Three years ago I wrote the blog below, on our 10th wedding anniversary. Life was quite different three years ago. I had just been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. I had no idea if I would respond positively to treatment or if I would become a statistic. For the first several months, I lived in a fog worrying whether each milestone would be my last, our anniversary included.
Fast forward to today and I am deeply grateful to share that I am strong. I am healthy. I am me again. I can’t lie. In the deep recesses of my mind, dark thoughts can sometime still be found. But they usually get quickly pushed away by optimism, gratitude and hope.
In that blog, I talked about how my husband and I had always assumed we would spend our monumental 10th anniversary poolside or at the beach. That I would have been rocking a floppy straw hat, not a wig. That my biggest decision should be whether to have the strawberry daiquiri before OR after lunch, not which chemo cocktail to settle on.
Remembering this makes today that much sweeter. Today my husband and I are sitting under a tiki hut, listening to the gentle waves of the ocean. I have sand between my toes and a fruity cocktail was just delivered (spoiler alert: it was BEFORE lunch!). My hair is hot on my neck and so it’s thrown sloppily into a messy bun – it’s long enough now to do that with ease.
Given the events of the last few years – my illness being just one of them – it is never lost on me how incredibly lucky I am. I feel a peace and hope that I didn’t right after my diagnosis, and maybe even before. Life can be scary and unfair but also can have a way of showing us love and hope.
I have complete faith there will be a cure for this disease – and I have every reason to believe I will be here to see it AND benefit from it. This hope, this optimism, this faith has helped to shift how I view my future and all the many milestones ahead of me. It has helped me to trust that I will be able to spend our 20th anniversary the same way…loved, happy and, most importantly, healthy.
Until next time…
PS this epiphany (and trip) wouldn’t have been possible if not for the great husband who planned it – and the wonderful sister who is holding down a very crazy fort at home with three kids and a dog! Thank you!!
Ten years ago today, surrounded by all the people most important to us, we said “I do”. At the time, and until the birth of our three kids, this was unequivocally the best day of our lives. It was exactly what we wanted – the right combination of a beautiful wedding and a great, kick ass party. We laughed, we cried, we danced – to us, it was perfect. Like most newlyweds, we spent our honeymoon talking about the highlights and dreaming of our “happily ever after” and what we would be doing five, ten, twenty years later.
Well. here we are…ten years later..and who would’ve thunk THIS is where we would be. All those years ago we sat poolside, having hearty debates about whether we would celebrate our tenth anniversary back in Mexico where we had honeymooned (my husband’s vote) or in someplace more exciting to me, like Italy or Hawaii. THOSE were things you “argued” about on your honeymoon.
Instead, we spent this week meeting with my doctor and nurse to talk about my maintenance plan for this incurable cancer I have. Instead of being on a beach or lounging at the pool in a bathing suit and big straw hat, I am rocking a wig or caps. I thought the biggest decision I would be making would be whether or not I had that strawberry daiquiri before OR after lunch? Instead we are making decisions about which type of drugs I will be taking until death do us part.
I have said before but it merits saying again, especially today, that my husband is a ROCK STAR. How he handled the week leading up to my diagnosis with Multiple Myeloma was nothing short of amazing. He held himself together and our three young children. He went back and forth to the hospital, day after day, meeting with doctors, who were banging their heads against the wall to figure out what was wrong with me. And, when I was taken off a respirator after nearly a week, he was the one who came to the hospital, looked me in the eyes – with tears in his own – and let me know that I have cancer. I’m not sure I will ever understand how much that week changed him. I do know that it changed US.
When you take your wedding vows, you promise to love each other in good times and bad, sickness and health. Those words are powerful at the time. But when those good times and bad times actually happen? When sickness sneaks up on you, as a young mom, and your husband has to tell you that you have cancer? When two months later, he has to tell you that your father has died unexpectedly and suddenly? And two months later, he has to shave your head? I know I didn’t imagine any of these things when we took our vows.
It goes without saying being a cancer patient is HARD. Being a mom is hard. But being a caretaker? Watching your partner suffer, physically and emotionally? That is a type of hard that I can’t imagine. Having to keep everything together…the house, the kids, me….day after day with no break? That is HARD work. I’ve watched my husband do it. I watched my parents do it for one another when they suffered serious medical issues. I watch my father-in-law do it for my mother-in-law, who suffered a stroke many, many years ago. It is a tough job with no time off. I have so much respect and admiration for every friend, partner, spouse and child who is selflessly taking care of someone. You are the true heroes.
When we got married, I chose the song “At Last” by Etta James as our wedding song. I had always loved it and, clocking in at two and half minutes, I knew our first dance would be short but sweet and we could invite our wedding party and guests to dance with us next. That next song was a song called “True Companion” by Marc Cohn, a song my husband, to this day, considers our wedding song. If you’ve never heard it, it’s just beautiful.
On that Sunday afternoon last October, my husband held onto my hand as I lay in a hospital bed, and said the words that changed both of our lives forever. I’ll always remember it. But what he did next will never leave me. He took his headphones and put them up to my ears and asked me to listen. What I heard were the beautiful words to that song….
When the years have done irreparable harm
I can see us walking slowly arm in arm,
Just like that couple on the corner do
Cause girl I will always be in love with you
When I look in your eyes, I still see that spark
Until the shadows fall, until the room grows dark
Then when I leave this earth I’ll be with the angels standing
I’ll be out there waiting for my true companion
Just for my true companion
He told me that every day, since I had been unconscious, he would listen to this song, “True Companion” over and over. As I have said before, my husband is a man of few words. But this gesture told me everything I needed to know. We don’t need Mexico or Italy to celebrate these past ten years and the many, many years we are confident we have ahead of us. We now understand, better than ever before, that each day, each year is a gift to us. And that appreciation is something I don’t know that each of us always have, without something like this to remind us.
Thank you, Brian, for being the most incredible husband, partner, father and caretaker. Happily ever after doesn’t always look like what you imagined it would but it can still be pretty amazing. I love you (ps – I promise we will take that trip soon!)