My grandmother had passed at the age of 34 from breast cancer when my dad was just five years old. Following family screening, I’d known for some time that my father, sister and I all carried the BRCA gene, but you never think about what life with cancer would be like, until you have to.
Travers and I were living in abroad in Singapore when the diagnosis came. We were engaged and in our late 20’s and looking forward to the wedding, but our plans were all of a sudden looking very different.
Very quickly, we packed up and moved back Australia, moving in with my parents. We found it very fortunate that as we had been together for many years, we knew each another and our families incredibly well.
Whilst we knew this diagnosis would test us, there was never a doubt in either of our minds, that our relationship would not withstand the challenge that cancer presented.
By moving in with my parents, we were able let go of some of the daily stresses that would have landed on our (Travers) shoulders, like paying for rent, getting groceries or keeping on top of housework. They sound trivial, but when you have cancer, every bit of help, helps.
The decision to live with my parents also meant that Travers could just focus on work and me. He came to numerous appointments with my clinical team and helped to be a middleman – especially when some of the medical jargon was just too much to digest.
I can safely say there was nothing romantic about having cancer, and we didn’t go out for our usual dinners and date nights. For the most part, I was extremely fatigued and just wanted to lay low.
For Travers and I, our relationship took a bit of a back seat to cancer. If I didn’t prioritize and take care of my health, there may not have been a relationship to come back to, so we both knew that meant putting some parts of our relationship ‘on hold’ for a little while, which we were OK with.
I took psychology sessions as part of my therapy and whilst Travers didn’t join these, it meant that I could bring up some of my emotion elsewhere, allowing him a mental break from being my emotional support person.
We also found new ways to enjoy each other’s company and took comfort in the little things, like going for a walk with our dog, or just sitting together on the couch.
But love wasn’t on hold for too long, and we were very pleased to eventually get married in 2018. We’re now back in Sydney with our own home and new jobs, and life is starting to feel like it is back in our control, but of course we are taking it all one step at a time.
There’s no doubt cancer will take its toll and test the very best of relationships. I’m so thankful that Travers and I had a strong foundation to begin with and I’m even more thankful my parents were able to shoulder some of the responsibility and take care of some of the little things, so we could try our best to still be ‘us’.
In my mind, if you can find someone who loves you without any eyebrows, they’re definitely the one!