CEDAR RAPIDS — When I met Paul Glenn, he was prepared to celebrate his 54th birthday as if it would be his last. Diagnosed with advance renal cell carcinoma, a non-curable kidney cancer, doctors told him to go home to die. He sat in a wheelchair in his Mechanicsville home, his shoulders slouched under the weight of mortality, his dull eyes reflective of better times.
Yesterday, Paul celebrated his 60th birthday. He can walk now, occasionally using a cane to steady himself, especially on icy sidewalks. His blue eyes absolutely glow with hope, with promises of better tomorrows and everlasting love for his wife, Shari.
Together, these college sweethearts who have been married 36 years, will share a quiet Valentine’s Day tomorrow. They will celebrate six years they weren’t supposed to have.
"It takes faith, family and friends," Paul says. "It takes it all. I couldn’t have made it without her and prayers."
A healthy farmer, auctioneer and real estate agent who had lost his right arm in a 1977 farm accident, Paul cringed from unbelievable pain as he reeled in a 30-pound halibut on an Alaskan vacation in 2006. As the pain persisted, he saw doctors, received the diagnosis, underwent multiple surgeries, was treated at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
"Mayo tried to get hospice set up for him," Shari says. "I told them to go to hell."
"She is remarkable," Paul says, a grin spreading across his face. "If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here."
For better or worse. In sickness and health. The wedding vows were ‘till death do us part.
"She’s lived it, the worst parts," Paul says. "I’ve reaped all of the benefits. There’s no way I could give it back."
"Love," Shari says. "You’ve got it. If your wife got sick, you’d do the same thing."
If their roles were reversed, Paul would be at Shari’s side as she has been at his.
They sip coffee in a shop near Mercy Medical Center — Follow them at www.carepages.com under patient ID paulglenn53 — after he had undergone one in a series of 30 radiation treatments. This is the second attempt to eradicate a tumor between his trachea and right lung.
Reclining on a table for quick zaps of radiation is quite painless, Paul says. As painless as taking the most advanced chemotherapy pill every day. But, more than modern medicine has kept Paul living life to the fullest.
Since he has received a second chance at life, Paul and Shari have traveled, from Seattle to Hilton Head, S.C., even to Ireland for last year’s St. Patrick’s Day. He has visited the Grand Canyon a half-dozen times, his favorite place on Earth. He looks forward to his mother, Esther, turning 90 this fall. With three children, he and Shari have welcomed three grandchildren into the world and await the birth of a fourth."We’ve been blessed," Shari says, "with a lot of miracles."