“When this all began, we knew there’d be a price…”Jekyll & Hyde
Some wondered if it was a good idea to marry a man with cancer. Looking back, it wasn’t really a decision. It was actually a no-brainer.
I loved him.
Everyone arrives in your life with baggage. Everyone. Some carry bags as small as coin purses; others drag a dumpster. When we met, it seemed neither of us carried more than a wallet. (okay, mine included a make-up case, keys with the fuzzy duck, two pairs of glasses and all the just-in-case stuff, but you get the idea) My husband’s, however, grew to industrial size proportions. Even so, we figured real love is a match for ANY luggage, right? It has to be – when the baggage is cancer.
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before.” Elizabeth Edwards
She said those words walking her own sad breast cancer journey, knowing reality sucks even as she accepted it with brave resilience. My husband lived with that same resilience so well that most in his work life or outside our close periphery never knew his battle. Most people saw what he wanted them to see — that cancer had all the impact of Monty Python’s ‘just a flesh wound’!
Some people talk the talk, others walk the walk. I’d like to think we walked it like champs; not always but most of the time. Did we have moments that just laid us flat? Did we take turns feeling frustrated and angry, scared and confused? Absolutely! But we also mastered noir humor, ways of being a fierce team and in looking outward in enjoyment of family and friends around us. After all, at the end of the day, we still were ‘us’ in heart, no matter how much of had changed us, in so many ways. Maybe it’s that the connection, that love, that joined us at the hip that drives me still, in moments of disbelief, to stand in front of his picture yelling “you can’t be gone; you just can’t be gone’.
Sure, I would have skipped the years of oncologists, surgeries, and all that followed, but those years WERE our marriage. From the day we said ‘I do’, we lived all that comes with a cancer diagnosis. When we fall in love, when we find the love of our life, we don’t get guarantees or assurances the ride will be smooth – or long. We just strap ourselves in and say ‘we got this’, even when we curse the bumpy ride.
You can’t be brave if only good things happen to you. In our early dating days, I was sitting on the fence. I was in ‘like’, not yet love, though my husband already knew where his heart was. And he had the courage to proclaim it which was one of the reasons he finally won my heart. It might sound lame, but that’s probably why, through all the challenges, frustrations and fear, I was still glad I had given him my heart. No matter where our fate led, he was still and always my handsome man who could make me laugh, make me mad, exasperate, charm and love me more than anyone else.
Life together was shorter than we imagined and a lot bumpier. One could say that’s to be expected when love comes as a package deal with cancer, right? But then fairytales are just that – tales. And happily ever after isn’t a given – it’s a journey. And even the most wonderful, eventually comes to an end. Ours just came earlier than expected.
Now when I hear ‘they lived happily ever after” I like to think the most important words are ‘they lived’.
And we certainly did.