How Cancer Saved My Marriage

hera-marriage-love-spells4Before I got married I never thought that it was something that I would do. I actually never wanted to get married.  It wasn’t in the future that I planned for myself. I was one of those girls that just wanted to have fun, focus on myself, my studies, and my career. Marriage was not for me. However, sometimes the Universe has other plans for you.

My husband and I dated for 3 years before we jumped the broom and I have to admit that in the beginning I thought it was probably the wrong move for us. We were both young, I was only 23 and still in college trying to complete my undergrad degree. I had never lived on my own and for all intents and purposes was a daddy’s girl. I was spoiled and selfish and used to getting my way all the time.

In hindsight, I wasn’t ready for the level of commitment, selflessness, and compromise that comes with the institution of marriage. Not to mention I was also very immature. I wanted to continue living the single girl lifestyle. I wanted to hang out with my single girlfriends, go to clubs, and be a party girl. I wanted to do all of the things that other 23 years old were doing, but I also wanted to get married because I was in love. The problem was that I didn’t know how to reconcile my old life with my new life and for a long time I didn’t. We didn’t.

Lamar and I were pretty much “married singles” for the first few years of our marriage. Meaning we were able to check off that Married box you see on applications, but in reality we were still living our single separate lives. We had separate back accounts, split the household bills in half, and pretty much just did our own thing. We were sort of like roommates that slept together. We continued this way for years into our marriage. 

It wasn’t until he got diagnosed  with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma  at the age of 30 that we realized it was time to grow up. Up until that point we were both living our lives individually with no real regard to each other or our marriage. His battle with cancer was the hardest thing that either one of us had ever endured at that time. I never had someone so close to me diagnosed with such a life threatening illness.  Most of us hear cancer and automatically foresee a death sentence. At least for me it did.

For me, cancer was worse than being diagnosed with HIV or Aids. People with HIV/Aids can live for years as long as they take appropriate care of themselves and take their medications. I used to manage an HIV clinic at one of NYC’s busiest hospitals and I saw first hand how these patients can live long and fulfilling lives, but there are no life saving medications to treat or cure cancer. There is chemo and radiation, but sometimes those treatments cause more harm than good.

No one really knows what causes cancer or how someone gets it. One minute you can be perfectly healthy and then the next your balled over on the living room floor in the most excruciating pain that you have ever experienced. If you’re lucky enough you catch it in its early stages, but if not the disease can slowly eat away at you from inside. It’s like a parasite that you can’t see, but  know is there. Unlike protecting yourself from HIV/AIDS by using condoms there’s nothing you can do to prevent cancer. It’s just one of those things that happen. 

When Lamar got diagnosed I thought it was a sign from God telling me “stop taking him for granted because if you don’t appreciate him I’ll take him from you”. Never had I been so scared, confused, and sad. I felt like a child lost in the middle of an amusement park searching for mom and dad not knowing if I would ever see them again.  I felt alone and afraid. And even though I was scared I gave the appearance that I was strong for Lamar’s sake. I knew he was terrified and would have to give his all to fight this disease.

There really wasn’t anyone for me to talk to or to comfort me because everyone had their own lives to live. I remember feeling really alone at that time. Similar to being the new kid at school and being ostracized because you’re different.

It was during this time that I realized that the lives we had been living had to change somehow. We could not continue on the path we were on or our marriage wouldn’t last. I put on my supportive wife hat and helped him in every way I could to fight the cancer. I was by his side for every chemotherapy treatment. I remember spending night after night at NYU hospital when he was getting his treatments. I would wake up every morning, go to work, and then return to the hospital just to be by his side.

That experience was tough on me, but I know it was even more difficult for him. How do you fight a disease that can very well kill you? How do you not think about dying  when every day is a battle to stay alive? How does one despite that, still manage to find the courage and strength not to give up? He somehow did and after 8 months of extensive chemotherapy the cancer was no longer in his  body. With God’s blessing he has been in remission for over 10 years. 

Him and I have come a long way since then. We are now both truly committed to our marriage. We are homeowners and gone are the days with separate bank accounts and splitting bills down the middle. We are one. And despite whatever arguments and disagreements we may have from time to time he is the one that I can count on during good and bad times.

Most of us spend a lifetime searching for someone to complete us, to make us happy, to spend the rest of our lives with, but then when we find that person we take them for granted. By the time we realize that we should have treated them better it may be too late.

Marriage truly is the hardest job I have ever had, but it also has been the most rewarding and in today’s day of technology, the internet and social networking sites temptation is just a mouse click away.  Sex permeates  every aspect of media from the TV shows and movies that we watch to the music that we listen to. It’s hard not to notice.

Music lyrics often talk about how great love is and it is great, most of the time.  Sometimes external influences will blind us into believing that if our relationships aren’t like those detailed in the songs or movies then it isn’t love. No one ever tells you that you can fall in and out of love with the same person, or that romance is something you  have to work at every single day of your marriage. The stresses of everyday life can become burdensome on a relationship and when there’s bills to pay, children to take care of, and work to do it can leave you feeling exhausted, unappreciated, and even resentful causing one to feel as if they want out of that loving relationship they were once in.

Statistics say that 50% of marriages end in divorce, but I believe that divorce is the easy way out. It’s so much more difficult to decide to stay together and try to work through your problems. If the love existed before why would it be impossible to get it back? It’s not impossible it just takes a commitment from both individuals.

But commitment, dedication, love, and joy can grow only when you nourish them together. If you allow yourself to believe that relationships aren’t hard work then that’s when you’re relationship is in trouble. Of course relationships are hard work. Anything worth having takes hard work. If it were easy then everyone would always be happy in there relationships. But it’s impossible to be happy in your relationship every day of your life.

Life isn’t always happy and when times get difficult most people are not willing to put in the work. We work hard at our jobs, at school, at raising children so why not work hard for our relationships? Are they not as important? Do they not reap the same rewards?

Communication and respect are the foundation of a long lasting relationship. There will be good times and there will be bad times. But deciding to continue to love each other through the bad times is what will make your relationship stand the test of time. It’s easy to love someone when times are good, but the real work comes through the hardships. That is the time when you will need each other the most and that is when your commitment to one another is truly tested. 

They say that nothing worth having ever comes easy, if this is true,  why is it that when it comes to relationships people aren’t willing to put in the work? 


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