Our lives have changed immensely since that frightening, confusing, life-changing, cold February night. That morning was normal ― happy. We woke up, went to work, came home early, and played with our two wild little girls. Not a true stress in the world. We had everything going for us ― we were young, crazy in love, had two amazing daughters, loved our jobs, were financially stable, and I was 20 weeks pregnant with our third child, our first son. It almost feels like our lives went on “pause,” and have been on pause ever since. It all happened so fast.
A normal appointment turned into STAT testing and procedures. I was so confused and scared, I know you were, too. I know that you were just as thrown off your feet, despairing, fearful. I know it took everything from you not to break down like I was when the doctor told us what the x-rays showed. I know you wanted to break down, too, but you didn’t. Instantly, you let me fall into your arms, where you told me it was all going to be alright, that you’re in this with me, together. You were there for me.
While I was too distraught, too sad to ask, understand or listen to the doctors, you were there to ask questions, find out all that you could, and what to do for my new diagnosis, cancer.
So many things to think about, life was going to change so much with doctor appointments every day, frequent treatments, was our unborn baby going to survive? If I didn’t survive, I was going to be leaving you to raise two/ three children on your own. I had to drop out of nursing school and quit work. Our income was cut in half, bringing money in was all on your shoulders, now. You were now the primary parent of our children, because I was getting so sick from the treatments. You gained a new role. You were not just my husband but caretaker, too.
“You’ve made it almost impossible to be sad. ... You made everything so much better. You always do.”
I don’t know if all caretakers get overlooked, or if it’s just that you’ve gone above and beyond as a husband, father and caretaker. I often think that this all has to be harder on you. I know I go through and experience everything physically, but I hope you know I totally mean it when I say you’ve made this horrible disease bearable. MORE than bearable. Almost easy.
You’ve made it almost impossible to be sad. You keep me so positive and you keep my mind completely off of it. When I do get sad, you are so unbelievably comforting. When I’m sick you are superman ― you almost take my sickness away by doing everything you can to take away the pain. You let me rest, you care for the kids all day, you make dinners, even when you have to go to work.
You take off work all of the time to care for me. You take me to my appointments. You’ve been to every single appointment that I’ve had, which are sometimes every day, all day. You’ve stayed with me throughout every hospital stay. You’ve given me my medications, injected me with my shots. You’ve researched my medications, you’ve researched all you could to help me beat this. You shaved your head for me when my hair started falling out. You’ve shaved your head every day since the day I lost it. You convince me every time I break down to you about it on how beautiful I am without my hair.
We had our baby boy, and he was perfect. He helped me fight cancer, too. He’s our angel baby that was fighting with me as I went through chemotherapy, in the womb. After we had him, we thought it was all over. We were done with chemo forever. We could move on with our young lives. Our lives were off “pause.”
But no, when we brought the new baby to the cancer center to show him off, the doctor shared devastating news once again. Cancer was still there. In fact, worse, because it was resistant to the first treatment. My horrible, life-threatening symptoms came back. New treatment, more vigorous chemotherapy had to start. The doctor told us I would most definitely lose fertility. Now this is a permanent side effect that won’t come back. At 22 and 24, we physically can’t have any more children. I was devastated, I couldn’t bear it. I know you wanted to drop to your knees too. But you didn’t.
Once again, you were there for me. I could cry into your arms as you comforted me. You stayed with me once again through all of the chemos, helped me deal with all of the horrible side effects. You made everything so much better. You always do.
“I don’t want to go. ... The thought of leaving you is so overwhelming, I can’t stand it. My heart breaks to think of you without me. But the reality is that it’s a possibility.”
When I tell you my fears and anxieties about death, you reassure me that there’s nothing to worry about, that we’re going to beat this. Sometimes, you actually convince me that it will all be okay and that there’s no way I’m going to die from this. But I know you worry about it, too. I know it’s in the back of your mind, but you have to stay strong for me.
While it’s heart-wrenching to think about or imagine, I know it’s a real possibility. I don’t want to go. I don’t want to leave you. I don’t want to leave our children. The thought of leaving you is so overwhelming, I can’t stand it. My heart breaks to think of you without me. But the reality is that it’s a possibility. Although it’s hard to think about, it is such a relief to me to know that my children will be more than alright. I know that with you, my children will grow up smart, happy, loved, successful, and well cared for. That would be one of my wishes if I was gone, but because of you, it’s not a worry.
Ryan, there are no words to ever describe how thankful I am for you. What you do for me is amazing. What you go through every day with me is rough, but you keep a beautiful, contagious smile on your face. I want you to know how unbelievable grateful I am to have you in my life. You are absolutely the best thing that I’ve ever had in my life. You are a gift sent from God.
From the moment I met you, I knew I’d love you forever, that you were something precious, perfect. After three years of marriage, I still get butterflies when looking into your eyes. You’ve made me a better person, given me a more fulfilled life, and you’ve given me a happiness that I didn’t know existed. I think that we’re on such a deeper level, that the words “I love you” will never be enough to tell you how I feel for you. But I love you, Ryan Lehmann. I LOVE YOU with all my heart, forever.