Coping with Cancer as a Young Couple
Kevin and I met on Dyngus Day 2010 and it was love at first sight. In fact, I told all my friends that night that I had met my husband! I was 24 years old and dating the man of my dreams. The first year of our relationship was perfect. We were happy and in love with a very bright future ahead. But when I was 25, I started to get sick. I had monthly doctor’s appointments for an entire year to figure out what was wrong.
In January of 2013, after several surgeries and procedures, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I'm not going to say it didn't put stress on our relationship but Kevin never left my side.
In fact, for months he was secretly planning our engagement. On one unsuspecting February night, Kevin and I went out for dinner and he popped the question! That wasn’t it for surprises. He arranged to have all of our friends and family waiting in the bar for an impromptu engagement party. I still think this was the best night of my life! No silly cancer diagnosis was going to stop him from carrying out his grand plan.
One week later I started my cancer treatment at Roswell Park.
During my four months of treatment, I learned a few important lessons about dealing with cancer while in a committed relationship:
- Be realistic about your expectations: You have to be honest about what you want and need. Don’t assume your partner can read your mind. For example, I had daily radiation treatments and I didn’t expect Kevin to leave work every day to come with me for a five minute session, but I did expect him to be there when he could. Be very open about the type of support you need.
- Make decisions together: A huge decision we made very quickly was in regards to our future family. After extensive research, we decided to extract, fertilize and freeze my eggs to ensure a better chance at pregnancy in the future. We had never really discussed having children but decided that we didn’t want to lose that option. Make fertility a priority before treatment.
- Be honest about how you feel: If you’re sick and nauseous from chemo don’t be afraid to say it. Don’t cook dinner or clean if it's too difficult. When the radiation burns bother you or your stomach is turning, ask for help. Trust me, it’s easier to ask than to wait around for someone to offer. Being diagnosed with cancer as a young adult is super scary! Be honest about your fears. Your partner is probably just as scared but wants to be strong for you. Find comfort in those shared feelings and work through it together.
- Communicate: Communication is an issue in the beginning because there is just so much to discuss. It was hard for Kevin to just sit and listen. When I was upset, it was easier for him to just comfort me and say “It’s going to be ok." We had to work on actually listening to each other and allowing each other to feel a certain way.
- Be patient with your body: Before, during and after treatment my body changed drastically. I am still dealing with self-esteem issues from the scars and weight difference. We are still working through this, but Kevin tells me I'm beautiful every day and that my scars are just battle wounds - I earned them.
- Prepare for the financial burden: Finances were a huge deal during treatment. I couldn't work so Kevin had to pay for all the household bills along with all my medical bills. And, we couldn't go out and have fun because we were broke all the time. But Kevin never made me feel bad for not being able to contribute. There are a lot of options and available resources to help cover the costs of treatment. Try not to stress about it and just focus on getting better.
So after three major surgeries, five rounds of chemo, and four weeks of external and internal radiation therapy at Roswell Park, I am cancer free! We recently got married and went on an amazing honeymoon where cancer was the farthest thing from our minds. I have to say that love got me through my cancer diagnosis and treatment. During the scariest times, Kevin was my rock. I think his unwavering love and support helped me beat cancer and keeps me healthy today. We went through the hardest times imaginable and came out stronger than ever.