By Shari Miller, Contributing Writer
The young bride smiles with joy and excitement on the day of her wedding. The fairy tale picture is laid out before her, the white dress, the scent of roses wafting through the country chapel, the I do’s and the promises of happily ever after, make her heart melt at the future that ‘s before her.
Many times these dreams come to fruition, developing into a beautiful bond far better that we could of other dreamed. Other times, the fairy tale crashes like crystal falling to the ground when the newness of marriages wears off and the fairy tale images vanish and change, like the changing of the seasons. The season of winter can set into a marriage all to soon, and the bitter cold of the silent, still months can ice over and create damage to the heart and soul of a marriage if wise choices are not made.
When a diagnosis of cancer is brought into a marriage the experience can seemingly set this long dark season into something that feels like you can never escape from. It can be as if you and your husband are alone on the frozen tundra with darkness and cold filling the very core of your being and finding relief is not and option.
On August 3rd, 2003, a breast cancer diagnosis shook the foundations of our marriage, took us through a long hard winter, and brought us back to the season of spring with renewed strength and determination.
Cancer is a hard thing. Much harder than people looking in from the outside can ever imagine. Your belief system is shaken, your emotions run wild with fears of the unknown, you question God and try with all your might to hold it all together.
When you’re faced with cancer you have two choices.
You can give up, wallow in self pity, let Satan declare victory as you lock yourself away from everyone, including the support and love of your spouse. Or, you can choose to look beyond the circumstances and make a commitment to glorify God through it all, with your spouse by your side, supporting and loving you every step of the way.
From the beginning of our marriage my husband Bill and I have had a life verse for our marriage which is, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV) We’ve made a choice to keep God at the center of our marriage, in doing so this union has been able to withstand many storms. It’s not to say that we’ve handle each situation perfectly, but making sure God was a part of who we are, gave our marriage the opportunity to be built on a firm foundation.
When God envisioned marriage He didn’t plan it with each person looking out for their own interest first, but rather each working together as a team, thinking of the other more highly than himself so that marriages could grow and flourish. When the choice of a “me first mentality”, comes into play that’s when tensions start to crumble and erode away at a marriage.
When the realities of cancer become part of everyday life for a husband and wife, you are faced with a do or die situation. Some may want to run, and say, “This is not what I signed up for!” while others may choose to stay regardless of the cost. When a cancer strikes a marriage, choosing to stay is the only option that glorifies God. When you dig down deep and cling to God with all your might, your marriage becomes a living example of who Christ is and what He can do. When you choose to stay, you find out what it means to truly love your spouse, regardless of how hard it may seem.
I can think back to when I was recovering from surgery and had seven JP drains attached to my body with plastic looking hand grenades at the end of each one. Every few hours the drains had to be wiped down with alcohol and cleaned to help with the healing processes. I was ready to take care of everything myself, when my husband walked in, turned on our song by Steven Curtis Chapman called, “We Will Dance,” and he loving took care of the task, making sure everything was fine. He said that I never had to do it, and that it was his job to take care of me. He put aside his own needs and wants and truly showed what it meant to love, putting the following verses into action, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)
In talking with my husband about what it meant for me to have cancer and for us to be married, he said, “I’ve always taken the marriage vows seriously. I meant it when I said to love, honor and cherish, through sickness and in health. It’s not a vow that I am willing to break, or that God wants me to break.”
“When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.” Numbers 30:2 (NIV)
Almost ten years after my original cancer diagnosis, 2 1/2 years into my stage IV breast cancer diagnosis, and over 20 years into our marriage, we (God, my husband and I) are still bound together by love, commitment and choice. Through all the bad of cancer, the surgeries, the chemotherapy treatments, radiation treatments, hair loss, injections, infusions and so much more, we choose to love. We choose to put God first. We choose to think of the other more highly than ourselves.
In my husbands words, “We choose to move forward one day at a time. When the road gets to overwhelming we then choose to move forward one hour at a time and even one minute at a time. Giving up through the hard, unlovable, scary moments is not an option.“
The only option we have is to put God at the center of our marriage, and move forward in His grace, strength and love, following His plan for our lives, while giving Him the glory each and every step of the way.
“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Mark 10:9 (NIV)
Have you and your spouse ever faced challenges in your marriage that have seemed impossible to overcome, mountains of trials that seemed insurmountable? What have you done to face those as a couple?