In Sickness and in Health

Over the summer, Christian and I attended a beautiful wedding- the first trip we were able to take alone together both since my breast cancer diagnosis and since Felix was born. As we sat in the dappled afternoon sun, listening to the voices of two of our close friends pledging their vows to each other, I caught Christian’s eye. The words “in sickness and in health” carry such a different meaning to us these days. It was sobering to listen to those words again, thinking back to the time when we uttered similar pledges at our own wedding six years ago.

I am not someone who is easily shocked. It has been a running joke in our marriage that I am terribly anxious in everyday life, but in moments of immediate crisis, I transform into the most levelheaded, in-control master-and-commander that could exist. Also, I am not easily shocked. Yet, my breast cancer diagnosis shook me more than anything else I have experienced thus far in my life. Truthfully, it still does. I struggle to wrap my head around this new facet of my identity, that I really have metastatic cancer. I lie in bed some nights and quietly shake my head in disbelief, playing over and over those pivotal moments in which every facet of my life changed forever. In those early days and weeks, I replayed the conversations I had had with the radiologist, those first few moments before she uttered the words “you have cancer,” as if I spent enough time probing back into those few moments before time stopped, I could will that innocence back into existence. I still shudder when I transport my mind back to the moment I received the fateful phone call from Dr. G, the moment my world collapsed onto me, when she used the word “metastases” when talking about my bones. That moment is seared into my brain, the seconds after it I lived as if in multiple bodies: one processing this grief and information as I clung to Christian and screamed in shock and fear. One who called my mother and father and gave them some of the worst news they had ever heard, where I held the phone robotically and tried to reassure them as they sobbed. One who, in a split second, lost all tenuous illusions of the mercy of the universe, that yes, terribly bad things can happen to anybody.

Marriage is not always easy; anyone who has entered into that institution can vouch for that. The loss of innocence in the early years of marriage can shake a couple to the core. And likely, it should. The fear of life with metastatic breast cancer manifests itself in different ways for each of us, and to each other. But within the “for worse” we can hold each other and still seek out the “for better” in each other and together; we can still find the twinkling sunlight amidst the trees, no matter how tall, grasp  hands and continue to move forward.

Happy Anniversary, Christian. Let us continue to be to be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful and devoted to each other and to our love, so long as we both shall live.

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