We spent our Valentine’s Day at Penn State Hershey Cancer Institute.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you already know that in July 2019 my husband was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a blood cancer affecting his bone marrow. In the last 7-months he’s undergone 5-cycles of chemo, countless appointments, MRIs, scans and biopsies, all with the goal of achieving remission and undergoing a stem cell transplant.
February 14th, as we sat waiting for the bone marrow biopsy, he was quiet. We both were. He had been fasting since midnight, and was tired and hungry. I had yet to find a cup of coffee (no further explanation required). But we were also both excited and anxious to get the biopsy done, the results of which would confirm his remission. He looked at me, a little sadly and said, “this is not what you signed up for”.
Actually, this is exactly what I signed up for.
Here’s the thing. When you say “I do” and “for better or worse” or “in sickness and health”, do you really know what the future holds? Nope. We’re healthy, active 50-somethings. My husband has always been strong, and fit. So, vowing to be there by his side through all of the good and the bad? No biggie. And I meant it. There’s been SO much good… in fact, most of it has been good. But right now, there’s the bad. It’s the “in sickness” part, and yes, this is what I signed up for.
If you’re lucky enough to live a long, married life, eventually, one of you will need care. We’ve only been married 11-years, but here we are. I feel honored to care for my husband. We’ve put our vows to the test and have gotten pretty damn good at letting go of the small shit while finding joy in the simplest things: a silly joke in a doctor’s waiting room, binge-watching Breaking Bad for the 2nd time, or Taco Tuesday with the kids. Navigating a serious illness requires patience, planning, listening, asking A LOT of questions, and taking A LOT. And it requires teamwork.
Our matching "Fuck Cancer" bracelets.
Nowadays I remind myself often to stay in the present. The minute I start thinking too far ahead, I feel anxious. The future is a little unclear. Planning too far ahead is not a luxury I allow myself just yet. But if we stay in the moment, side-by-side, it’s good. And sweet.
No one ever raises their hand to join this club. It’s an odd club to be in, united by a shared diagnosis. Cancer. Between the doctors, nurses and countless others impacted by cancer, we’ve met some incredible human beings. People we would never have crossed paths with otherwise. We’re richer for it. Grateful even.
February. The month of love. A lot of it has been hard, but I no longer wish for time to speed up, even now. It’s too precious for that. My love has grown deeper, and more profound. Without a doubt, this is what true love really is. Not balloons, candy or flowers. It’s all of the moments. Not just the good ones on vacation or out on the motorcycles. But truly, ALL of it. We’re here and we’re in this thing together. This is our life. Good. Bad. Messy. Beautiful. This is exactly what I signed up for.
Sterling silver messy heart necklaces. A daily reminder that even messy love is beautiful.