After his wife dies from cancer, this father of three teenage boys proves strength doesn’t lie in power, money, or job titles.
The doctor says, “Cancer.”
A strong word… cancer. It stops some people and pauses other people. It forces a change in direction.
For Tom Breck, the former Executive Director of the YMCA in Tavares, Florida, cancer came stomping into his life, but not his body.
About 7 years ago, Tom’s wife Liz, in her mid 40’s, found out that she had cancer—a tough and sometimes elusive opponent.
Treatment started. Small victories. Hope. The cancer moved. More treatment and the “treatment—hope” cycle repeated.
For a while, it looked as though the medicine was working.
I didn’t want to ask Tom how his wife was “doing”, but I didn’t want to avoid Tom and not talk to him.
“So… how is Liz doing? How are you doing,” I said as we stood in the middle of open basketball—where life was swirling, jumping and breathing all around us.
No hysterics. No cussing or swearing. Tom’s typical demeanor is that of a caring thinker.
His eyes became tear-filled… yet he didn’t cry.
“I don’t know.” He paused… then spoke again.
“It’s tough, John. Some days she’s real bad and other days, well, there is hope. I just support her and love her. My boys know what’s happening, and we are handling this problem as a family. We are sticking together. I hate this cancer. I love my wife.”
In August of 2014, Liz passed away.
Still in his 40’s, Tom had 3 teenage sons to raise. Plus, he had a career that had him managing a YMCA with about 7,000 members.
Tom had his plate full. More than full. Overloaded.
Tom had the full support of the YMCA home office and took some time off work and focused on his 3 sons.
Every so often, I would see Tom back at the YMCA.
“I’m back 2 or 3 days a week”, said Tom as I stood leaning on a rack of free weights.
“Work is normal and I need normal. But, I gotta focus on my boys, so no full-time work right now.”
Months passed, and Tom’s almost smiling face was still being seen only 2 or 3 days a week at the “Y”.
“I stepped down as Executive Director, and now I’m the Development Director”, said Tom.
During the time in life when most men are striving for, or trying to keep the golden ring as a top executive for an organization, Tom Breck decided to step down as the top administrator and focus on his 3 teenage sons.
Less money. Less power. I don’t know of a stronger man at the YMCA in Tavares, Florida.