was unable to walk and couldn’t lift his legs. Soon after, surgery was performed to debulk the tumors and relieve pressure on Steve’s spine. He spent 25 days afterward learning to walk and perform everyday functions. Not only were they dealing with Stage IV cancer, but also a spinal cord injury.
“We never expected it and it and it completely tore our whole world apart,” Stephanie explained. “[Cancer] was never on our radar. Stage IV…I can picture it when we heard about it. We have five kids. How do we tell the kids?”
Stephanie regrets that Steve’s cancer could have been detected over a year earlier with an annual PSA check.
“To me the most unfortunate thing is that the Cancer Society recommends PSA checks yearly, and if it’s normal for two years in a row, it’s not checked for a year. They didn’t check in 2016! In hindsight, I’m kicking myself. For a $25 test, it would’ve shown it. His PSA level was 116 and normal is 4.
“Could we have found it sooner? You can’t go back, but it’s one of the frustrations. It’s a blood test and we know someone has a family history of this; we shouldn’t skip it when it could potentially save someone’s life!” she explains. “[Now] he has cancer in almost every bone in his body.”
Today, Stephanie is working in a new job in healthcare, where she is thankful that her insurance has helped to cover Steve’s expenses. Her two older sons have been working at Steve’s contracting business, and they’re all looking forward to a graduation party at their home very soon.
“There are good days and bad days for all of us,” she said. “The last month has been rough for him, with increased pain and weakness. He is on a new treatment, so we’re unsure where things stand. I choose not to guess…it’s part denial.
“We have to have faith in God’s plan, whatever that is. His plan is so much greater than ours. We may not like, agree or understand it, but it’s so much better than ours could ever be. We’ve tried to teach our kids this as well.”