Living With Cancer: To My Husband This Father’s Day

I met you when I was seventeen. I think I loved you even then. Eleven years later we were married. Two years later I was pregnant with Emily. Two years after that we had Jessica.

Our life is full of numbers. The good ones are the birthdays we’ve shared, the wedding anniversaries, all eight of them, and the parenting milestones, like the time Emily said ‘daddy’ at seven months. Then there are the bad, like the 3cm cancerous tumour in my colon and the 10-day wait for the results that would turn our world upside down.

My diagnosis was devastating to me but not for the reasons you might think. As I sat there absorbing more numbers, this time my survival statistics, I could feel your grief. You didn’t show it, you’re much too strong for that. But it was there in the slight slump of your shoulders as it dawned on you that I’d just been diagnosed with the same cancer that claimed your father.

You held my hand when I started crying and I remember thinking that I must have done something truly breathtaking in another life to have found you in this one. To be there with me, sharing this awful moment – the stuff of nightmares – when everything was crashing down around us.

In the days that followed I drifted away from you and the children as I tried to envisage what a future with cancer would look like. I disconnected. I couldn’t find the tolerance to play ‘Hungry Hippos’ over and over again. But you did. Cafe trips, playgrounds, bike rides – you took it all on with the same sense of fun and enthusiasm as always. I’ll never know how you found the strength to do that. To carry on as normal, knowing what you did.

I’m so sorry I was distant. I was trying to pull away in case the unimaginable happened. To make it easier for you to move on. But I know now that our kind of love will never be neatly slotted into an Ex-File. There was no lack of rapprochement from you, no blame, just a sense that I’d figure it all out eventually. You were right. I did. We need to unite, hold the line, and face this battle together.

A great marriage is a bit like Nigella’s chocolate torte. You don’t need much of the sugary stuff to know how satisfying it is, yet at the same time you’re pleasantly aware that, underneath it all, that biscuit base is rock-solid. It’s never going to let any of the good stuff seep away. You say you’re not romantic. I disagree. What you’ve given me of yourself this month surpasses any pricey bouquet, naff picnic or surprise trip to New York.

Sometimes I think cancer is hardest on the families. At least I have a goal. A target. A treatment plan. You have hope. You also have a full-time job, all the worry, and two small children to look after whilst I’m in hospital recovering from major surgery.

Our girls are so lucky to have you as their father. Of all my life choices, you are the best. Many would have walked away. You stay because that’s the sort of man you are, not out of a sense of duty but because the thought of leaving never even crosses your mind.

You’re humility is legendary. You also have the ability to laugh and talk nonsense until four in the morning, yet no one could accuse you of pretense. You’re the only man who can make me laugh until I’m begging for mercy. I’ve cried more happy tears during our marriage than any other sort.

I don’t know what our future holds. I hope with all my heart that I can be a part of it for as long as I can but if I can’t, and if the worst befalls me, then at least our girls have you. Who cares if you can’t tie a ponytail or remember all the names of Emily’s Barbies. These things can be learnt, whereas your love for them is intuitive.

I have a secret Father’s Day gift for you this year (because all mums of small children get to choose the presents). It’s a promise, a guarantee that I’ll fight this disease with everything I have because I refuse to accept that our numbers end here. I see my fortieth in three years time and I see your fiftieth in nine.

Most of all I see you and me and our girls. Together.

xx

This post has also appeared as a Huff Post UK Parents Featured Blog

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18 Comments

  1. June 17, 2017 / 8:17 am

    What a beautiful, brace and honest post. Sending love to you and your family xx

  2. Charlie beswick
    June 17, 2017 / 8:21 am

    What a beautiful blog. It must have been so incredibly hard to write. Wishing you a speedy recovery and an incredible 40th in the future xx

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:29 pm

      It wasn’t easy but i’m so glad I did! Thanks for commenting xx

  3. June 17, 2017 / 9:06 am

    This is so beautifully written. I’m sorry to read about your diagnosis and I wish you the very best of luck in your fight xx

  4. June 17, 2017 / 1:58 pm

    Absolutely, beautifully written in sentiment and word. Sending positive thoughts your way as you carry on with your battle. Despite everything, I’m sure you count your blessings daily. All my best on your journey. xx

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      I do! My life parameters have definitely changed in the last month. Now that sunshine seems a little brighter 🙂 xx

  5. June 17, 2017 / 2:36 pm

    I really hope you all enjoy the best Fathers Day tomorrow and that your cancer journey is a positive one. I was very moved by your story and I really am keeping everything crossed for you x

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      We had a great one thanks! Thanks also for your lovely comments xx

  6. Oh wow. This is so beautifully written, so heartfelt that it made me cry. Thank you for writing this. Cancer has come into our family recently but it warms my heart to hear when love and devotion wins through. Love to you and your family x

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:32 pm

      Thanks Maria! Sorry to make you cry though 🙁 I hope your loved one feels much better soon xx

  7. June 17, 2017 / 5:29 pm

    This is beautiful. I’m really sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but so thrilled you have such a wonderful marriage and partner to walk this hard journey with.

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      I do. He’s ace! Except when it comes to putting the washing on.. 🙂 Thanks so much for commenting xx

  8. June 17, 2017 / 9:49 pm

    This is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing and I loved reading the strength and determination behind the words.

    • June 19, 2017 / 9:34 pm

      Lots of strength, except at 3am… that’s when the wobbles start. Thanks so much for your lovely comments xx

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