‘Three months before our wedding day, I was diagnosed with cancer. I offered him an out — but he didn’t take it.’

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“The time between saying ‘yes’ and saying ‘I do’ was shorter for us than most. Yet, by the time we spoke our vows to one another, nothing was as we expected it to be.

We met in August. He told me he loved me on September 22nd. We were engaged just after midnight on New Year’s Day and immediately began planning our small, intimate wedding for the first anniversary of those three little words.

We were so in love. But love comes easy, especially early in a relationship. We both knew that. We didn’t move so quickly simply because we were in love. We did so because we had no doubt the other was exactly the partner we wanted in life.

We talked about everything. Big, little, hard, scary, unlikely. Hopes, dreams, plans. Everything.

And we had no doubt.

We all know it is easier to say a thing than it is to do it, though. And, quite suddenly, our words were put to the test.

Three months before our wedding day, I was diagnosed with cancer.

Cancer runs rampant in my family, it was one of the things we discussed. And while I did fully expect to be affected one day, I wasn’t expecting it then. I was young and I thought I was I completely healthy. I felt fine. I couldn’t even remember the last time I had a cold. But a lump near my collar bone was growing noticeable enough to cause concern.

What followed was a whirlwind of appointments, scans, tests, biopsies, and talks of treatment plans, side effects, and survival rates.

While we had already had many important conversations in the short time before we were engaged, we now had discussions of great consequence with a true need for sincerity.

I offered him an out — but he didn’t take it. He never hesitated.

We completed a near-emergency-speed cycle with a fertility clinic to preserve our future children (our embryos) after learning the cancer treatments would likely cause me to become infertile.

I submitted myself to a course of radiation therapy and, while I was allowed a short break in treatment for our wedding and honeymoon, I had another surgery, countless more tests, and chemotherapy awaiting me when we returned home.

On top of that, I had begun the process of closing up my successful photography studio because of the life-changing diagnosis and John’s employment was so up-in-the-air that he actually went on a job interview the morning of our wedding day. With medical bills looming, we knew we had to back out of our contract to buy our first home together and, instead, we moved into a rental apartment.

Nothing was as we expected it would be as our wedding day approached.

We had gone from the bliss of a newly engaged couple planning our wedding and dreaming of our future together, to the chaos of life as a cancer patient and caregiver, each day with the possibility of seeing our nightmares turned to reality.

Still, while everything around us was uncertain, we had no doubt in each other.

Our love for each other and the love and support of our family and friends lifted us up above the chaos to where we could still clearly see our future together — whether it be days, months, or years.

“I promise to always be open and honest with you.

I will be devoted to you and true to our relationship.

I promise to love you unconditionally;

to be supportive and understanding

for better, for worse,

for richer, for poorer,

in sickness and in health,

all the days of my life.

From this day forward you shall not walk alone.

My arms will be your shelter.

My heart will be your home.”

We tested out our vows before we ever spoke them and we entered into our marriage knowing those vows were spoken with true conviction.

When I look back on our wedding day, I can almost completely forget all the circumstances we faced at that time and remember it fondly as one of the best moments of my life.

One of the few moments I had no doubt.

Today, we celebrate our 13th Wedding Anniversary.

I am thrilled to report it is with no new major health concerns, with our family completed by having three amazing kids despite great infertility challenges, with John having secure employment with the same company for nearly thirteen years, and with us owning a wonderful home in which we hope to see our kids grow to adults.

Getting here was nothing like we expected, but being together through it all was everything.

Of that, I have no doubt.”

Bride with cancer stands with arms around groom
Courtesy of Elizabeth Joyce

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth Joyce of I May Never Write a Book. The story originally appeared here. Submit your story here, and be sure to subscribe to our best love stories here.

Read more of Elizabeth’s emotional journey:

‘The woman who gave birth to my twin daughters is a lot of things, but she is not their mother.’

‘For one brief moment, all was as it should be. Suddenly, without any warning, the path crumbled beneath our feet. I was severely hemorrhaging. I was bleeding out.’

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