My cancer diagnosis was handed to me in relatively short order following an awful phase in my marriage. If I was to pick which was more difficult to navigate, battling cancer or a faltering marriage, hands down, I would say experiencing the turmoil of a broken home was by far worse. Contemplating why one battle was so much more debilitating for me than the other. I believe the difference in emotional severity between the two was associated with hope, or rather, the lack thereof.
Hope is powerfully medicinal and I strongly internalized it while coping with the levity of my cancer diagnosis as well as while coping with the difficulties during treatment. Hope brings perseverance in the knowledge that there is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”. While my cancer battle wasn’t without complications and setbacks, I was lucky in the sense that the treatment success for my type of cancer is high. So, it was relatively natural to heed the cancer battle cry to “never lose hope”.
In contrast, the hopelessness which engulfed the period during my faltering marriage was dark, all-encompassing, isolating, and lonely. Where I could see light in the distance encouraging me that there was a successful end to my cancer battle, during my marriage crisis, I could see nothing beyond my present painful circumstances. The heart ache I felt was physiologically real and the persistent pain in my chest during this period of time was unparalleled. In short, it was an awful time.
If anything, this chapter of my story is intended to be an ode to Matt, my husband. When we were married, over 17-years-ago, we wrote the vows that we recited to each other during our wedding ceremony. Like most, we ended ours with the traditional commitment “to have and to hold, from this day forward, in good times and in bad, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” Matt cared for me while I was sick, but before that, he persistently fought hard to maintain our marriage. In that bad time, he didn’t give up, when shamefully, I did.
I have learned that few lasting marriages manage to avoid “the hard times” that truly test the commitment to those vows. Although, Matt and I mostly kept our marital struggles private, having a strong family and friend network made it so that our situation did not go unnoticed. Over time, it was that network that helped me finally see hope in what otherwise felt like a hopeless situation.
Hope brings peace and the fortitude to persevere on the promise that there is a good ending to a difficult period. As cliché as it may sound, the truth is, everyone is battling something - whether it is a faltering marriage, a cancer diagnosis, the loss of a job, coping with the death of a parent, death of a child parenting struggles or something else. My hope and prayer for you is that you would be that friend or family network who shows that there is hope during their time of battle, because having been on the receiving end of such encouragement, love, I know what hope brings.