The following was submitted by an author who wished to remain anonymous.
For years, I always thought cancer would take the place of a “true love.” Being a patient and surviving was always my first and only priority. When I stopped focusing on all my cancer bullshit (and the things I couldn’t control) and started living in the moment, my knight in shining armour come squealing into my life with something to prove. He was everything I wasn’t looking for and everything I didn’t know I needed.
He and I have always traveled in the same friend groups. My close friend dated and married his brother. It was on the way home from their wedding in Cuba that things changed for us. I brought home more than a sun burn, and I’m sure he got more than he bargained for, as well.
He didn’t flinch at the airport when my mom mentioned the MRI I was having the next day to see if there’d been any growth. He simply said “let me know how it goes,” hugged me and my mom, and said “call me later.” My heart dropped thinking that would be the last of him. Back then I thought, “No one wants to date a ‘sick girl.’” However he called me later that day to check in and we’ve been inseparable ever since.
Nothing has ever been easy for us. Courtship had its up and downs and I struggled a lot with body image, being sick, and juggling a relationship and appointments. He just didn’t seem to care; in his eyes we were happy and we would deal with whatever shit storm came our way.
Two years after we started dating, he asked me to marry him on a napkin at dinner. I laughed and immediately said yes.
Less than 48 hours later, I was diagnosed with stage 3 thyroid cancer. My anxiety and fears flooded over and I was having such a hard time processing. I told him we shouldn’t get married, I didn’t want to leave him a widower. He came back with a bigger ring and said, “We’ll get through it together.”
This was a whole new ballgame for me. I had never had to think of others while going through treatments. I was always allowed to be selfish, my close family took care of life while I focused on surviving. Adding another person’s thoughts and feelings into the mix took adjusting, and still does. When it comes to medical issues, I have a hard time including others into my healthcare plan.
However, this post isn’t about me, my insecurities, and the way I cope in Cancerland. This is all about my guy and how he views our long, tedious, pain-in-the-caboose dance with cancer because at the end of the day, he now lives with cancer, too.
Here are his answers to some of the questions I had for him.
When you first found out I had cancer, what went through your mind?
I understood you had cancer, but not entirely how it affects every aspect of your life. When we first started dating, you hid the fatigue and really bad days from me because we weren’t living together. I didn’t always see it. When you started opening up more and we started living together, it was harder for you to hide and it was hard to see you struggle. At the end of the day I didn’t let cancer define how I felt about you, your personality, and how you made me feel.
Was it a difficult decision to date someone who was/is sick?
No it wasn’t. When you like someone, healthy or sick shouldn’t play role.
What did you find the most difficult about dating someone with cancer?
Obviously not knowing actually how long you have with that person is difficult. (Asked me not to get angry.) I also find mood swings fucking difficult because when your meds are off, or you’re in your thoughts for too long and your anxiety goes off the rails, your emotions fly all to fuck and I never know what wife I’m getting. (Truth bomb ladies and gentlemen.)
Was being bald an issue for you?
Nope, fuck I’d shave my eyebrow off for ya. It’s hair and that doesn’t matter to me.
Was being intimate with someone with cancer difficult decision for you?
Heck no. I think I was more worried for you. (Cue my eye roll.)
You knew from the start of our relationship I was unable to have kids; did that bother you?
Yes and no. I know we’d make amazing parents, but that wasn’t in our cards. I’m also ok with being the crazy uncle who steals our niece, nephew, and the god babies, spoils the shit out of them, sugars them up, and sends them home to their parents. I think it bothers you way more than me. (He’s absolutely right.)
How did you feel when I told you I was terminal? Did it change your opinion of me and our relationship?
No. It just made me more aware of how precious time was with this amazing girl. I feel like it made me want to take care of you more, it made me want to understand cancer and how it affects all aspects of your life, but it never changed my opinion of you.
We started dating while I was stable and after you decided to ask me to marry you, we found out I had another cancer (stage 3 thyroid). Did you at all think maybe you bit off more then you bargained for?
You’re always more then I bargained, cancer or no cancer. But no, not at all it. It can’t change my decision on our marriage, however you can ask me again when you have another mood swing, though.
What would you say is the biggest hurdle/struggle you have with me being sick?
That’s tough, I think you being sick is tough in general. Knowing that I can’t take away your cancer, anxiety/PTSD, I can’t fix this, that is what I struggle with that.
What would you say is something cancer has taught you?
This sounds cheesy but it’s taught me that tomorrow isn’t promised to everyone. Take advantage of opportunities with the people you love every day. Not every day will be a good day and that’s ok. Netflix, our bed, and the fur babies is sometimes all we need.
How did you cope with my diagnosis?
Your mother is the best, she explains everything to me so I understand how to help you. Friends listen to me when I want to talk about something. I think the supporter community is key for strength some days, so my supporter friends from YACC help a lot, too. They also help with looking at a situation from another point of view. I also like to tinker on things when I need to figure out my emotions.
Is there any words of wisdom that you would like to share with other supporters?
One day at a time, it’s just a stage and a number. And, never be afraid to talk to people about how you’re coping with the cancer diagnosis. Sometimes putting your needs first makes you a better supporter for your person.
As a supporter, what did you find to be helpful? Any good resources?
Besides your mom, and the YACC community, being open and honest about how I feel to my friends and family who understand me and have been in similar situations has been the best resource for me.
As a supporter, do you find that your needs are sometimes overlooked due to the fact your partner is “sick”?
Not really. At first, maybe, because I didn’t speak up when I needed support. Now I’d say “hell no.” You do a good job of meeting all my needs. I find sometimes that in group situations people are quicker to ask you how you’re doing, how you’re coping, but honestly we have really great family and friends who always check in.
When it comes to loving someone with cancer, is there any huge difference from loving someone who wasn’t diagnosed?
Absolutely not. When you love someone it doesn’t matter if they have cancer or crotch crickets. Love is love, and I love ya, Babe.
I want to thank my husband for being so open and honest. I’m humbled and so grateful for your love commitment and understanding. I know some days are easier than others and I’m not always that easygoing girl, but I appreciate how perfectly imperfect we are together. I love that at the end of the day I know you’re always by my side. Learning to rely on others hasn’t always been easy, and life with cancer has definitely thrown us some really wicked curve balls. Your love has propelled me forward and your strength has pulled me through some really hard times. I adore you so much.