• jon-asato-246160

    Opening My Heart After Cancer

    I met my husband just about two years after I had finished cancer treatments. 

    I was still raw. I was terrified every day that I was relapsing. I had no idea how to have a new normal in my life, let alone know how to make a relationship a part of it.

    Cancer was something that would always be a part of who I am and whoever I met following cancer would have no idea, which meant that I was going to have to be the one to not only tell them, but to help them understand my “baggage.”

    Who doesn’t have baggage coming into a relationship? This is true; however, my baggage would affect most areas of my life including love, self-confidence, and intimacy.

    After I met my now-husband, I was scared. I was scared to talk to him; I mean really talk to him about myself. I was scared that the GVH (graft vs. host) scars would be visible to him and that I would seem ugly. The story, while comedic now, goes that he asked me to be his girlfriend for the first time and I said no.

    I really, truly liked him and loved spending time with him; however, my fears were too great. I knew that I needed to start being honest about my cancer experience. After multiple serious conversations about what I had been through, what I had seen friends go through, and what I was still dealing with, my husband asked me, again, to be his girlfriend — and this time, I said yes!

    I’d like to say that once I was in a relationship, all my doubts and fears disappeared and my self-confidence was completely restored. But this was not the case.

    Sicknesses and ailments came that now not only terrified me, but terrified the other person that I brought into the equation. I still struggled with being able to love myself again, which made it that much harder for me to allow someone else to love me. I had been so hardened by the friends I lost during cancer that I didn’t (and wouldn’t) allow myself to believe that anyone else would stay with me after cancer.

    Having relationships after cancer doesn’t just add another person to your equation, it’s adds a whole new family and another set of friends. I didn’t do any public service announcements to tell everyone about my cancer but it was something that, after time, I chose not to hide. I was open with my husband’s family and his friends. I chose to let them see the strength I had rather than the fears that seemed to overwhelm me at times. The only thing harder than telling my future husband that I could not give him a family was having to tell his parents that I was not someone who could give them grandchildren in a traditional sense. But they continued to love me just the same.

    Beating cancer was one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but surviving my cancer has been the bigger challenge.

    I push to survive every day now, and the best part is that I have someone alongside me to do it with. Everyone may not get their “fairytale ending”, but I am so happy that I got mine. My husband is the greatest man; he is so strong and confident in all the areas I am not. He is reassuring even when he is scared. And, when I had to share with him that cancer would also affect having a future family, he took everything in stride and supported me. I have been through the ringer — but so has he.

    Supporting me in the aftermath of cancer is not easy; learning that we would not have our own biological children is a loss that we still grieve, but I have found someone who may not have been there for that chapter of my life, but who certainly understands all of those pieces of me.

    Bottom line…relationships are hard. They’re intimidating and they require work, even without adding cancer to the equation! When you find that right person, however, they will accept you for who you are, including your cancer. And they won’t mind the extra “work,” finances, and fears that come with someone who is a cancer survivor.

     


    About the Author 

    Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 10.47.14 AMPaige Strassner is one of our 13thirty participants! She graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College in 2013 with a B.S. in Nursing. She currently works at University of Rochester Medical Center in the Medical Intensive Care unit.  She enjoys spending time with family and friends, singing, and exercising.