Step One: I EmbarkOne of the first friends I called with the news of the new diagnosis was Kaye Sharpe, a woman who had hired me and with whom I had worked for eight and a half years at Charleston Southern University. Kaye and I had left CSU within a few months of each other in 1988. I had accepted a position at the College of Charleston and Kaye had retired from college teaching and administration. Upon retirement, she quickly turned what had been a part-time marriage and family therapy practice into an "almost" full-time practice, which she conducted from a suite of rooms in her home. I say "almost," because Kaye always saved time to remain in contact with old friends, through lunches and other get togethers. Despite the age difference of twenty-five years and changes in our careers that meant we no longer saw each other on a daily basis, Kaye and I remained close and usually had lunch or talked on the phone at least once a month after we left CSU.
I felt I would need professional counseling to come to terms with what was happening to me. I asked Kaye for names of psychologists who worked with terminally ill patients. Eventually, she settled on Susan Hull, a striking beautiful woman who had worked extensively with very sick patients before coming to Charleston as assistant pastor to Kay's congregation, Circular Congregational Church. The one question I asked Kaye was, "Does she have children?" When she replied that Susan did not have children, I asked Kaye if she would see me herself and if it didn't work out, then she could refer me to someone who might be more objective. But objectivity wasn't what I was looking for in a psychologist now. I didn't feel that I had time to waste establishing a new relationship. I didn't know then that Susan Hull would provide me with valuable help in another way.
Kaye agreed to see me. We set up regular appointments. For our first session, she came to my house because I had my first treatment of a new round of chemotherapy the day before. After that, I was able to drive to the sessions at her home. We met several times in December. Kaye helped me work through some my deepest concerns about my daughter, Jennifer. It seemed that I was distancing myself from her as if it would be less painful in the end if we weren't as close. I was able to overcome this "distancing" eventually and Jennifer and I were draw even closer to one another.