Linda: We often don’t realize how precariously we are perched in our life. In an instant, our whole existence can change. We may be going along innocently when we get into a car accident or get a phone call telling us that someone dear to us has died. We may suddenly become ill or discover some truth that had been kept secret from us, and from that moment on nothing is the same.
This is what happened to Eden when she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Within a few days of her diagnosis, she was in the hospital for the lumpectomy. After that, she went right into the chemotherapy regimen, followed by radiation.
Eden lost all her hair from chemotherapy, and experienced severe mood swings as a side effect of the hormonal disruption that followed. Her entire life as she had known it was turned upside-down. As a “bonus,” Eden got to look death straight in the eyes for the first time in her life. There was no doubt that this was one hell of a challenge.
But it wasn’t the biggest one she had ever confronted. Believe it or not, the cancer challenge was a lot easier than others Eden had faced because she didn’t feel alone with it. The cancer diagnosis came at a time when she and her husband David were especially close. Eden referred to their time together as their “Golden Age.”
These two had previously experienced times of deep darkness in their relationship and come close to divorce.
When Eden looked back on the things that they used to fight over, it was hard to imagine that such trivia could have been so upsetting. Arguing over who would do the dishes, call the babysitter, choose which video to rent, do the laundry, clean up the cat vomit, or who should apologize first, were from this vantage point seen as absurdly petty and insignificant. She now knows that the protracted power struggle that surrounded these issues persisted because she and David were not joined heart-to-heart.
Eden told me that during her bout with cancer, both she and David were able to be more open and accepting of each other and themselves, which made quite a difference.
Eden was weakened by the chemotherapy, and also by the intensity of her fear of death. David was terrified that he could lose her so early in life. They were both in their early forties, and they were not ready to lose each other, especially after working so hard to come so far.
During the several months surrounding her treatments, David stayed close by her side. He showed her in every possible way that he loved her. David would touch her frequently, take her hand, hold her in his arms, listen for hours to what she was thinking and feeling, and speak to her from the depths of his heart.
Only the most significant of issues registered on their radar screen. Trivial issues had no weight. In the face of death, only matters of love and caring held any importance for them.
Eden felt quite certain that if her diagnosis had come during one of the periods where their partnership had been unstable, the shock of cancer would have destroyed their marriage. She was convinced that she would have decided to leave to save her own life.
Both David and Eden were deeply grateful that the illness instead came when they were strong enough together to meet the challenge. These two have had other crises and difficulties in the following years, and were empowered by their struggle with cancer to handle them by focusing on what’s most important in life. They learned the very hard way, about the grace that comes from being profoundly connected to ourselves and each other.