I’m going to write to you about the night that a major decision was made, and that decision wasn’t mine.
Colin and I aren’t married, we aren’t even engaged. But I can confidently say that…we’re there. He’s it. I’ve almost never had to question it, not even in the midst of three years of long-distance dating. But this story is about the one night that I did.
There’s a back-story here—I am a cancer survivor. Most people don’t believe me when I tell them—I’m twenty-five, I’m healthy, I ran a half marathon last year! But the truth of the matter is that when I was nine years old, I lost an ovary to ovarian cancer. I was lucky, I didn’t have to get chemotherapy and I was back on my feet (albeit, slightly bent over) within a month. But, in the end I lost an ovary, which is why it was so devastating to find out that there is a tumor in my remaining ovary right now.
To be clear, my doctor found this second tumor when I was sixteen years old, and we’ve been monitoring it since. It hasn’t grown very much, it’s not cancerous and, until recently, it’s been much too small to remove without a significant chance that I would lose the ovary, and with it any chance that I would be able to have my own children “naturally.” This is why it was a big deal in October of 2012 when my doctor told me that the size of the tumor was large enough that it should be removed and that the surgery should be scheduled soon.
I came home from the doctor’s office that night sobbing and called Colin immediately, telling him the full story. In the midst of my panic I asked him a question that I hoped he would answer to my satisfaction—answer it “correctly” and help me feel better about what was happening. I, in my panic and fear, forgot that I am dating quite possibly is the most earnest and logical person on the planet and I asked him, “If I couldn’t have kids, would you still want to be together?”
You also must understand that Colin is going to be one of those amazingly naturally good dads. Kids and babies love him, and he doesn’t even have to try. The first time I took him to meet my friends at a cottage in Northern Ontario, he ended up showing two six-year-olds how to throw a football instead of partaking in the drunken debauchery of May Two-Four weekend (ask any Canadian what that is, they’ll understand what is expected on Victoria Day). I’ve seen him make a face at a crying infant on the train that silenced her immediately. Colin would not measure his life as a success without having his own kids, and I have always known this. And, more importantly, I should have remembered this before I asked him the question that had been swimming dangerously in the back of my mind ever since we started dating, and I especially should have remembered this before asking him this question at the absolute worst possible moment.
I asked him to relieve my greatest fear about our relationship over the phone right after I had been given some horrible news. And, as he is wont to do, he answered me as honestly and logically as he could: “I don’t know. I need to think about this. I need to talk to my dad.” And he ended the conversation and hung up the phone.
It took him two days to give me an answer. He called his father and asked his opinion. He did extensive research on fertility solutions that might work for us. He asked me a million questions and made me write them down and take them to my doctor. We talked about every scenario and our hopes and wishes for a future family together and how we would handle getting such terrible news. It was absolutely excruciating, but also, it was absolutely necessary.
You must understand that now, I am so glad that I asked this question because I needed to know. And more importantly, Colin needed to know, and find out his decision completely and on his own terms. And it was also important that he took this question seriously and didn’t just indulge me in a bad moment to make me feel better. We still don’t know what the results from this surgery will be (the tumor has shrunk in size since then and I have high hopes that it stay small and docile for a long while yet) but now I know what would happen in our relationship if the absolute worst-case scenario happened.
He would stay.
Editor’s Note: In addition to making us think about the big conversations we should all be having, this post also made us wonder how many of us have our own relationship deal breakers. Do you have them? Does your partner? What do you think of them? Do deal breakers protect us from potential heartache, or are we shutting ourselves off from possibilities before they are realized? Let’s discuss!