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This Is How I Overcame Cancer Testing My Marriage

December 6th, 2012 |
Emotional Support, Caregivers, Relationships

by tambre | Supporter: Hodgkin's Lymphoma    Connect


A year after her husband had wanted to quit on cancer, Tambre found herself feeling like she had nothing left to give him or their marriage.

The words just wouldn't leave my head...

"Tambre, do you here, in the presence of these witnesses, declare your commitment to Gary and choose him as the one with whom you wish to spend your life? Do you pledge to endure all of the difficulties which life may offer, even as you look forward to sharing the joys to be experienced together? Will you promise to care for Gary in the joys and sorrows of life, come what may?"

Yes. But how? Fear, denial, exhaustion and the emotional roller coaster of living with cancer had driven us apart. I could barely find the energy to breathe, never mind keep my promise to care for him "come what may." I woke up one day wondering how much longer I could keep it up. Suddenly I was facing the thought that perhaps I couldn't stay. Maybe I'd done and given everything I possibly could and it wasn't enough.

Shifting Out of Survival Mode

I asked myself if I had finally reached the moment of sheer survival. Was it me or my marriage? I knew that I could succumb to the panic, overwhelm and natural desire to bolt -all typical survival mode responses. Or, I could choose to stay and be true to those two words - "I do."

Then I got it. I had chosen to marry Gary. I had chosen to promise that no matter what, I would be there for him. Staying with him through this terrible time was a choice. I could choose to quit and leave but I was not okay with how I would feel about myself. From that moment on, each morning I asked myself, "Can I choose my marriage and being here with Gary one more day?" and each day I answered "Yes."

Gary had much more reason than I to feel a prisoner of his circumstances. He hadn't had a say in getting cancer. Most days, he chose to get up and live his life in spite of the circumstances. If he could choose to find the energy to fight for his health then I could find the strength to fight for our marriage.

After I chose to stay in our marriage, I was able to shift my emotions and the fears and worries suffocating me dissipated. The beauty of creating shifts within yourself is there is often a ripple effect. As this space opened up, it allowed Gary and I to reconnect. Choosing to commit each day in faith during the hard times opens up this kind of possibility instead of slamming shut a door forever.

A True Love to the Very End

Six months later, Gary died. There were so many moments of loving each other that would never have occurred if I'd stayed stuck in survival mode and remained frozen or, worse, if I had run. Finding freedom through choice changed my life.

Re-choosing the man I married during the worst time of our lives brought us both the most incredible gifts. When he died, we were truly, deeply in love. And for this I am very grateful.


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Tambre Leighn, MA, CPC, ELI-MP is a certified professional coach and founder of Well Beyond Ordinary, who helps cancer survivors and caregivers find the energy to go from surviving to thriving and beyond. Her personal experience caregiving for her late husband inspired Tambre to become a coach, a Stakeholder for the American Cancer Society’s Peer Grant Review Committee, a leading health advocate and blogger, and to co-create Well Beyond This, a coaching based online program for cancer survivors to help them thrive with, through, and beyond cancer. Read more about her story here.

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