I met Terrence on the campaign trail in 2019. We worked together on the Democratic Coordinated campaign in Henrico, Virginia. At the time, I worked for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia as a community organizer. I was new to the job, yet seasoned in campaigning. I was resigned to the fact that things like canvassing for hours in the 98-degree heat could be a slog, especially in the doldrums of summer. But I enjoyed the time I spent with Terrence because he immediately showed curiosity about what sorts of issues we were facing at Planned Parenthood. In the political landscape of Henrico at the time, I wasn’t quite sure whether people would welcome me as an abortion proponent, or reject me because of my employer--progressives, included. But Terrence surprised me. He wanted to know as much as he could about my perspective. In 2023, four years later, Terrence stays curious in the same way. In fact, he gave me more of a reason to be curious about him. I discovered, just two weeks ago, that Terrence has his own abortion story. I am honored to convey his deeply personal experience, knowing how many people he will touch sharing his story.
Terrence was married to a beautiful woman named Tracy. He found his home with her, a woman who was reserved, loving, and firm in her convictions. Tracy contained multitudes. Terrence always thought that one remarkable thing about Tracy was how she always knew how and when to listen to her body. She was in tune with herself; she knew how things felt when she was healthy, but even more so when she sensed anything was off.
In 2006, Tracy was pregnant with their first child. On a routine doctor’s visit, they went to their OB-GYN for an ultrasound. The doctor paused with some concern, then hesitated to speak. The image before them showed, in the doctor’s words, “a fetus that is not viable or developing at a rate sustainable for life.” They were stunned. The doctor offered two options: they could have a D&C (dilation and curettage) or not. The second option implied that they were to let the pregnancy go its course. Because the doctor insisted that what would come to pass would not bring life, only one real option emerged. Terrence and Tracy understood that it was up to them. They decided together that D&C was the best choice for them.
Throughout their first pregnancy, they were worried that something felt unusual. Every time Tracy got up to use the bathroom, Terrence was in fear that she would miscarry. He could read the same fear on her face. Tracy could just tell something wasn’t right. Terrence was unnerved constantly, studying in seminary at the time. It was as if they knew then that this pregnancy would not continue. Their lives were disrupted by the low-frequency hum of intuitive feelings.
After the procedure was over, they stood in the parking lot crying together. A few painful moments later, Terrence drove them home.
Their son, Joseph, was born about a year later.
Looking back, he felt things were markedly different with their first pregnancy compared to what they would eventually experience a year later. “I’ll never forget that Friday, when we had just finished painting the nursery with the color we picked for Joseph’s room. Tracy turned to me and said, ‘Baby, I think my water just broke.’” After a flustered conversation about which car went best with the car seat, they made their way to Chippenham Hospital on July 19, 2007. Once Joseph was born, the nurses said “from now on when he pouts, you’ll give him whatever he wants.”
Tracy was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer in 2014. She found out about the cancer because her body once again gave her clues that something was not quite right. She contemplated what her cancer treatments were doing to her body. She talked to Terrence about whether or not they would try to have another child. They loved their son, and nothing else mattered more. By this point, Tracy was undergoing chemotherapy. She was sick in total for six and a half years. There was so much uncertainty about bringing another life into the world, as she felt hers slowly and painfully fade. The entire process was so heart-wrenching, hearing the bell in the oncology unit knowing it wasn’t ringing for her. They decided Tracy would get an hysterectomy because she knew that was the best thing for her body. As fate would have it, cancer cells had invaded her uterus. If she had not opted for an hysterectomy, the cancer would have spread so much faster than it eventually did. She listened to her body and gave Terrence the gift of more time with her.
Tracy died the day after their son’s birthday. Her dying process went on for years, which felt like an impossible eternity.
One day when Tracy was in hospice, and visitors were over, she asked everyone to leave except Terrence and Joseph. She leaned over and said, “Joseph, your dad loves you very much. And he will do his very best to raise you. Terrence, you and I had the kind of marriage people wished they had.” She died a few days later. Terrence didn’t know it was possible to love her more than he did when they last spoke. But his memories of her courage make that love grow more as time passes. He finds himself reflecting on her strength in tenuous moments of uncertainty and fear. “Those healthcare decisions were hers to make. We need to pull more men into this conversation about reproductive healthcare–where we are all engaged in dialogue about leaving reproductive rights up to women and people who can get pregnant. Tracy would have died so much sooner if she hadn’t advocated for herself.”
Terrence and Tracy would have been married for 20 years. But he reminds me that because of her, he had a wonderful life and gets to be the father to a wonderful son.
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Walker for Virginia
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