In mid-July 2020, right around his birthday, my husband, Kevin, began complaining of headaches. Headaches were unusual, but it was a hot summer, and we initially chalked it up to dehydration and overworking. Weeks went on, as did the heat, and as did the headaches. Kevin generally was able to lie down and gain relief. But in August, we made a trip to urgent care.
We sat in the exam room waiting, and he casually made a comment
about not wanting to be there because he didn’t want them to tell him something was wrong.
After a quick exam, it was deemed he had a sinus infection. That was a relief to us both, and we left to pick up an antibiotic. Five days after our trip to urgent care, he woke me up at 5 a.m., standing in the doorway of our bedroom. He was unable to walk back to bed. He said his leg was numb. Sometimes his Rheumatoid arthritis causes similar symptoms, but after weeks of persistent headaches, five days of antibiotics, and now a numb leg and inability to easily walk, I wasn’t convinced he had a sinus infection. It was odd and scary, but he wanted to go back to sleep. Instead, after some discussion, we headed to the emergency room.
words + photographs SANDI ZWINGLE
Kevin and I met more than three decades ago.
He was adorably handsome: blond hair, blue eyes. Kevin was a young man from a small town. I was just trying to finish my degree at Missouri State University without distractions.
After a, uh, chance meeting, I knew right away he was hard working and genuine. Anyone who knows Kevin knows nothing is halfway. He’s all in in everything he does. Nothing less than perfection will do. He approaches life with persistence, tenacity and, once he’s determined to do something, he doesn’t stop until it’s done. I can recall so many stories of him working 48 hours straight just to finish. I laugh a little, but I also smile, as that is just the core of who Kevin is.
Soon after our introduction, we were pretty much inseparable. We married on May 20, 1995, in Kevin’s hometown of Greenfield, Missouri. Our marriage has been good, and we have always been happy to just be together and celebrate milestones along the way. Our goals have been similar, and our strong, supportive families have been close by. God blessed us with two pretty incredible children, Peyton and Zack, who over the course of their very young, adult lives have demonstrated maturity, strength and compassion – leaving me in awe on many days.
Both our daughter and son came into this world in grand fashion. Peyton, our first, came via emergency caesarian section. Recovery for me was challenging, but we found our way through. Zack surprised us all by arriving two months premature. After 17 days in the NICU, he came home to complete our little family.
Kevin and I were in alignment of the values we wanted to instill in our children. While we all had fun, they knew what it meant to work hard and take responsibility for their actions. We raised them in church, and they knew when they were struggling or had hard decisions to make, they were encouraged to rely on prayer for direction or comfort.
When Peyton and Zack were small, we lost Kevin’s sister to cancer. Certainly not something we were fully prepared to take on so early in our marriage. We knew she was an immense believer, and we had peace knowing we would see and walk with her again. I attribute much of Kevin’s good health to her advice so long ago. She worked as a nurse practitioner and quite frankly helped us to understand some pretty drastic measures necessary to ultimately save his life.
A few short months after his sister’s passing, Kevin had surgery to remove his entire colon in 2006. That surgery can only be described as wicked and likely one of the most difficult things I’ve ever watched Kevin endure. Many days were spent in the hospital.
The following years saw more surgeries, which meant more time in the hospital. While not fun or easy, Kevin was physically and mentally strong, and we fought through the valleys. As I think back, I just remember being exhausted – but happy – he was healthy, and we could move on with a seemingly normal life.
I never doubted our life wouldn’t be normal. Kevin is no stranger to pain and setbacks due to health as he’s learned to live with Rheumatoid arthritis and GI issues the majority of his life. I am often amazed at just how much he works through stuff and the toll he pays. I feel I constantly have to remind him to be good to his body and allow it to recover once in a while. I say remind, but if asked, I’m sure he would describe my encouragement as otherwise.
These events collectively were making up the chapters of our story.
Late in 2014, I learned I had breast cancer. Although it was a bump in the road and all is well now, for a moment, it was a very uncertain time for Kevin and I. We had to make some tough decisions, and I recall praying many days just asking the Lord for peace and contentment for our decisions. As with every other time, we made it through together and really didn’t look back. These events collectively were making up the chapters of our story.
SANDI ZWINGLE is a native of southwest Missouri, calling Nixa home for the past 21 years, along with her husband, Kevin. They have two children, Peyton and Zack, who reside in Springfield. She is currently the area manager for WACO Title- SW Missouri.