We just celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary on February 5th, 2017 and as I reflect back over those years of marriage, I am struck with how much Wiley still loves me. I know it sounds like I am surprised, but in a way, I am. The last 14 months have been the most difficult of our life together. Wiley saw me go through things that no husband should ever have to witness. It was scary and stressful, but Wiley never left my side. He never had a harsh word with me or took out his fear and frustration on me. He supported all of my decisions and actively participated in my treatment. I stepped out of all of my roles and responsibilities and Wiley picked them all up and completed them without complaint. He is the partner that you dream of...and he loves me.
Cancer can suck the life out of a marriage and the divorce statistics for cancer are depressing! A 2009 study found that men are six times more likely to leave their wife with cancer than a woman leaving her husband with a similar diagnosis. So, right when you need the love and support the most, you get abandoned. I seriously cannot imagine what it would have been like for me going through all that I did, alone.
I believe that the love that Wiley and I have, has actually gotten stronger over the years. But why? Looking back, there are definite reasons why all the trauma and drama have cemented us together and made us a united team.
- Wiley and I communicate regularly. We talk about our finances, our troubles, our fears.
- We feel each other's pain. Wiley sat with me quietly more than once and cried with me.
- We both celebrate each other's accomplishments and support each other's dreams.
- We are a team, but we recognize that we are also independent and need alone time.
- We don't fight. Sure, we disagree, but we accept our differences and respect them.
- Wiley and I are best friends. We do things with each other to make the other happy.
- We never say things we cannot take back. We don't swear or disrespect each other, ever.
- We laugh a lot and poke fun at our deficiencies, but we don't criticize or try to change the other person. We love each other with all of our faults.
- We plan things to look forward to like concerts and vacations. Times to bond and have fun.
Even if you don't have cancer, life can take a toll on a marriage, especially when you get up into double digits. Finding the common ground, the humor and absurdity in life keeps things fun, new and vital. When was the last time you and your husband did something really fun? If it has been a while, plan something, start talking to each other and look at them and remember what it was that attracted you to them in the first place. Start holding hands, going out to dinner or taking a walk. Simple time together is good for the soul.
My cancer journey has been a hellish experience, but it has also been the most enlightening. Without breast cancer, I don't know if I would have found my public voice to write and share intimate details of my life and experience. Cancer can be fought with all of the latest medical treatments, but LOVE is the best defense!