God, I was so naive. You never think it’s going to happen to you or anyone you’re close to, but it does, and usually even more tragic than you originally think. For instance you spend your life being abused by boys (for you refuse to call them men) in many ways, big and small, and then you meet him. A man. One who will treat you like a princess just like your Dad always has. You’re still a kid in some ways despite yourself and he is too, but you see something in him that, at first, no one else does. He accidentally exposes a part of himself that shows you that he will take care of you, he will support you and he will melt your heart in a way that no one else has before. Like a window into your future, it’s so similar to that of your dreams that you have to keep looking to see if the image changes. When it doesn’t, you know he is the one. Everything is smooth for a while because even though it may not always be perfect, you will argue just like everybody else, it is you and him.
Then in the midst of the bliss a spanner is thrown into the works. Not another trivial argument or friction with each other’s loved ones but something that is no one’s fault. Something life threatening. For so long you’ve craved him and the bliss that he would bring and now it feels like the carpet has been pulled out from under your feet. You can’t breathe, your brain goes like white noise and panicky like the split second before you miss your footing on the stairs or fall backwards off of a chair. For a moment everything stops in slow motion; you can feel the tears come before you’ve even really understood why you are crying. You don’t know how much will change, you don’t know how long for and you don’t know what either of you are going to do about it. All you know is that change is inevitable, and as you learn more about his illness you realise that these next few months- no, the rest of this year, will be the biggest test you will have faced in your life so far.
Your heart is held together by supportive friends and family, hope, and the need to be strong for him. How dare you feel broken when you are fit and healthy? For a while you carry on like nothing is wrong, until somebody asks you how you are handling things. Your resolve to be strong falls for just a moment and you sob into their arms. You quickly pick yourself up again but you feel guilty for having faltered.
You snap at each other and you bicker. You know that what you’re bitching about doesn’t even matter any more and snapping doesn’t improve anybody’s mood, but anger is sometimes easier to deal with than sadness. You both resolve to be calm in each other’s company; you are each other’s sanctuary. When you are together just the two of you, in his room, nothing is happening, cancer doesn’t have to exist if you don’t want it to, and you can continue being carefree kids with each other.
Tests begin and you go to as many as possible, but have to rely on instant messaging because your work takes you out of the country every few days. At every step you are astounded by his pure optimism and bravery. For what must be the 100th time this week you feel guilty that you haven’t got the same strength as he has, and you vow to try harder.
One of the most difficult things, you find, is that supporting an ill partner isn’t as straightforward as one assumes. Any underlying resentment is still there, any issues you had before haven’t simply vanished; you would do anything to support that person and you love them more than ever, but you’re also mad because they expect you to drive them everywhere. You’re annoyed that they don’t appreciate all that you’re doing for them. You wonder if this makes you a bad person. You wonder if by the end of this year you will still be together. Then you think about how much you love them and you always will, so how could you ever not be together?
You’re thinking about whether or not you will be able to have children together even though you’re 22 and have never seriously considered it before. The doctor asks you questions about plans for children together in the future and you don’t know what to say because people of our age, in a relationship for just less than a year shouldn’t have to think about children.
You’re doing everything you can but you can’t have any control over anything; you’ve just got to go with the flow and be supportive. You’re both tired because neither of you sleep. You over-eat. He shaves his head and smells different- he feels insecure but you try to make him understand that you love him all the same.
Suddenly the fairy tale of ‘boy meets girl’ and ‘the princess finds her prince’ seem even more far-fetched. You realise that the world isn’t like that. Things are a lot more complicated than you ever anticipated. Sometimes, love isn’t enough to protect you both and you can only do what you can. You hope this is enough to get you through this year, and you hope that by the end of it, even if you have both changed, that it will be for the better. The uncertainty is awful. You never think it will happen to you or anyone you are close to, but it does, and it’s usually even more tragic than you originally think…