When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015, my boyfriend Michael and I were still in the beginning stages of our relationship. I told him that the next couple of months, even years, wouldn’t be easy — physically or mentally — and that if he needed to leave, I wouldn’t hold any ill feelings against him. I remember when I told him this, he just looked at me with that smile that made me fall in love with him and said, “Shut up — when’s the next doctor's appointment?” And just like that, Michael never faltered.
He was at every single chemo session, surgery and appointment, and he even shaved his head when I lost my hair. He was with me during my lowest of lows and during my sweetest victories. Anytime I would feel disheartened or down, he would just hold my hand and whisper to me, “Stronger together."
During my treatment, Michael and I would watch other survivors ring the victory bell in the lobby. It was so moving and empowering, and I remember wanting so badly for that to be me. Michael always assured me we would get to that chapter. Sure enough, in October 2015, I was officially done with my cancer treatment and considered cancer-free! Michael was right there next to me when I rang that bell. As tears of joy streamed down my face, Michael came over and put his head to mine and said, “I told you we would get to this chapter — stronger together.”
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Throughout our journey, I've garnered a few things that have helped our relationship grow despite its difficult circumstances.
- Be completely honest with each other. Say how you’re feeling on both sides, as patient and caregiver. Be mindful of each other’s feelings.
- Think of fun things to do, despite your cancer diagnosis — even if it's something casual, such as a movie night in or a game night.
- Give each other independent time. I made sure Michael still had his guys’ nights, and I spent time with just my family and friends.
- And of course, always say "I love you."
Two years have gone by, doctor’s appointments are scarcer now, our hair has grown back, and Michael and I have adjusted well to our new normal. On July 3rd, 2018, during a visit at Roswell Park, Michael and I walked by that infamous victory bell again. Michael paused for a moment in front of the bell and reflected upon all of our moments and triumphs together at Roswell Park. He looked at me and asked, “Remember when all we wanted to do was get to the chapter when you got to ring the bell?" I smiled and nodded while he reiterated, “Stronger together.”
Michael then grabbed both of my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “Here’s to the next chapter.” Just like that, Michael got down on one knee and asked me to start the next chapter of our lives as his wife. He took this spot of importance and victory for me, and he made it even more special and beautiful than I could ever have imagined.
So cancer may have interrupted my life, but it made me realize how lucky I was to have a man like Michael in it. We are getting married August 24, 2019, and are definitely excited for this new chapter!