My Husband's Tumor

It's not a cancer story, it's a love story. With some cancer.

If you lie to your husband…each lie is a brick in a wall going up between you, and when he tells you he loves you, it’s deflected away. 

- Mary Karr, Lit

Among the many beautiful things and the many terrible things cancer will bring into your life, honesty may be the most gleaming treasure of all. 

People sometimes ask us for relationship advice, when the secret to our bond is really no secret at all: it’s honesty.

When mortality is a Saturday night date conversation, when you’ve walked through living wills and estate plans when you’re fresh into your 30s, when you’ve washed the blood from someone’s wounds and riden with them in the back of ambulances, when you’ve thrown up Mac and Cheese in front of them while delivering your baby, there’s no reason for artifice between you.

Our love has x-ray vision. It can see through bullshit and nonsense and it knows that those little lies that we tell each other — are you afraid? No. Me neither. — aren’t lies at all, but kindnesses that build a fortress around the two of us, brick by brick.

Mary is one of many women I know who are my age, and in my shoes. Across all of those miles and a cell connection that seemed determined to keep us from one another, we tearfully agreed one sunny afternoon half a nation apart that if nothing else, cancer is damn good for a marriage.

You’re damn lucky to have a healthy partner, of course.

But so are we.

We’re privileged to see life from a perspective that our peers won’t have for decades.

We’re honored to be able to live our wedding vows to the letter.

We’re ripped apart and sewn back together every day by the stunning beauty and cruelty of this life.

We’re lucky.

Because nothing creates a solid unit like a strong opponent.

It’s the basis for every sports film and underdog story throughout time: how will you get through this? Together.

One of the things I love about the Internet is how quickly it can turn the world into a small town when we know other people are hurting.

I don’t know either of these people personally, but I know enough to know they’re good humans who deserve better than the cards they were dealt. 

I also know from experience that there is really nothing harder than asking for help, whatever that help looks like. 

  • In Northeast Minneapolis, a woman finds herself suddenly a single mother with all of the financial and emotional hardships that will bring. Maybe you can send her a prayer, a vibe, or a few extra dollars
  • In Indiana, my friend’s ex-boyfriend finds himself in the terrible situation of needing a new heart. A self-employed hair stylist, he’s looking at a pile of bills and a scary future he wasn’t expecting. Maybe you can keep him in your thoughts, or spare a few bucks to ease his troubles.

There but for the grace of God go we.

Be well, my loves.

Sometimes, it feels like my whole life is on the Internet. It’s not, of course, unless one of you put a sleep cam in my room, in which case, YES I WEAR A RETAINER AT NIGHT AND I SNORE MYSELF AWAKE.

Aaron and I are good about our phones. We try to keep them from places like the dinner table and the bedroom (besides as our alarm clocks, we’re not animals), we avoid using them in front of the baby unless we’re using it to take his photo (or in extreme cases of bribery like a cross-country flight).

But it’s still a constant presence. Our jobs (as a Social Media Marketer and an Interactive Designer) revolve around the Internet. Our eyeballs spend most of the day glued to some sort of screen. Our thumbs are in danger of carpal tunnel from liking things on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

So I turned it off, all of it.

For 7 days in the North Woods with my entire family, I deleted every app and email account from my phone. I read a pile of great books. I listened to conversations with my whole self (unless I was reading, in which case I ignored everyone). I thought my own thoughts and soaked up my family instead of the glow of my phone. When I wanted to write, I used my notebooks until my hand cramped up.

I realized how reflexive it all is, to turn to this tempting little device in moments of free time, how it’s siren call can stop me mid-sentence to attend to it.

I’m back now (duh) with more respect for this wonderful tool that can bring so much good into my world (all of you) but can also steal me away from so much good (the handsome boys I live with).

I love you, Internet.