Giving thanks – LCDR James McCown

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Through the Thanksgiving holiday, many Americans look forward to reuniting with family, watching football and of course feasting on turkey and pumpkin pie. But, Thanksgiving is more than good food and good games. It is a time to reflect on those who have made a difference in our lives and community. In this spirit of giving thanks, we reached out to our Facebook fans and asked them to share the story of a Coast Guard member who has touched their life. Today’s story, submitted by a Coast Guard spouse, shows the dedication and commitment one Coast Guardsman has not just for the service, but also for his family.

Written by Cary McCown.

Cary McCown and her husband Lt. Cmdr. James McCown at a Policemen's Ball in 2011. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.
Cary McCown and her husband Lt. Cmdr. James McCown at a Policemen's Ball in 2011. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.

I would like to take this opportunity to honor my husband, James A. McCown Jr., as the most wonderful Coastie in the U. S. Coast Guard.

I am a two-time cancer survivor. In 2001 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I underwent grueling months of surgeries for reconstruction with my husband, Jimmy, at my side every step of the way. The doctors at Bethesda even let him come in the room for many of the procedures, scrubs and all. This touched the nurses, and one told us they don’t see this kind of support often.

In December 2006, I felt a very small lump in the lower left quadrant of my abdomen; the tumor was removed in April 2007. When I received the pathology report, it was very grim indeed. It said that my ovarian cancer was stage IIIC and I was in a very black place.

I remember sitting in Boston watching all the folks going to the Red Sox game, all so very happy and in good spirits. I was in such a black place that I looked at Jimmy and said, “I’m gonna die!”

Flowers given to Cary McCown by her daughter. The pink flowers represent breast cancer and the turqoise represent ovarian cancer. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.
Flowers given to Cary McCown by her daughter. The pink flowers represent breast cancer and the turqoise represent ovarian cancer. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.

He looked at me at said, “Oh, no you don’t. You are not going to that negative place… you are a fighter and we will beat this.”

Coming from him that was a shock, as he never speaks to me in that tone of voice. I got the message.

Later in May, we flew back to Boston to see Dr. Autry who said I was an awesome candidate for a very toxic chemo since I was so healthy otherwise. It dumps the chemo medicine directly into the belly cavity – it is also called a “belly wash” – and hence directly onto any remaining tumors. During a belly wash you have to remain perfectly still on your back and Jimmy and the nurse occasionally turned me over and catered to my every need. The process usually took about six hours each day and Jim was always there with me.

Chemo began in May, and Jimmy religiously drove me back and forth – six hours round trip – with no complaint whatsoever. When the hair began to fall out in chunks, he shaved my head just like he did his own. He made feel beautiful even without hair.

In Ellsworth, Maine, we attended church regularly. I remember sitting in church shortly after that and turning everything over to God. I did, and here I am five years later doing his work each and every day.

Cary McCown and her daughter after finishing a Relay for Life event. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.
Cary McCown and her daughter after finishing a Relay for Life event. Photo courtesy of Cary McCown.

As I reflect back, I would like to thank God, the U. S. Coast Guard for allowing Jimmy to have the time off to take care of me, our three children for being there for me and loving me, and to Tri-Care Remote for handling and paying for everything. Thank God for our awesome military.

May God bless you and keep you all safe while you fight for our freedom.

Stick with us throughout the week as we feature more stories by family and friends giving thanks to the servicemember in their life. We also encourage you to write your own notes of thanks to friends, acquaintances and even strangers who touched your life this year.

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