I Survived My 20s – Cancer

[Monthly Columnist – Wendy van Eyck] – My husband has cancer.

I find myself wanting to insert this sentence into every conversation that I have. It doesn’t really matter what the conversation is about. It could be that the cashier says, “That’ll be 3.25 please”.

In reply, I blurt out, “My husband has lymphoma”.

Or I could be on the phone with a supplier telling me that they are upset about something and I hear a conversation in my head saying,

“Do you think I really care? My husband has cancer!”

I want everyone to know. I need to share this tragedy, this heartbreak, this disruption.

I’ve thought about how if I was pregnant I’d want to let the whole world know about all the good things that were coming our way. I think this is similar – except obviously it’s not good news – but the need to share, to offer my pain like a plate of cookies to everyone I meet is still there: tangible and concrete and empty.

No matter how many times I say it my husband still has cancer.

It wasn’t supposed to happen this way.

We were twenty-something, newlyweds with dreams and hopes and the taste of unreality on our lips. We were fresh off the plane from a 7-week trip around South East Asia, when we were told that the radiologist had found a suspect lesion in my husbands’ spleen and it could be any number of things.

One of those things it could be was cancer.

All of sudden fears start falling from the ceiling taking shape in the form of questions:

Will he live?
Will I be a widow in my first year of marriage?
What will chemotherapy be like?
Will our marriage make it through this?
Will we be able to have children?
Will our marriage make it through that?
Will he live?

No amount of grounding can make you brave in the face of fear like that.

Which is why I went home and cried. I cried in my office. I cried in the car. I cried alone. I cried with my husband. I cried till I realized that you can’t cry forever.

So the next day, I woke up next to my husband, held his hand and we walked into surgery together with a hope and prayer that we’d get through this.

And honestly some day’s coping is all we do.

Some evenings I’m so tired it’s all I can do to defrost a meal some kind friend has delivered over the last six months. Some nights when my husband has woken me up sick again I’ve been short with him and asked him why he can’t just let me sleep – as if this whole thing is about me, not him. Some mornings I’ve dragged myself to work motivated only by determination that cancer will not win this.

It’s not all doom and gloom though.

There are moments, sometimes days, when beauty is all I see. Cancer brings that with it. It reminds you that life is delicate, flimsy like the pattern on a snowflake.

Cancer makes you want to live. It makes you want to choose the life that you’ve always wanted and not settle for okay.

Or alright for now.

Or this will do.

It opens your eyes to the value of little things: like holding hands or laughing at a shared joke or simply sitting together in silence.

I didn’t want this to be my survival story. My husband didn’t want it to be his.

If we’d had a choice, we wouldn’t have chosen cancer to be part of our story. I desperately want my husband to survive cancer so that our story can continue, so that survival will only be one chapter not the whole tale.

In many ways we’re blessed, his prognosis is good and his treatment is almost over. I’m starting to allow hope to speak to my flimsy heart that we won’t just be known as the couple that survived cancer but as the couple who helped others find hope in their own desperate situations.

Wendy van Eyck lives in South Africa where she runs a 24-hour Gospel Music Television channel that broadcasts to 47 African countries. She loves traveling with her husband and they’re currently planning next years trip. Her website www.ilovedevotionals.com features devotionals that range from learning about God while doing laundry to discovering biblical truths while caring for her cancer fighting husband. Follow her on twitter: @wendyvaneyck