Marriage and the C Word

Marriage, Illness, Cancer, The Hard Stuff

I met my husband (otherwise known as M) seven years ago when we were young and silly. M is a good ol’ boy from a small town about an hour from where I grew up. We got married this past April.

We started off our marriage excited for what came next. We had been settling into our new house and spent most weekends at the beach or on the boat. We were prepared for blow out season this fall with the Carolina Gamecocks. We’ve been having fun! We’re in no rush to have babies and have talked of how long we could put it off before we had to decide. As with most major life changes, people share their opinion. We rolled our eyes at those who said the first year is the hardest.

Labor Day weekend brought Hurricane Irene. We love extreme weather and as long as it didn’t come crashing in on us we figured we would enjoy it. We spent our weekend between Folly Beach and Edisto Beach. The storm breezed by and the Lowcountry got off easy. On the way home M and I talked of how lucky we were. We tried to decide what we would change about our lives if given the opportunity, knowing it would have an effect on all things related to it. If you change the college you went to, you have to take back knowing all the people you met along the way. We came up pretty dry. I would take back purchasing my car. We were all around happy with our lives. We love each other, where we live, our friends and our jobs. M mentioned how our family had pretty much been spared from major heath issues. I compared it to a hurricane. After a while you know you are due, in the meantime you are happy to have the life that has been given to you.

Three weeks later we found out he had cancer.

My young, sweet, amazing man was diagnosed with the rare and highly aggressive Burkitt’s Lymphoma. We went to the doctor and he was immediately admitted in the hospital. We were told that the treatment process would be four rounds of in patient chemo. The first round lasted twenty-eight nights. Talk about blindsided.

Cancer is a pretty loaded word. In the first days we weren’t sure what type of lymphoma it was and if it was curable. We had a hard time sleeping at night in the noisy hospital with loud halls and beeping. All we could think about was his sickness. Before the chemo started we had to do sperm banking to preserve our ability to have kids. M has been in containment in a vacuum sealed room. All guests have to wear booties and masks because of his low immune system. I got to know my in-laws in a way that I never had. Living in the hospital, sleeping in a recliner and not going home for a month was physically draining. Watching M go through this process was the hardest thing I have ever done. M kept his spirits up and was funny to try to lighten the mood. When we found out his kind of cancer is curable, things got more hopeful. A couple weeks in he got a bad respiratory infection that was very painful. He was on oxygen and heavy pain medication while they tried to figure out the best way to treat him. For a long time M hadn’t looked like himself. His hair was gone and he was weak. The side effects of the new treatment made him not act like himself. As a wife it was very scary to see him not look or act like the man I knew and loved. I hadn’t slept in days and wondered if we would ever get back to a life that was familiar.

When he was on heavy pain meds I had to sign paperwork as his “next of kin” and that was pretty intense. We also had to decide what would happen to his sperm if he died. Although we had been together for seven years, thinking and talking in these terms was totally new for us. We are now in round three and he is responding well to treatment. He was given a seventy-five percent chance of survival, so we are confident that we will come out healthy on the other side of this. As a wife my role has changed a lot. I have learned how M pays our mortgage. When we are home he’s unable to prepare his own meals and clean his clothes. I have had to learn how to give him his medication and care for his IV access. Having a job and helping him full time is exhausting. He hasn’t worked in months so I am definitely more cognizant of my income.

We have second guessed ourselves a lot in the past couple months. I wonder if we will ever have children. Part of this makes me want to have them as soon as possible in case something happens. Part of me is so glad we don’t have them yet. Doing this with a child would be exponentially harder. I wonder sometimes if M will have to do all of this for me one day. Cancer is so common and we are so young. I worry that he will have to relive all of this over again from the other side. All of the day-to-day shit together with the stuff going on in your head puts you on edge. Sometimes we are mean to each other and it breaks my heart. He is fighting a deadly disease and I am busting my ass to help. It is hard to believe anyone could be mean to people in these circumstances yet we find a way to fight over the smallest things. With cancer comes a lot of praying, it also brings a lot of questioning. Overall this has been a test of our faith and strength.

Spending Thanksgiving in the hospital was depressing, but we are so grateful for so much this year. Modern medicine and great care from the highly specialized nurses and doctors are amazing. Our families have been by our sides the whole time, and it would be impossible without them. We have wonderful friends who have made us meals, listened to me vent and sent countless sweet cards. We hope that we will be out for Christmas, but if we aren’t we know that we will have years and years of holidays to spend with each other when this is over.

I have spent time reflecting on marriage and critical illness and have several pieces of advice.

  • Be nice to your friends in the wedding process, you never know when you may really need them.
  • Get insurance. M got his in July and we are so glad we have it!
  • Save your money. M is a saver (thank God) and we have needed it! His goal is to say he was able to pay for cancer. Our bill for a 5 night stay in the hospital was $54,000. Yikes! I am scared to open the mail everyday.
  • Go to premarital counseling. We did this and although we didn’t learn anything new about one another, the reinforcements were good for setting a solid foundation before this started.

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  • Ashley, thank you for this. For sharing this unbelievably gut wrenching story so beautifully. For being brave enough to show us what this is like for you, for being such an amazing wife, partner, friend. I am in awe of you and I cried my way through this as if you and M were old friends. I am just so sorry that this has happened, but am looking forward to the post about you being home, about what comes after. You both are in my thoughts, and will continue to be. Just know that by letting us in, you now have all of these people out in the world holding you in their minds, it is a powerful thing.

  • Here is sending you love, and I will be praying for you. You can fight this, you are doing it everyday.
    I think it is a “normal” reaction when facing the dreaded, ugly, big things to fight about the small things. Tension has to be released. Just as long as you learn to minimize it, to treat each other right, to make it better. You will be ok, and it is also a learning process (for everyone I believe).
    I hope you will have nice Holidays, and really, sending all my best wishes for your health.

    • Nicole

      My partner’s in the military, deploying soon. We fight over the stupidest things, and it drives me crazy that our last memory before he leaves could be us arguing over dishes. I try to tell myself it’s a normal reaction to high-stress situations and nothing to worry about. I’m sending good thoughts your way. You’ll make it through this stronger than before, I know it. Your husband’s lucky to have you.

      • The first time my husband deployed, we went through the needless bickering stage too. I remember one day we got in a fight in the car because I said I didn’t like a certain band that he was fond of. He went off and I just ugly cried and told him he was being such a douche. So that’s how we had the talk about how hard preparing for deployment was for both of us. He felt so stressed to make every moment count but I felt more comforted by a normal routine and we had to find a balance and make a plan. Just, you know, talk about what you’re feeling. All the time. It is it’s own miniature kind of grief so don’t deny yourself the stages.

        Ashley, I am so moved by your honest love for your husband and your loyalty to him during this time. It’s a struggle for a lot of people to hold on to what the relationship was like before illness and the hope that it will one day be like that again. I think it’s beautiful that you can imagine your husband being there for you in the same way, though hopefully that won’t be necessary. I’ve said a prayer for you this morning and I hope the combined love of this community blesses you today and many days.

      • If you haven’t read it yet you should read the post on Weddings and Grief. Shana talks of how it is easier to trip on pebbles than boulders. It’s crazy how we can deal with all these big, scary things in such a grown up way but figuring out what we should eat for dinner makes your gatorade go flying across the room.

        Between round one and two we took a one night trip to Savannah that was a disaster. One stranger was incredibly mean and it turned our night upside down. I wanted to make it sooo special and M just wanted the comforts of home. We came home in the middle of the night because the pillows weren’t right for M and he wanted a glass of milk. I felt guilty for forcing a one night vacay on someone who hadn’t been home in a month. Meeting in the middle really would have saved us from having a disagreement that night.

  • Zan

    The major problem with the internet is that it’s hard to send a casserole as an email attachment. Ashely, I wish there was something I could do for you but in lieu of that please know that we are keeping you and M in our thoughts.

    • carrie

      My first thought (well, second) was to comment, “what can we all send you??” We can send pies through the mail! Right?

    • My midwestern roots are screaming “send a casserole!”, too– but yes, many many good thoughts and tons of positive energy and love coming your way, Ashley. You are very brave.

    • bec

      Yes! I was thinking the same thing!!

      Ashley, know you are in our thoughts and we are sending you strength and hugs and love from all over the country. And, you know, electronic casseroles.

  • Granola

    I second the lamenting the lack of email-able casseroles. Our thoughts and prayers are will you both.

  • Dear M and Ashley,

    Now that the darkest time of year has come, I hope you’ll continue to see some light ahead. When spring comes, I hope your perspective of this period in your life has changed. Maybe not out of the woods yet, but at least closer to the edge, with a little sunshine on the road.

    Thank you for the wise words and the good advice. I’ll take them to heart.

    I wish both of you the very, very best.

    • We joke that we couldn’t have picked a better time to stay inside for 5 months. If it weren’t for the holidays… We would be pissed if we missed our whole summer right?

      Thanks for your kind words.

      • I’m praying for you both. May you be surrounded by love and support in these months to come, may your partnership help you both through this, and may M’s health recover.

  • Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your story. Even though you and M are obviously going through a very painful and difficult time, I still get the sense of so much love and hope in your post. I wish you both the very best.

  • Alicia

    I hope and pray that M beats cancer in record time. Bless you both.

  • KEA1

    MANY thoughts, prayers, and profound thanks to you–I needed to read something like this today, but I hate that you’re having to go through this to write it. I hope that M’s recovery is speedy and thorough, and that the road ahead for the two of you will be smooth!

  • Carbon Girl

    I am sending you many good thoughts and hopes. I would love updates if they are not too hard to write. My father-in-law currently has stage 4 melanoma. We are not sure if he will even make it until Christmas and my husband has been a mess, not sleeping and quick to anger. I am struggling to be supportive to him but inside my heart is breaking too. I have often thought to about being in his mom’s situation and if I would be able to handle it. All of this made me realize how fragile life is, how tenuous our flesh and blood connections. I am more wary of the world and am not sure that is a good thing.

    • Aw, I am so sorry for you and your husband’s family. Illness is just so difficult to deal with. It is strange thinking of how fragile life is. When you add in “fairness” it takes another turn. Why can’t sexual predators and terrorist get these diseases?

      I will say that if you were handed those same circumstances I am sure you would be able to handle it. I broke down at the locksmith’s one day and the nice kid making the my keys told me of his mother’s lost battle with critical illness. He said that most people don’t know where they gather strength from until they have to. One day at a time.

  • Karen

    I really like your words of advice, particularly about saving. Having accessible cash and very little debt reduces stress in situations like this. We all need savings for major life events. We are all susceptible to an emergency and we need to know we have a cushion to fall back on.

    Thank you for your heartfelt sharing of real life. I appreciate these kinds of posts that keep us grounded in reality.

    • When we were on the way to the scary doctor appointment M kept saying “This is why you don’t eat out. This is why you don’t go on vacation.” He is such a stickler about money and right now I couldn’t be more grateful.

  • I cannot imagine… I’ve spent basically half of our 9 month so far marriage battling a thankfully not life threatening chronic illness. Yet it is debilitating and my poor husband has to do everything from work to taking care of the home to doing the shopping and taking me to the doctors and dealing with my inevitable breakdowns and some how he manages to do all with such patience. Sometimes I get so frustrated and angry… And start thinking… “this isn’t how you’re supposed to spend your newlywed years. You’re supposed to get to enjoy the marriage first before diving into the hard stuff but life robbed us. ” And that line of thinking makes me so so so so bitter.

    So it was nice to start my morning off with the reminder that it won’t always be like this… and we too “we will have years and years of holidays to spend with each other when this is over.” I wish I were as graceful as you are on the subject. And I hope your husband has a very swift recovery.

    • Sounds like you got one hell of a wedding present. I know M also carries guilt because I have so many new responsibilities. One thing that SUCKS when you are coping with all this is facebook. I facebook stalked myself a couple days ago and got all down and out about how much fun we used to have. Fun will be there when your illness is over. It has to be! I hope for a speedy recovery for you as well. Good thoughts and strength headed your way!

  • Louise

    Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your story. I am touched by it and hope and pray for you that M survives cancer and your marriage stays strong through such a difficult time.

    As a European, it still shocks me to read that Americans have to think about saving money in order to pay for cancer. I seriously think that, living in a civilized nation, you should not have to worry about financial aspects when battling such an awful disease and going through probably one of the most difficult times in your life. I hope you both come out okay on the other end, both health wise and finance wise.

    • Rachel

      As a Canadian, this was one of my first thoughts too. Well, my first thoughts were how beautifully written this is, and how much I want to hug Ashley and M and send warm meals and warm thoughts, but my SECOND thought was anger that people who are already going through such a tough time should have to have money worries thrown on top of it. $54,000 for 5 nights in the hospital is obscene, especially when we’re talking about life-saving treatment. The Canadian health-care system is far from perfect, but when my grandfather battled cancer for 4 years, he didn’t pay a dime for his care. All of his hospital stays, chemo, radiation, medication, and home care was covered, which is how it should be in a developed nation. Nobody should ever have to choose between health care and having a roof over their heads or food on the table.

      Anyway, health care rant aside, I’m sending all the warm thoughts I can muster to you both, stay strong, keep fighting, and know that we’re all here for moral support.

      • Caroline

        Ashley, I’m sending prayers yours and m’s way.
        Rachel and Louise, I’m an American, and my partner currentl has no health insurance. My second thought was how screwed we would be if he got sick, because in American, if you don’t have health insurance and you can’t pay out of pocket, you get a bare minimum of care. And huge huge debt. It’s scary. What would I do if he got very sick, and the hospital wouldn’t give him the treatments he needed? (and once you are already sick it can be close to impossible to get insurance.)
        It’s definitly a high priority but it is also so expensive.

        • Rachel

          I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have to live with that sort of fear, it must be terrible! While I do need workplace-sponsored or private insurance to cover things like non-life saving medication, physiotherapy, dental and eye care, etc, I can at least rest easy at night knowing that if my partner or I got really sick, or one of us broke our leg, or I was pregnant and went into labour, that I wouldn’t have to worry about money on top of that, because all of my treatment, my hospital stays, the ambulance and x-rays and cast for a broken bone, all of that would be covered.

          And I hope this doesn’t all come across as ‘na na na boo boo, look what we have that you don’t!’ because I don’t mean it that way at all – it’s more an expression of shock that our neighbours to the South who are so similar in so many ways could be denied such basic care for financial reasons.

          • Whew, it would be so nice to not have to worry about money. The good thing is we have trained ourselves not to worry about it. We will try to make it work but know that stressing about that will not do us any good right now.

      • My mother figures she spent more on parking at the hospital than on anything else during the 8 months between my father’s cancer diagnosis and death. And they didn’t have private insurance going in. Actually, as soon as he was diagnosed, he was eligible for Blue Cross Dying Insurance. (Not actually called that, but it’s basically what is was. Coverage for prescriptions and semi private rooms and at home nursing and the like.) Critical care insurance after the diagnosis seems like another thing the American system would not do, unfortunately.

        It’s a bloody good thing because my mother would have lost the house and all their savings if we lived in America. Cancer is terrible enough without having to worry about money on top of it.

  • Ashley, I’m sending strength and healthy thoughts in your direction. It sounds like you have lots of the former, but I figure a little extra never hurts.

  • Abby C.

    Ashley, you and M are so brave, to be going through this with such a positive attitude, and braver still for being able to share your story.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your husband. May you both beat this cancer, and be stronger and more positive for it!

  • I started tearing up as soon as I knew which C word it was… Battling life-threatening illness with your partner is really high on the list of The Most Frightening Things about Love, so thanks, Ashley, for sharing this, and showing the rest of us what it takes to get through it — and that it’s possible, one day at a time. I’m glad to know you have a real life community helping you with meals and hugs and encouragement, and I’m proud to be a part of your internet community, full of even more encouragement and love and virtual hugs when you need them.

    • I love my internet community! Thank you for your sweet comments!

  • Red

    Ashley, you and M are in my thoughts and prayers. If I could give you a hug I would, but those, like casseroles, are difficult to email.

  • Sara

    Ashley, I don’t have much new to add – just thank you for your honesty and courage, and know that prayers and hopes for healing are directed your way.

  • carrie

    Thank you so much for sharing this. So much love is being beamed out to you guys this morning. I am so, so glad to hear that M will be okay. You both will remain on the receiving end of good thoughts and prayers!

  • Chronically Ill Bride

    Oh, Ashley, your strength and love are amazing. I’m so sorry for you and M, but so hopeful for you both, too. Your piece is so beautiful. I wish M a quick recovery and many, many years of sharing your love.

  • Lauren

    First of all, thank you. Wishing you and your family the best and wishing for your husband to regain full health!

    I’ve been thinking a lot about this issue because my step father is having brain surgery for the second time today, to remove another brain tumor. My mother, 14 years younger than him, has had to care for her husband in ways that she never thought she would at her age. On the phone with her last night, I asked her how she does it, and confessed that as I think of getting married to my partner, it scares me about what might come in the future and how I could handle it if he had a health crisis. I said something like, “Maybe it’s easier not to get married because it’s just too scary.” My mother was shocked at this, and promptly replied, “Why would you not get married? You want my husband to go through this alone? You marry someone so that no matter what happens, you don’t have to deal with it alone.”

    That really touched me, and made me think about the meaning of marriage and truly supporting your partner through everything. I know how hard it must be for both of you to go through this and I wish you weren’t, but it is a wonderful thing that with a loving wife at this side, he doesn’t have to do this alone.

    Sending warmth and hugs!

    • carrie

      That is beautiful. Good thoughts going out to your stepfather and your family today too!

    • M talks all the time about how he is so glad he isn’t single. He has a very hard time sleeping at night. He was very anxious in the beginning and couldn’t go to sleep if I feel asleep before him. He would stay up with scary thoughts running around in his head all night. We laid awake at night and cried and prayed that he would be okay. Thank god for anxiety medicine. It got M through some rough days. Those who are single and fight critical illness have way more strength than we do. We are total wusses on our own.

      Best wishes to your step father. I hope his surgery went well. I’m sure it is hard to see your mother go through such a tough time. My father had a brain tumor several years ago and I have even more respect for for my mom after going through this with M. I will be praying for your family!

  • I hope each day gets better and better for you both. Here’s to a speedy recovery and a lifetime of joy to come!

  • Moz

    Best of luck to you both. May you be safe and well.

    Thank you for such an incredibly generous post xx

  • Kess

    I feel for you, and yet I can’t fully imagine. Internet casseroles, indeed.

    My brother, who has always been my idol, was diagnosed with leukemia 2 weeks after he graduated college, 2 days after Christmas. It was such a difficult time for us, and I wasn’t even that involved because it was my senior year of high school and had to apply for college and scholarships. I can’t even imagine what it would be like if my boyfriend was the one diagnosed.

    And to all of those who know someone going through a major illness, seriously casseroles or food is one of the most helpful things for the family. You just don’t have time to cook anymore. There was one family from the church my mother worked at that every week, without fail, would give us enough for a dinner and some leftovers. It was so, so helpful.

    I hope M makes a full recovery like my brother. My brother is doing well, finally got a job about a year ago , and can almost truly call himself a cancer survivor. I’m pulling for you!

  • This post hit me like a punch in the gut. I have no words of wisdom to offer, but sympathy and empathy a plenty. I have watched my mom suffer from several forms of cancer, and our dear friends’ engagement was overshadowed first by her diagnosis and then by his.

    I wish for you both recovery.

  • Amy

    You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers, Ashley and M. Also sending internet casseroles, pies, cookies.

  • mimi

    Sending you love & light & hope. Here’s to many more years together.

  • francine

    many hugs and prayers for y’all this morning. i promise i’ll send up a prayer as soon as i submit this comment!! love from ohio.

  • Thank you for this. You are incredibly brave, and I admire you for your total commitment to your husband. Also sending you e-casseroles.

  • Marie

    As my mom always says over the phone (which like email lacks the casserole, cookies, and hugging functions), “Consider yourself hugged.”

    Ashley, you and M will be in my thoughts and I’m sending a big fat round of healing, strengthening LOVE.

    I hope December brings some peace.

  • Ashley, I can’t even find the words to thank you for such a beautiful and honest post. This line –
    “Sometimes we are mean to each other and it breaks my heart. He is fighting a deadly disease and I am busting my ass to help. It is hard to believe anyone could be mean to people in these circumstances yet we find a way to fight over the smallest things.”
    broke MY heart because it seems so true to me. We haven’t battled what you guys are battling, but we know the vulnerabilities and imperfections of love, and you captured them so well. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  • Florence

    What a brave, brave post Ashley. I can’t seem to find the right words to say how brave you are, and how strong your marriage is. I truly hope that this is the hardest thing you’ll ever have to go through for the rest of your lives.
    Lots of love and prayers to you and your husband.

  • Caroline


    Thank you for sharing your story, particularly as you are still living it. It’s so important for us all to remember what can happen, and what does happen, and what real strength is.

    And for those of us who are not currently dealing with major medical situations, I think we should all care about this:
    5. Fight for affordable (and equal) healthcare. Because while it is awesome that you guys have saved so well, it makes me really sad that you have to spend that savings on astronomical hospital bills, all because America can’t get it’s s**t together and come up with a real healthcare solution.

    (steps off soapbox)

  • Class of 1980


    I’m sending good vibrations your way. I hope that you come through this storm soon. In the meantime, be as good to yourselves as you can.

    I have been reflecting on what you wrote a lot lately. Even if we as individuals never have a serious illness till the day we die, the chances are high that someone in our circle will.

    A friend of mine had finally reached a very blissful stage of life in the last few years. She built her dream house and didn’t have to work anymore. Her days were filled with delicious personal freedom. Well, her mother was just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and has moved in with her. Her life has changed overnight.

    That’s just one story that I see around me. Things can turn out so entirely different than what we expect.

  • Jo

    Prayers and positive energy your way. Eerie timing–we’d just been talking at my internship about “would your partner know what to do if you suddenly died” and so that’s where my head has been. Our plan over break is to file our living wills, and along with that, I’m also putting together an in-case-of-something-drastic envelope for him with passwords and lists of who to contact and the rest of that. Because holy shit.

    So grateful for this post.

    • Zan

      Yes. Having “In Case Of …” folders is really important. Also, living wills.

    • Do it do it do it!

      My father was sick for months and left none of the behind. The “fun” of trying to hack bank account passwords and figure out where important files were hidden was a sucky task, on top of the grief.

  • Rowany

    Since an e-lasagna doesn’t sound very filling, maybe we can help her with food online in another way? This can be up to Ashley’s preference, but we can help her grocery shop on Peapod or buy her easy microwavable meals on Amazon ( could register for the foodstuffs she likes on Amazon and we can all chip in to pay for it.

    What do y’all think?

    • meg

      If she wants to do it, then I say go for it! But no pressure on Ashley to do one thing or another.

      • No pressure Ashley, but if you’re up for it, I would love to send an e-gift card or physical-in-the-mail gift card for amazon or peapod or some place local of your choosing. When things are overwhelming, there’s nothing like not having to think about how meals are going to be made or actually getting to the store. But as Meg said, no pressure, just a reminder that you have a community here that would be happy to help out a bit.

        • Chronically Ill Bride

          Yes, me too! Or do you guys have a Caring Bridge site or something where we can pitch in? It’s not charity – it’s that we’re your internet neighbors and we want to be there for you.

          • I thought this too as I was reading. Count me in.

          • So, I actually work at CaringBridge, and I was going to suggest it as a resource as well. It’s a free to use (nonprofit) website where you can journal and update everyone at the same time (cut back on phone calls and repeating the same story over and over). It can be therapeutic for you to journal and helpful for your husband to read people’s guestbook messages. The site is It’s for all types of health situations – cancer, pregnancy, surgeries, etc.

    • Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! I am so very grateful to my internet community! I was scared to post this but forgot about all the love that would come pouring in. I am making a commitment to sign up for one of these websites or get a way for people to help. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your love and kind offers.

  • Ashley, thank you so much for sharing your story with us. I am so, so sad for you and M and the terrible hardship you’re both going through right now. I am keeping you in my thoughts.

  • Ashley, I’m not a pray-er but I will not be able to help having you in my thoughts after reading this.

    I’m the sort of person who can work myself up into a panicky mess thinking about the what-if’s for the future. Even though my dude and I are blessed to be in pretty good health, reading this gives me hope that I can have the same strength and grace should anything like this ever happen. Thank you.

    Also, I am on board with the e-lasagna (or whatever we end up doing) plan, I think the foodstuffs idea sounds great.

  • I have nothing to add to what others have already said… other than that I’m sending all my good thoughts your way. I wish you much strength to get through this.

  • DanEllie

    Hard to know what to say, but there’s another person thinking of you and M, Ashley. I hope the latest treatment does what it’s supposed to and he is able to come home with you. I hope that all the things you hoped and dreamed and wished for before the diagnosis are still possible. May you have years of health and happiness to come, and the ability to look back and say “we got through that, we can get through anything.” Best wishes.

  • Mary

    Lots of prayers and virtual hugs coming your way.

  • You have written about mine, and probably everyone on here’s greatest fear. You are crazy brave and I am so sorry for both of you for what you are having to go through. I very much hope you both are home for Christmas. Much love to you both.

  • I’m sending so much love and many positive thoughts your way.

  • Love, prayers & HUGS for Ashley & M!

  • Sending so much love and hope in your direction. Thank you for having the courage and heart to write this. You made me bawl at my desk this morning :-)

  • Ah! So much love! I am so grateful for all your sweet comments. You really know how to get a girl through the day! I can’t tell you how nice it was to start my day with this! I am so grateful for all the love/good juju/positive thoughts and prayers!APW has nursed me from our pre-engaged days. I know that we will make it to the other side of this, especially with the kindness of all of you incredibly nice strangers! In the past couple weeks I have been able to garner strength from so many posts on here that help talk openly about critical illness.

    In our per-marital counseling we had to list goals and fears. I suggest doing this exercise with your spouse. It’s funny how different our lists were. My biggest fear was that our marriage would be successful but an unanticipated event would come crashing in and take M away from me. That will not happen, That will not happen, That will not happen.

    Thank you for your offers of assistance. Your e-hugs and e-lasagna are so appreciated. I have a great circle of friends and nurses who have made the real stuff for us. M has some pretty strict dietary restrictions. Very low white blood cells = a low fat/low sugar neutropenic diet. Boo! Thank God for good friends (and whole foods). I know I need to lean more on people, but I haven’t quite figured out how to do that yet.

    • Lydia

      Thank you so much for writing this. I pretty much sobbed my way through this, and the comments. You seem to be grace in human form and your husband is lucky to have you at his side. I am sure he knows that. Don’t forget to take care of yourself a bit too, or let some good friends take care of you.

      Lots of love and healing your way!

  • Kelly

    Ashley – you and M will be in my thoughts. As hard as it can be to spend so much time in the hospital, I’m sure it’s given you a chance to learn much about your family and friends and the medical staff who really care about what they do.

    I come from a slightly different side of the illness and relationship combo – having a chronic illness (MS) and being diagnosed in the middle of our relationship before marriage. While I think our relationship is stronger because my fiancee and I have had to deal with what it means, it’s still our biggest hurdle (and why we’re getting married next summer and not a few years ago like everyone else expected). I know that APW is all for premarital counseling, but I wanted to give it a thumbs up too and reiterate that you have to talk about the hard stuff too – like illness and what it would mean to your lifestyle and relationship.

  • Kelley

    Ashley, I was reading your beautifully written post and the first thing I could think of was, “I remember that!”. My husband was diagnosed with an embryonal carcinoma 4 months after we got married. Here was this young, strong, bright, and wonderful man and this had to happen to HIM??? My husband’s cancer was also curable, thank God, but there is that time when you’re holding your breath wondering about the worst when you’ve only just begun your life together. I hope your husband recovers and you go on to have many happy years of marriage together. You’ve been through the fire together already. It will make you stronger as a couple. My husband is now 1 1/2 years cancer free! Things do get better.
    My other thought was about the casseroles, too. :)
    I can’t send a casserole via the web, but I can point you to a few resources for when you guys get to the point of thinking about having kids & 1 general resource to help:
    Fertile Hope ( is a Live Strong initiative that gives cancer patients information about their fertility treatment options. It’s a good place to go for basic info.
    If you prefer books, Gina Shaw, a breast cancer survivor, recently wrote a book on the subject. It’s very good, but it is written from the perspective of a woman who has been treated for cancer and not from the perspective of the male partner being the cancer patient (
    Also, if the fertility treatment route doesn’t work out and you decide to expand your family through adoption, or you decide to take that route first, cancer becomes a factor in where you can adopt and who will work with you. The people on the Adoption After Cancer Yahoo! Group ( provide a wealth of up-to-date information on the issues surrounding adoption after cancer and agencies and countries that will work with you.
    And, if you decide not to have children, Life Without Baby is a truly funny and wise blog about living childless (
    As a general resource for support and for dealing with all the life issues that go along with having cancer as a young adult, there’s I’m Too Young for This! (
    Best Wishes & Good Luck!

  • Shannon

    Oh man… Ashley, you will definitely be in my thoughts! Other commenters have already said all of the nice things I was going to say. I literally sobbed my way through reading this post… not only is it a very touching and gut wrenching story all on its own, but it also reminded me of watching the interactions between my parents after my mom had a fairly serious stroke a few years ago. Seeing my workaholic type A father drop everything to take care of my mom gave me a whole different perspective on their marriage.

    I know it’s hard for you guys Ashley, and you’ve got more “hard” to get through yet… but if we can all get through these experiences with as much grace as you are, then I think we’re doing pretty well!

    Lean on the love of this community and all the non-virtual folks around you…


  • So much love and well wishes to you and your husband.

  • Stephanie

    Thank you!

  • Sending you and M HUUUUUGE amounts of love from SF. Thank you for being in the thick of it and taking time out of your very busy life to share your story with all of us. I just got married 11 days ago and just gave my new hubby an extra kiss and hug. Oh and we don’t have health insurance because we aren’t working… I just emailed Kaiser to get some. Thank you for your tips at the end.

    May you get through all of this with grace and strength, forgive yourselves for being on edge and getting mad, and come out stronger, full of more love, and infinitely grateful for each other. And may you find some time, with the help of family and friends, to take care of yourself. I’ll be thinking of you and wishing you get to spend Christmas at home.

  • Thank you so much for sharing this. I can’t imagine what you are going through, but please know my thoughts are with you and M. I’m rooting for you both.

  • Ashley, thank you so much for sharing. I’m a bit at a loss of what to say; I think everyone else here has already said it.

    You and M are in my thoughts, and though I’m not usually the praying kind, in my prayers as well.

    All the love in the world to you both.

  • I can’t even imagine facing something as difficult as this – it’s one of my biggest fears, so I am sending all of my best wishes and thoughts your way.

  • Natalie

    What a timely post. My future sister-in-law has her third of six rounds of chemo today. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in September, and is now working from home in between chemo treatments and doctor’s appointments. Her husband has been so patient and supportive through the whole process, and has been awesome at caring for their one year old daughter when she just can’t. This illness has brought me so much closer to her and to my future in-laws, and Ashley’s right, you get to know them in a totally different way than you did before. Thank you so much for sharing your experience. Many prayers and e-casseroles your way!

  • I hope the new year brings you both health… and I’m thinking good thoughts for you both today :)

  • Sending lots of love and positive, healthy thoughts to you and your family. What a wonderfully brave post. Thank you for sharing. Hoping for a quick and full recovery.

  • Jane

    Ashley this was so touching. You and M have an incredible relationship. Your honesty with each other and your commitment to each other is admirable. Your willingness to be there for him and to take on this difficult task shows your strength. It also tells me that you took your vows seriously. I am praying for you and M, his caregivers, and for his recovery. Please continue to keep us informed of how it is going for both of you. Your transparency is so appreciated and I am sure helps others. I send my love and hugs to you. MJ

  • Oh my goodness. One of my biggest fears (in fact, probably THE big fear) is that some terrible illness will befall my fiance. I am not exaggerating when I say I sometimes lay awake at night caught in a vicious cycle of imagining varieties of The Worst Thing.

    Ashley, you and your husband are in my thoughts, and thank you for writing this. It is yet another reminder for me to be grateful for the Now, and to know that we will be strong for the future.

  • Sara

    Ashley, best wishes to you & M from a fellow Gamecock. Ill be keeping yall in my thoughts.

    • Love from the Gamecock Nation feels good. I am sure you can understand how hard it was to have to sell our Auburn, Florida and Clemson tickets. M keeps talking about all the football seasons we will have after this one. There’s always next year… Just like a gamecock.

  • Claire

    Ashley, thank you for allowing all of us to be touched and enriched by your poignant story and advice. You and M. are in my thoughts now and likely for a long time to come.

    With the intention of helpfulness, I’d also like to share a web resource that you may find useful (or not, no pressure). A good friend’s wife was recently diagnosed with cancer and they used the site to provide updates and share stories with a private community of family and friends. It was also nice that it allowed us to offer both emotional support (comments, messages) and also tangible support (gift cards, financial contributions, etc.). It has been really helpful for that situation, and I hope it’s appropriate to mention it as a possible way to connect with and accept help from your real and Internet community. We’re here for you!

  • Sending you good thoughts! I remember how draining it was to be in the hospital while my father was sick.

  • Ada

    Ashley, Thank you for sharing this. Yours and M’s strength in such a difficult situation is truly an inspiration. My thoughts and prayers are with you both.

  • Jen

    Thank you for writing on such a tough topic, Ashley. You are incredibly brave. Sending my best wishes to you and M!

  • Pamela Stuckey

    Ashley and M,
    Sending lots of love your way. I am so glad I have met you, just sorry its under these circumstances. You are both very special!

  • MWK

    Lots of love and support to you both. Was sorta hard for me to read as we just found out my step-mom’s leukemia is back, but it was also interesting because one of my first questions was how my dad was doing. He told me: “well, we were on the airplane and I put one one of my favorite pieces of music and just bawled like a baby. But now I’m fine.” I imagine you are doing through a lot of those ups and downs and I hope you are finding a balance between them, at least sometimes.

    • MWK, Thanks for your comment. Sending good thoughts to your step-mom. There are a lot of ups and downs. I made cards for Thanksgiving dedicated to strangers that were kind to me during breakdowns. They included a locksmith, a subway sandwich artist, the fertility nurse and a group of hunters. We have had some pretty sweet/funny moments too. Hopefully those memories will outlast the nasty ones.

      • MWK

        The cards are a great idea! Will you send/deliver them? A wonderful way to remember the beauty in the midst of the terrible and ensure that the memories do last. Hugs.

        • I was inspired by I wanted to send them but don’t really know where/how to. I was going to post them on my blog on Thanksgiving and chickened out. You have given me the push to post them to my blog tonight when M is sleeping!

  • Kim

    Ashley – I’m sending all my positive vibes to you and M. You can get through this.

    My cousin had Burkitt’s Lymphoma, and I’m going to send this to her, in case she wants to chime in. She had just had their son when they found out, so she and her husband spent the first year of parenthood going through chemo, inpatient hospitalizations, etc. She’s been in remission for 5 or 6 years now…their son is wonderful, and their marriage is so strong, after all they’ve been through.

    If you need anything on the medical side, I work at a hospital, so let me know if there’s anything I can help with – although it sounds like you’re in wonderful, capable hands where you are.

    I’m a superstar with special dietary needs (my family works around salt, milk, peanut, gluten, sugar restrictions), so let us know how we can help!

    Hugs to you, M, and your whole support network. Stay strong, stay positive. We’re here for you if you need anything!

  • As someone who has been in that hospital recliner and has witnessed firsthand the uncertainty of the big C, I can’t say enough how much I admire you and your commitment. Sounds like you guys are finding hope in the little things, and that means so so much to get you through the day-to-day shit. And there is a lot of shit, I know.

    Sending lots of warmth and good thoughts and hope your way . . . so even when you’re running low on it, you’ll have some in reserve.

  • Audrey

    So many good thoughts your way! There were tears in my eyes as I read this.

    My fiancee and I met a year and a half ago while participating in Team In Training, benefitting the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We trained together for a triathlon through a long winter and raised a ton of money in memory of grandmothers we had lost to these diseases.

    I couldn’t imagine watching a loved one fight the big C again.

    We plan to do another event in the future, so we can really train together (we didn’t get together until after our race), but decided a little while ago that in lieu of favors we’d make a monetary donation to LLS. What better way to honor our guests, the organization that brought us together and most importantly our loved ones who are not with us?

    We get married in June. Ashley, you and M will also be in our thoughts and good energy vibes when we make that donation.

  • MegsDad


    I know a couple of things about being a long term caregiver. I truly empathize with you. It is a difficult and dreary road.

    I am concerned about how “Living in the hospital, sleeping in a recliner and not going home for a month was physically draining” you. You can’t do that. You are in for the long haul, and a schedule like you are describing will wear you down until you won’t be able to help M. You should spend at least three nights a week sleeping in your own bed. Hospitals suck energy out of you, and you have to renew it.

    But you should go beyond this. You should have a bunch of girl friends dress you in “sparkly dresses and uncomfortable shoes” as Meg puts it, and take you out to have fun — maybe once a month. (Meg has some posts about going dancing and going to bars. Read them.) You need something like this to keep you sane. Just going to a movie with a couple of girl friends — a comedy or an action movie would be my choice — will help. But don’t go alone.

    I hope this does not come across as too bossy or arrogant, but your situation is difficult. I admire the way you are living through it.


    I love getting advice/sweet notes from my friend’s parents! When treatment is going as well as possible it is easy to get exhausted. The thing that sucks about that is when things get ugly you are not prepared for it. I learned this the hard way in round one. When M had the respiratory infection and I was awake for days it was incredibly tough. I was not prepared to order lunch or get my car out of the parking garage. At one point he had 6 doctors and I was getting constant updates from the nurses. His nurse pulled me aside (for what I thought was an update) to tell me that she was worried about me. She told me to go home and get some rest. That was a wakeup call. I was trying to be tough and it clearly wasn’t working. I am doing much better now.

    You will be happy to know I had a bowl of yummy coconut soup and a mojito at a trendy restaurant before I came to the hospital tonight. My parents are coming to town tomorrow and we are going to explore downtown Charleston. While I am doing a much better job of taking care of myself, it is still a work in progress. I am grateful for your advice. I will make a point to schedule a girl’s night soon.

    Thanks for your honesty.

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  • Chelle

    Ashley, thank you for sharing this. My mother passed away after a one year battle with cancer. I was sixteen and nursed her along with my Dad. Feeding her. Bathing her. Mothering her and my seven younger siblings. Dropped out of school to be there for my kids who used to be my brothers and sisters. Watched my father lose the love of his life – she died at home in his arms. I’ve known without a doubt that the pain of it will define me forever, even though it’s been 16 years since and I am finding peace everyday. Two years ago though, I was a newlywed with a small toddler married to the man of my dreams, when we found out that my new Father-in-law was desperately ill. With no savings we moved across the world to move into his tiny apartment to care for Dad round the clock. I couldn’t believe that I was watching my husband lose a parent. It was happening all over again. But what I can say is that my personal pain made me strong for my man when he needed me. While everyone called me crazy for “giving up my life” I took a part time job that I could do while caring for my baby boy as well. We lived on my meager earnings while my husband was full time nurse to his father who had limited use of his hands only. I don’t know how the pain and terror we went through didn’t break us, but we loved fiercer and stronger through it until last Thanksgiving Dad passed away. We are leaning on each other harder than ever. I just wanted to thank you for sharing your story. Your story is beautiful, and your love is amazing. It will help you through.

  • Kaitlin

    I’m sending you good thoughts and prayers. I’ve been so incredibly fortunate to have lost so few who are close to me. I can barely imagine what it must be like going through this.

  • Love you dear sweet girl and you and m are in my nightly prayers, you have such strength and love and I know you come by it honestly. Sending big giant hugs and love …you know you are amazingly loved by a family bigger than you can imagine!!

  • Nan

    Very nice article. I certainly love this site. Thanks!