I found the love of my life in 2013. A few months later, he was diagnosed with cancer for the second time in his life. Then two years after we married, he was diagnosed with cancer a third time. In both instances he battled, survived, and has regained his health.
I wrote the piece below a week after my love discovered he had cancer for the second time. I never published it. I want to share this with you now because it attempts to capture what living with uncertainty feels like, with such great amounts of both fear and love.
You want scared? All right, here is scared: I am afraid to write about my fear.
Because writing about what I'm afraid of makes it real. Writing about the tears and words unsaid and gripping of fingers and tightness in my chest, reveals the tentative existence of my happy life.
Getting there, to the place where the fear lives, is harrowing.
I don't know if I want to go down that deep or that far into the dark cave. Not when I've been trying so hard to stay out in the sunlight. You're asking me to lower myself down into the abyss, you're asking me to allow the cold to permeate my bones while I stand out in the snow, naked.
How can I honor this fear? How can I describe the beast? The fear is a dragon, laying in wait out of sight. But I know she's there. She promises to tear me apart with her claws. She promises pain. I have no armor to shield me this time. I am done fighting and have lain down my sword.
I don't even know if I have the words. I could write and write and write and I still wouldn't find a way to accurately share what this feels like.
But clumsily, like an infant attempting to walk, I shall try. All I can do is try.
I found the man who completes me in every way and I learned last week that he might have cancer. Again. For the first time in my life I am with someone who I am not afraid to be myself with. I don't want this taken away.
Why is this happening now? I just found courage. With him I am not scared. With him I dance, sing, laugh like never before. With him my love is limitless.
What is amazing to me is that he isn't scared to love me. He has every reason to be afraid to love again. We have both experienced difficult and traumatic love relationships. But he has dissolved all his inhibitions and reasons for keeping himself held back. With no excuse and with his heart telling him to risk, he went into this relationship whole-hearted. I found my courage to love him with such abandon that it cracked him wide open.
What did I have to lose? I was in love with life, in love with me for the first time in my life. I didn't need a man to feel love. I just felt it, damn it.
I felt it when I got up in the morning, sunlight flooding my bedroom, where only I had ever slept; I felt it when I prepared myself for the day, making coffee, taking a shower, carefully choosing my clothes, and packing my lunch. I loved taking care of me. I was very good at it. Then off to work and when I was home again, I was in my domain, my own precious haven. Here I could watch what I wanted to watch, write, or read or waste time on the Internet. I could cook myself a great meal or eat leftovers. Here, in my place, I needed no one. I had myself, my cats and that was good enough. It was all I wanted.
Then he came into my life. Back into my life, I should say. After 18 years he decided to look me up. And when we realized we were both single, we talked about it: he had liked me a lot back in the day and regretted not making a go of it. In fact, he'd never forgotten me. I had loved him, when I was a young woman who didn't know her own worth. I let him go because he didn't seem to want to be wanted. It was my gift to him, my sacrifice.
We both grew up, through failed relationships, tough marriages, and attempts at writing careers. In our late-forties now, we know who we are.
As I radiate confidence and happiness, how could he not love me? I have become the person I am meant to be. His eyes that were blind to this radiance 18 years ago, see me as if for the first time. So, after corresponding for a few weeks, he told me he loved me. "Where did that come from?" I asked. He only knew that he did. That this was not like any other love he had ever felt for anyone before.
With regrets come wanting to make things right. So it is right, all of it. We treat our love with reverence and care, as if nurturing a seedling. We tend to our wounded hearts with the respect they deserve for having lived through such violence and neglect. And each day we make things right for each other.
We continue to do so. As I finish writing this piece, I realize, nothing has changed. I can fear and I can love and we will still have each other. However long, however short.
What is important is that I have allowed my heart to open. Whatever shows up, I am stronger, more vulnerable, and less closed off. It's all right. I would never want to go back to safety again. Whole-hearted is what I want to be, the only way I can be.