This is part of a new series featuring a collection of narratives and photographs from the book New Beginnings: The Triumph of 120 Survivors by photographer, author and cancer survivor Bill Aron.
MICHELLE: When they told me I had cancer, I started laughing in my head and thought, “Uh-hah! See, it wasn’t just cramps.” I was relieved that there was a reason for all the pain. Then they handed me a pamphlet from the American Cancer Society, and I said, “Well this is ironic. I helped edit that.” This time, I looked for more than poor grammar.
The doctors immediately started talking about surgery, chemotherapy, and freezing my eggs. The discussion brought up all kinds of moral decisions that were difficult to deal with. I prayed a lot, and I cried a lot. A question that I had to confront concerning chemotherapy was, “Would I rather be a healthy mom to adopted children or an unhealthy mom to my own biological children?” I decided that I would rather be healthy for any children that God blessed me with.
The day after my surgery, my future boyfriend, Matt, literally brought me the ocean. Even though my hospital room looked out on the beach, I couldn’t see it from my bed, so he filled a bowl with sand, seashells, and water.
MATT: Cancer is an intense thing to deal with when starting a relationship. I worried about what kind of signals I was sending. Then I decided I wasn’t going to avoid something good for someone just because of what she might think. Eventually, I learned that God wanted me to be there for Michelle. But it was hard for me to recognize that I couldn’t do everything. I couldn’t heal her.
MICHELLE: It took a while for the relationship to develop, partly because barfing is not really romantic. And then one day he watched when they were sticking a tube up my nose, and he looked at me like I was still a pretty person. He was there with me through everything. I remember thinking “if we were to get married, I wouldn’t have to worry about his vow ‘in sickness and in health.’”
I also tried to figure out how my cancer could be a positive influence on others. You can be in a bad situation and be sad, or you can search for the good. I tried to spread that good to everyone. It’s intense for someone my age to be around people who are dying, but it became the most important thing in my life. Suddenly, nothing else mattered more than what I was learning from them. It occurred to me that I wouldn’t have even met them if I hadn’t had cancer.
I have always thought it would be harder to watch someone go through cancer than to actually go through it myself. After I was diagnosed, I learned that was true. I could see the pain in the eyes of my family. It brought up a lot of emotions, but that made us all closer. Who would think that cancer could be such a healer?
Matt and I have been happily married since 2009. We now have one child, a 15-month-old boy, and I am pregnant with our second, due in March 2014. We have been blessed with these children naturally, without having to undergo medical interventions. Matt and I also recently became certified through “Safe Families for Children” to temporarily host children whose parents are going through difficult times, including cancer treatment. According to my oncologist I am considered “medically cured.” He said he now only wants to see me in our yearly family Christmas cards.
New Beginnings features a collection of narratives and photographic portraits of men, women, children, and families of varied ages who were diagnosed and survived cancer. Through the lens of his camera, Bill captures each of them as they travel on their journey. Post a comment below and you will be eligible to win a free signed copy of his book.