In sickness and in health

That’s what they ask you to promise, in marriage – to stand by one another, in sickness and in health. I’ve heard those vows over and over again, in movies and TV, and in life, especially now that so many of my friends are starting to say their “I do”s. Even so, I don’t think the enormity of that promise hit me until suddenly, I was in sickness.

I’m not married, but I am happily in love with my boyfriend, Gordie, who gets mentioned on this blog from time to time.

Gordie is a private man, and he’s asked me to largely keep our relationship off this blog. I’ve done my best to abide by his wishes, but on Valentine’s Day, I just can’t help myself. He has been my rock through all of this, never wavering for one second in his desire to stand by my side no matter what. When he came to visit after my surgery, he helped me get in and out of the shower, shampooing my hair with that rough, I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing rhythm that guys sometimes have when they’re trying to be gentle but get the damn job done. He politely avoided remarking that I had more armpit hair than him, and wasn’t even mad when I woke him up at 3am to scratch my back somewhere I couldn’t reach…every single night. He didn’t flinch at the sight of my post-surgery body, and assured me over and over again that while he had found my original configuration beautiful, he was sure the new parts would look just as nice. He let me cry, made me laugh, told me to snap out of it when I started to swirl into The Dark Place and kept me busy enough that I didn’t have time to watch even one episode of Law & Order: SVU.

He didn’t even run straight for the fire escape when I asked him to come with me to the fertility doctor. He sat calmly in the doctor’s office with me and took in a bunch of diagrams of vaginas and sperm like anΒ adult. Which, really, is more than I can say for myself. I still laugh at the absurdity of it every time I pinch up a section of thigh fat and inject it with follicle stimulating hormone purified from human urine. By the way, my ovaries feel like two pineapples that took a wrong turn at the Dole factory and ended up lost in my abdominal cavity, but more on that tomorrow.

Sitting across the table from Gordie the other week at a local restaurant, drinking my first beer since surgery and discussing which oncologist would be least likely to let me die on their watch, I looked into his calm, brown eyes and thought about how lucky I am to have someone I love with me through this ordeal.

I have a lot of people to thank for that, if I’m being honest. Yes, I want to thank myself for spotting him across the office all that time ago and letting him call me Melissa for a while because I just thought he was cute and wanted him to like me. I’d also like to thank Jaeger and Red Bull for coming together and creating the concoction that facilitated our first kiss, standing in the rain outside of McFadden’s at 2 in the morning at the Haymarket T stop after a fantastic first date and drinks. I’d like to thank him for putting up with me every single day, still taking me out on dates and always calling when he says he will. I want to thank American Airlines and JetBlue and US Airways, who have shuttled us to one another’s apartments over and over and over again after I left for graduate school and who now, while I’m stuck 3,000 miles away in treatment, continue to milk us out of every penny we’ve got.

But most of all, I want to thank my parents, who have provided a shining example of love, kindness and devotion for all 25 years of my life.

Was this post totally cheesy? Maybe. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that it’s Valentine’s Day, or that I have 10 times the normal concentration of estrogen floating around in my system so I spent half of my day crying at dog food commercials. Who knows? So happy Valentine’s Day to all of you!

Except for you, cancer. F–k you.

11 thoughts on “In sickness and in health

  1. Very nice Valentine’s Day post πŸ™‚

  2. karen says:

    Michelle, your writing is remarkable. Thank you for including us in your journey. While the particulars are yours and yours alone, the “themes” are universal. Fear and grasping, countered with hope and humor…and acceptance. As you so eloquently and lovingly describe the kindnesses that bouy you in these difficult days I am reminded to stop and give thanks for the grace that has been given to me by my friends and family. So grateful and happy to have your family in my world. Looking forward to having you visit, pink bike and all, when you make your way East again. May peace come to your heart. Karen

    • Michelle says:

      Karen, thank you so much. I think about my pink bike often! We shall see if it can one day make the journey to the West Coast. I’m sure its poor tires are deflated now, its seat dusty and unused. 😦 Poor pinky. I still love it!

      If there is one thing I have learned from this experience it is that nothing is more important than love: loving yourself, loving your family, loving your friends and accepting all of their love in return. I’m glad that your love has been a part of our journey!

  3. Sofia says:

    Not cheesy at all! In the hardest moments, the people that stand by you are probably what makes the awful journey a little easier. x

  4. Fire Penguin says:


  5. Courtney says:

    Not cheesy- sweet, authentic, perfect! Gordie sounds awesome and it’s great you have someone to be there for you. I know that during medical issues, it means the world.

  6. Hi Michelle,
    I was going to call you Melissa, but even though I don’t know you, I already like you, so I’m just going with Michelle (you wrote this a few weeks ago, and in case the “reduced cognitive function” has kicked in, this refers to letting Gordie call you Melissa because you wanted him to like you). Megan Glass Crimmins shared your blog with me when I announced to my family that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I will read your blog and then shy away for days, because you’re ahead of me and I don’t always want to know what’s coming next. So today, 4 days after my lumpectomy, I’m back to allowing you to entertain me. This particular message touched me, as I have an amazing husband who is walking this journey with me and the “In sickness and in health” vow has become our reality. And I loved the way you ended this entry by wishing everyone a Happy Valentine’s Day. “Except for you, cancer. F–k you.” – that made me laugh out loud.
    I’m praying for you and wishing you an incredible lifetime of entertaining others with your wit, wisdom, and writing skills!
    Karla Glass Pfleeger

    • Michelle says:

      I’m so sorry to hear of your diagnosis, but I’m so glad you know Megan – what a great source of love, faith and support she is. πŸ™‚ I never want my blog posts to be scary, and – as you can see, given that I’m still alive and kickin’ – nothing’s been too much for me yet! Do you know what kind of chemotherapy, if any, you’ll be needing? Congrats on getting through the first step with your lumpectomy! And thank you, of course, for all the sweet comments about my blog! I’m happy that you like it, I always hope that it can be a source of hope and inspiration to anyone who needs it.

      • Hi Michelle,
        I haven’t met with a medical oncologist yet, so I’m not sure what type of chemo I’ll be receiving. The pathology report came back yesterday and I meet with the surgeon and the radiation oncologist on Thursday, and now I’m in the process of finding a medical oncologist. I’m also looking for a new hairstylist who can cut my curly locks short in preparation for the transition to losing my hair. I will continue to pray for you, particularly as you go through your chemo treatments.I detest the fact that you have to go through all of this, but I’m so glad you have a positive, humorous attitude and that you’re willing to share it, because it makes things easier for those of us following in your footsteps. πŸ™‚

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