My husband, Ray, was very excited for us to exchange traditional vows at our wedding 15 years ago. Little did we know that seven years into our marriage we would live the vows “in sickness and in health” when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. On that fall morning in 2008 when I received my diagnosis, he morphed from husband and friend to caregiver and co-survivor.
Caregiver and co-survivor is an often overlooked, but can be a soul saving role. My husband and I went from celebrating a second honeymoon on a trip to the Caribbean to making life saving and life changing decisions. Somehow, I thought any serious sickness might come, if at all, when we had great grandkids and were much older. At 40 and 38, Ray and I, with a 4 year old son and 19 month old daughter, were thrust into new roles. Ray was the man who provided a shoulder to cry on and prayed for me when my faith was shaken; he was by my side through multiple hospital stays with my bilateral mastectomy, prophylactic oophorectomy and reconstruction and 16 cycles of chemotherapy. He spent over 12 months as medical researcher, hospital taxi, hospital companion, doctor’s appointment taxi, doctor’s appointment companion, drain tube drainer and bandage changer, and reconstruction cheerleader. He was the first to compliment me on my chemo bald head and the first to share my excitement when wiry strands of grey hair started to grow back. He was so attentive at doctor’s appointments; taking notes on how to bandage and care for my bruised body. And, he seemed to have many elixirs to care for my bruised soul. He praised me and exalted me.
Through nights of nausea, days of intense pain and exhaustion, sadness, anxiety, hopelessness and despair, I had a steadfast champion and nurturer. To the man who loved me back to life, to my soulmate who became my soul savior, in sickness and in health. My gratitude. My love.
To every caregiver, every co-survivor, every friend who cared and loved through the valleys and walked with you and helped you climb mountains. May life give back to you all that you have given to those you have believed in and nurtured.
Melanie A. Nix – Triple negative breast cancer survivor. Resilience Coach, Reconstructionist™ and Health and Wellness Advocate. Always striving to color outside of the lines when defining my new normal.