Willie Uscher Another Kind of Hero - Christine Uscher

It remains so vivid in my mind: A warm and beautiful Tuesday morning in September, 2001. I was sipping my coffee, watching television while my husband slept. And in an instant, our lives changed, forever. I ran upstairs, and woke up my husband. I put the television on in the bedroom and we sat and watched, in silence. We held each other, we cried, but we never spoke.

Let me preface this by saying that I never, ever woke my husband while he was undergoing his interferon therapy. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 2000, and began a year-long treatment of interferon, with its vile and debilitating side effects. But this was different. My husband was never one to sit around and feel sorry for himself; quite the contrary. But this brought his focus further away from himself, and closer to mankind, closer to the human spirit.

I was planning a surprise birthday party for my husband on September 15, 2001. He had been through so much physical torment this year, I wanted to give this to him. I decided to go ahead with it, but toned it down. It was good for us to be together, it just felt good to be alive. My husband took all his gifts, and donated them to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the FDNY. This was my husband.

The night before his birthday, my husband penned the following:
”I’ll never forget these past few days
Emotions running through a great haze
My birthday, you see, is tomorrow
But three days ago, incurable sorrow
The birthday, you see, is important
As six weeks ago I was dying
Three days ago two towers tumbled
And our lives were forever jumbled.”

In January 2002, my husband was given a “heroes” jacket by a friend who used to deliver cigars to the workers at the site of the World Trade Center on a weekly basis. My husband wore it proudly. The treatments were over, and the cancer was gone. Until March 2002.

During the ensuing months my husband endured surgeries, chemotherapies, blood transfusions, prolonged hospital stays, fatigue. But greater than all of these, he had hope. He had courage. He had laughter. He had joy. And these gifts he gave to all of us. How many people do you know wear Hawaiian shirts to chemotherapy, while carrying his lunch in his Three Stooges lunch box. This was my husband, he was fun. And he shared it with everyone. He took what he had, and made it bearable for him, and for his wife and family.
My husband is Willie Uscher. We were married in January 1998. He practiced law with his father and cousin in Hackensack, New Jersey, and was a well respected member of the bar community. He volunteered for several years with the New Jersey Special Olympics as a bocce official; he has headed Outreach Angels, an organization which raises money for homeless AIDS victims in the area, and last year received the Bergen County Bar Foundation “Community Services Award” for his many years of service to his community. His “humanity” also extended to the care and nurture of animals, and over the years we have adopted and cared for special needs pugs.

My husband’s approach to life has always been with zealous enthusiasm, unyielding generosity and selflessness. Cancer did not take that away. He has been faced with difficult challenges, and they have all been met with courage, dignity and faith.

And this is how he held the door open for others: The fact that he never wasted a day, a moment; he loved life, he laughed; his selflessness was an inspiration to others, to help others. He found joy in every experience and, damn, did he laugh, with the purest of passion. This was the way he lived his life, before cancer. And this was the way he lived his life, with cancer. We would all do well to emulate him. And thus find the joy in our own lives. Just reach out, there’s always a hand out there that needs to be held. My husband taught me that. And there will always be a hand out there to hold yours, when you need it. I’m finding that out.

My husband lived longer than most with his type of cancer. And he lived every single moment. We were given time, and we had fun. We held on as long as we could, in April of 2003 we had to let go.

Willie Uscher is another kind of hero, and a model of courage and hope, to all. He is the love of my life, and he is the love in my life. He is my hero. And I am proud to be his wife.