Love in the Time of Cancer
After hearing my results, I thought: How do I tell my boyfriend?

It was Dec. 18, 2013, and I was an 18-year-old heading to a ski weekend with my boyfriend. My heart beat with excitement because it was our first getaway that winter. Unfortunately, I never made it to the slopes. Instead, my parents sat me down and shared the news that would shift my life forever. I was diagnosed with a very aggressive soft-tissue sarcoma. I could see in their eyes that this information pained them more than they were willing to show. I was their little girl, and they could not protect me.

After hearing my results, I thought: How do I tell my boyfriend?

I never thought our relationship would get so serious so quickly when we began dating at 17. We never thought we’d have to make life-determining decisions together. As much as treatment options were ultimately my choice, my boyfriend and I began researching every pro and con. After deciding upon surgery, he learned how to change my drains and woke up three times a night to help me wobble to the bathroom. Although I was living with my parents, he stayed over endless nights to help take care of me. He missed parties, sporting events, and even university classes to be by my side.

These challenges formed a new connection between us, something only him and I could understand. I shared my deepest and darkest fears with him, like how much time I had left, and what would happen after I was gone. He never judged how I felt and would simply hold me close against his warm chest. He never had to stay; he was so young, after all. But he loved me and believed in me, so I fought for both of us. I knew we would get through it together.

He loved me and believed in me, so I fought for both of us.

Our first doctor’s appointment together in January of 2014 was the biggest shock.

“Can we take a sample of your partner’s sperm to mix with the eggs that we would like to freeze?” asked the doctor to us, two wide-eyed teenagers. “It makes them more viable.”

Yes, I’m absolutely certain that this 18-year-old boy I’ve been dating for just over a year will be the father of my children, I thought sarcastically.

I thought for sure he would leave after that. I pictured him packing up his backpack and walking out of the exam room. What an insane request for someone so young! Instead, he looked at me confidently, and let me decide.

In the end, I said no. After all, it was only the beginning, and I wasn’t fully confident we would even last through this hardship. I agreed to let the doctors take a piece of my ovaries during surgery to freeze my eggs. However, taking a sample of my partner’s sperm felt too final. Too many of my choices were taken away, and if our relationship ended, I needed the option to choose the father of my children.

How could that be? Did they have to endure those rounds of chemo? Did they have to worry about how many days they had left while everyone else was worrying about what club was still popular?

When you’re living with cancer for as long as I have, the world around you continues to move on as you attempt to tackle everyday tasks in a body you no longer recognize. Survivor’s guilt settles in quickly. I feel like I have put my loved ones through so much, and sometimes it feels like it would be easier if they did not have to take care of me anymore. You shouldn’t have to worry about other people’s feelings, and how hard this will be for them, but not all people can or will stand by as you fight for your life.

If I thought anyone would flee, it would be him.

“You’re only 23,” I told him way too often to his annoyance. “You could be doing other things, like sleeping with other people or going on adventures!”

“You’re my best friend, and I still want to be here with you, so let me be here as your boyfriend,” he reassured me. It only took a hundred times before I started to believe him.

Our relationship is a masterpiece.

And reader? He stuck by me. It’s been six years now.

I guess you can say we’ve been through as much in these years as most married couples might endure in a lifetime together. Through sickness and health, for better or for worse, he and I have managed to take a deep breath, clasp our hands tightly together, and withstand this roller coaster of a life. When I’m feeling ill, he cooks me my favorite meals. When I can’t go out, he brings in takeout and my favorite movies. We’ve spent infinite nights lying side-by-side in my hospital bed, discussing our hopes and dreams: How he’ll become an engineer, I’ll be a teacher, and one day we’ll move out west and hike every mountain imaginable. There is no one who knows me better, because he has been there when I’ve screamed in pain, cried uncontrollably, and laughed at all of the craziness of our life.

One of the most difficult things about being a young adult with cancer is that people our age struggle to empathize or understand what you’re going through, because there are so few of us dealing with cancer this young. You need to witness cancer hands-on to truly understand it, like when I need help showering when I can barely move, or when I crave comfort through menopausal hot flashes as I sweat off my drawn-on eyebrows.

So many parts of cancer are not pretty, but my relationship has become my very own work of art. We have put so much time and effort into us. Our relationship is a masterpiece.

The Anonymous Cancer Patient writes a personal blog, Mind of a Cancer Patient, where she details her emotional and physical journey through cancer. 


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