Dear Cancer, My Wife Is Stronger Than You
My wife is the one who has been going through cancer. It first began in October 2012 when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She has shown great resiliency through the entire treatment process and I’ve been proud to stand by her side through her fight. For this moment though, I want to be selfish and express how cervical cancer has affected my life as a male, as a father, and as a husband.
Erica and I met in college, dated for a couple of years, then separated. She had moved to her hometown, married, and had a child. A few years later, she had divorced and I had reconnected with her. For those first few months, it seemed as if nothing had changed. We were in love again and we both knew we were destined to be together forever. I knew I would marry her. I knew it until the diagnosis made me question it. In October 2012 she was diagnosed with cervical cancer and suddenly this curse that had plagued my grandmothers, aunts, uncle and grandfather had now unexpectedly entered our lives.
Cancer is defined as “a disease that abnormal cells divide uncontrollably and destroy body tissue.” From experience I thought that it was a disease that can be defeated with medicine, stubbornness, and determination.
This time it was different. This was my family to be, and we were experiencing pain and suffering as I had never felt before. The doctors told her that she would lose her fertility and need a hysterectomy to cure the cancer. I wasn't ready for that news. I never told anyone that I wanted children. In fact for many years I had been careful to avoid any accidental pregnancies, but now even a “maybe” was to be stricken from my thoughts, options, and hopes.
We were idling in front of a stop light on Fox Road. Erica looked at me and said that she was going to have a hysterectomy to cure her cancer. I had a moment of weakness that made me doubt my relationship with my wife-to-be. I wanted to be a great father. I wanted to love my kids. In that moment I was forced to face the reality that Erica’s cancer threatened us with the possibility that I wouldn't be able to have children with the woman that I loved and wanted to marry.
That couldn’t be the end, though. After some intense researching, we discovered a procedure called a “radical trachelectomy.” This procedure was available in Indianapolis and would allow for a chance to conceive, a slim chance to carry to term and even less of a chance to actually birth a child. I thought if there was any chance that it would be better than nothing at all. I put stock into what the gynecologic oncologist said when he thought Erica was a perfect candidate.
Before the surgery I told the doctor before surgery that she was more important to me than children that only existed in my mind, but until that point I never thought what risk she took for me. She was risking her life limb for my dream of a family, one that I had never even verbally expressed to her. What she gave up and endured to allow me the smallest hope for a chance of our own child was beyond compassion. It was truly love.
The day of surgery, she laid upside down and unconscious for 16 hours. After 4 hours of recovery her doctor emerged from his mask. He said that she had the tumor, pelvic lymph nodes, and cervix removed, that she would be in pain, but that they were confident that the surgery was a success.
After the healing process, we moved on with our lives.We were engaged and due to marry June 2014. Life seemed to be normal. We had moved into a new house, she had a new job, her son started started preschool and began calling me Daddy. We learned to stop walking on eggshells. Little did we know, our sense of normalcy would quickly come to an end.
After months of irregular bleeding with urination and multiple doctor visits, her urologist ordered a scan that revealed multiple tumors. These masses had destroyed some of her internal organs and invaded others in the worst way. It wasn’t just the pain or the haunting certainty of the chemotherapy or radiation to come. These tumors had eliminated any chance of offspring. The original cancer treatment had taken a 16 hour surgery and 6 months of recovery-- this recurrence had taken the hope of having a normal life the way we were starting to envision it, the hope of future children, the hope of a cancer-free wife, and squashed all of it in the worst way.
Something was different with the recurrences though. This time, I had no inclination of doing anything but standing but by Erica's side.
We were married after her first chemotherapy treatment with a nephrostomy tube coming out of her back and no hair on her head. She had chemotherapy again just days after the wedding. Since then, I never thought to be anywhere except by my wife's side to love, care for, and support both her and my step son, our son Wylee. I embrace every moment with my family and love both of them more than I ever could have imagined. As horrible of a disease that cancer is and has been, in some sick and twisted way it has brought the three of us closer and more dependent upon each other than may have ever been possible without it.
I may have dreamed or wanted a future I could never have before, but if cancer taught me anything it’s that nothing is for certain. I thought that before this journey began I knew what I wanted. What I have learned during my wife’s battle is that cancer may have destroyed my dream but it has enhanced my love, which is a reality.
Are you partner to someone whose fertility was threatened by cancer? How did you handle it? Tell us in the comments below!