A strong work ethic, sense of humility, and personal faith catapulted Ceroma “Doc” Love, Founder of Be The Light Foundation, through a successful leadership trajectory in the military. Doc has become a master at seeking the commonalities that unite him with others, including grief. Join us this week as he and Lisa discuss the lessons he has learned from loss and starting his own non-profit to help cancer patients manage their out-of-pocket costs. Doc’s example will remind you to keep your eyes open for ways to make a difference.
Bio (in Ceroma’s words): Life was supposed to be good! And for the most part it was until 2010. I grew up in a well-structured home. I was the youngest of four with two wonderful parents. Although we moved all the time, my father stressed “we” as a family. Kind of an “us against the world” mission. And it worked beautifully.
In 1985 I decided it was my turn to put my mark on the world. So, after four years of wasted college life, although I learned a lot about people, I joined the United States Navy. My father’s mentorship really paid off. Since he had a 24-year career in the Navy, I was well prepared for what was coming. Don’t get me wrong, the Navy was not easy. But at least I entered with a framework to work with.
I advanced quickly through the ranks through hard work, faith, and something I wasn’t completely ready to except. I realized I had the unique ability to “read” people. In 2007 reached the rank of Command Master Chief, and in 2009 I was off to Iraq. I returned in 2010, and that’s when things got “interesting”.
I met my wife in 2010. It was love at first sight. Although I had been married before I know this was “it” from the first time I saw her. We married in 2011 and moved to Missouri in 2012 with my daughter Catherine. Catherine and my wife became best friends instantly!
In 2015 my wife was diagnosed with liver cancer. Cancer was not a word we often spoke about in the Love family. We had no history of it and frankly after both my wife (also a Navy Vet) and I serving, we kind of hand a sense of invincibility. So, we listened to the doctors and followed the regiment. We thought as long as we did that everything would be just fine.
In the same year I was diagnosed with bladder cancer. It was my 30th year of military service. What a nice retirement gift! After several years of chemotherapy, the decision was made in September of 2020 to remove my bladder. I had two additional surgeries due to complications.
My wife was also in the fight of her life. She did everything correct and was a great “lab rat” for the doctors since she was in outstanding physical condition apart from the cancer. My wife fought hard but eventually lost her battle in February 2021.
The tough times of 2020 defiantly spilled over into 2021. I survived the first 30 days after losing my wife, what I like to call the “Costco phase”. The Costco phase is when, after a major event happens in your life, you receive food gifts from Costco. Don’t get me wrong, they are very appreciated. But they are usually perishable items and don’t last long. Frankly, its your first indication that life goes on.
But you don’t care about that. All you know is that your wife is gone, people who say they “love” you are gone, and you are truly ALONE! Yes, for the first time in my life I was alone. No wife, no kids, no nothing! My kids were grown at this point and although they did an outstanding job of checking on me, they did have their own lives to live. My wife’s family took the opportunity to “ghost” me. In their book, I don’t even breathe.
Everyone says they want freedom. Trust me, you don’t. Freedom is terrifying! For the first time in my life, I could do anything, (or nothing) and it would not matter. All my bills are paid. I have a house and a truck, and no responsibilities to anyone but myself… or so I thought. I also had no direction. After all, my whole life had been direction. My father was in the Navy for 24 years and I served for 30. You can’t ask for more direction than that. After a while you just assume someone is going to tell you what to do.
In April, 2021, I heard a calling. I know that sounds strange but it is true. My wife’s voice resonated in my head, “Do something that makes a difference.” My wife used to do what she called a “Friday Message”, (I still do), where she talked about being kind and loving to one another. I listened to her last recorded message over and over again. She ended it with “Be the Light”, “Be the ripple”, in someone’s life. I knew she would want me to do something related to cancer that made a difference. This was a very difficult situation. It would have been easy to just write a check every month. But I knew I couldn’t get away with that. I had to do more. I had to touch people, I had to raise awareness. I had to be, “boots of ground”. I prayed for an answer. Then it came to me. It wasn’t cancer I could impact. It was everything surrounding it. The travel cost, food cost, lodging cost, and all the other things that have a major impact on the lives of just not the cancer, “champion” but there family as well. I realized that as much as I wanted to, I could not cure all the forms of cancer. But there are things that every family experiences.
So, in May of 2021, with $250.00 and a GoFundMe, I started the Be the Light Foundation. I decided I would raise money anyway I could. So, I started going door to door selling jars of homemade salsa. My neighbors were very kind and were more than happy to purchase them. I also received assistance from someone a place I didn’t expect.
Lucy Roberts is a real estate agent and who sold me, my home back in 2010. She still works very hard today. Not just to sale homes but to improve lives. When she heard about Be the Light, she jumped in with both feet to provide the guidance I so desperately needed. I will always be indebted to her.
It was not easy as you could imagine. Not only did I not have any idea what I was doing, but I also had the pain of losing my wife still floating in my head. But what I did have is a burning desire to make “lemonade out of lemons”. I know I had to do something with my life. And this seemed like the right thing to do. I mean, at the least it would have been a little distraction from the grief journey I was on.
Be the Light started as a two hour a day, three day a week cause. Basically, something to do between streaming movies. But a strange thing happened. I discovered there were people just like me. People who had taken the journey of watching someone, beautiful and healthy one day, and torn down the next. The key was, what was the status of there heart? Was it still intact? Most of all, did they still have “hope”? Not just hope for the cancer “champion” but also for themselves? Was the glass, half empty or half full? For most people, the glass was still half full. All they needed was a little “light”. All they needed was HOPE!
Be the Light quickly when from hours, to days. It grew and grew. So, what was a distraction became a full-time job. But a job I so greatly welcomed.
Which leads me to this. We cannot control what happens in our lives. We do not control, who lives or who dies. Who hurts, you or who cares. Who loves you and who hates you. We are all subject to our experiences.
What we can control is how we react to them. It would have been so easy for me to crawl up in a ball and shut the world out. And for a while that is exactly what I did. When you lose someone nothing else matters. And how much you hurt is a reflection of how much you love that person. Questions go through your head but they can all be summed up with, “What was the point?” What was the point of loving them if they are just going to leave me? What was the point of taking care of them if they are not going to be around to say thank you?
The point is, that person is always a part of you… always! How you treated that person will determine what part of them stays with you. You see, its all about the decisions you make. Ask yourself, “Who is the victim?” You are the person you are taking care of? Well, surprise, it’s both of you. The difference is, YOU still can make decisions, you still call the shots.
I am still healing. I think I will be for the rest of my life. But I am keeping my glass half full…always! I have also learned that I have the ability to love again. That was defiantly something I was not expecting. But sometimes you just know when something is right. That journey is just beginning. My wife is gone. But she will always be a part of me. So, I take the lessons she taught me about, love, hope, grace and kindness, with me. I carry her dream with me. It has made me a much better person, and I much better man. I don’t know what my future holds. But it is defiantly bright!
Ceroma’s Something Extra: Humility
– Lisa Nichols, Host
– Scott Crosby, Executive Producer
– Daniel Williams, Recording Engineer