Do you remember the romantic comedy When Harry Met Sally? It is about two quirky people who meet, become friends, and, years later, fall in love despite their differences. Our storyline is similar, but we take things to a whole new level by adding stage IV cancer to the mix. We describe it as When Harry Met Sally . . . Then Sally Gets Cancer.
Surviving breast cancer is challenging, to say the least, but turning your spouse into your writing partner to tell the story of it—well, that has sequel written all over it. Our goal is to give you a he-said-she-said perspective from the caregiver and the patient.
Picture a loud-mouth boy from Philly meeting a sensitive, introspective girl from NYC. They fall in love, get married, and intend to live a life full of fun, travel, and, eventually, have some adorable kids together. But fate had other plans for these two. Because BAM! stage IV breast cancer came along and upended their newlywed lives, forcing them to change paths, rely on each other completely, and learn to overcome their numerous, but compatible, differences. In the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, they had to become people they didn’t know they could be. After all, it was a matter of life or death.
By the way, I’m the patient. My name is Jenn, or JJ, and eighteen months into my new marriage, I received this shocking diagnosis. My journey involved endless doctor appointments, treatments, surgeries, and behind-the-scenes care. All of this would have been almost impossible to handle without 24/7 around-the-clock support. Which leads me to introduce my other half, husband, and caregiver extraordinaire, Larry or LT, as everyone calls him. He’ll be sharing his story in BOLD, which is definitely more like Larry’s tone. And al—
Hello, everyone! And the pleasure is all mine! And yes, I will d—
Hold on, babe, lemme finish . . .
Just to let you know, he’s going to do that once in a while, interrupt me—come in and be cute—so this is a warning . . . prepare yourself.
Can I interject here? I want to give my pitch.
Well, I’m not done yet, my love, but if you can’t wai—
In case you feel like this book might be a downer, let me tell you that it’s far from it. Trust me, Jenn and I wouldn’t be interested in writing a sad cancer story as much as you wouldn’t be interested in reading one. Which is why I felt it imperative to include the humor, the mistakes, and everything else about the dynamic between two people who fumbled their way along an unexpected path created by cancer. And don’t worry, we’re not going to keep anything from you because it’s far more entertaining and far more relatable. Also, as everyone knows, I like to talk. This is more than just a story about surviving cancer; it’s about how to turn whatever is thrown at you from a negative into a positive. If my nonstop chatter about our newly discovered wisdom can help even one couple better navigate their way through their own personal storm, either with cancer or any life challenge, it will have been worth it for me—and us.
Ironically, cancer became the best thing that happened to JJ and me. However, it sure didn’t start that way, and I was far from believing it could ever be that. Like most newlyweds, cancer wasn’t the first thing I thought about after I said, “In sickness and in health, till death do us part.” I mean, that’s supposed to be a long way off, right? Not to mention, I knew nothing about breast cancer and being a caregiver. Why would I? But gradually, I came to appreciate and take pride in my new role. In fact, I got pretty good at it. I became a jack-of-all-trades taking care of Jenn. Yes, I made plenty of mistakes along the way—but I always knew that giving up was not an option!
Well said, Larry, and so true—you definitely made plenty of mistakes.
And there she goes—right from the get-go. You can’t wait until we get past the Introduction to make fun of me?
Like the characters Harry and Sally, we each had our own personal struggles and lessons to learn, along with the ones we figured out together—the main one being, there are always two ways to view a situation—and it’s your choice, so choose carefully, my friends, because we believe it’s that perception that can make or break your outcome. Once we stopped freaking out about it, we chose to see cancer as a gift, not a curse. This outlook led to a new purpose in life for both of us—one focused on giving back to others. And, seriously, that would have never been the case before all this went down.
Here’s the spoiler alert—I went from stage IV cancer to cancer-free in four months. We wish to help others do the same. We’re not telling our story to show how remarkable we are, but to remind you that we all have magic, infinite wisdom, and the capacity for healing. Lastly, we hope to encourage you to trust that every negative situation could potentially become the chapter in your life where the caterpillar turns into the butterfly. In any case, my theory is: if you look for a positive, then you will find one. But more about that lat—
Wrap it up, babe—I thought the Introduction wasn’t supposed to tell the whole book.
Yes. Right. Almost done.
The book is written in four parts—connecting the dots before cancer, during cancer, surgeries, etc., and then life after cancer. To bring you into our story, I gathered a bunch of journal entries, along with emails and letters we wrote to each other during my treatment. You will know it’s a letter if it says, “Dear Larry.” If you see only a date, then it’s a journal entry.
They showed the euphoric highs and the sobering lows, the moodiness and the crankiness, the depression and the exhaustion, the perfect contradictions of what it’s like to live through an illness, to be extremely grateful for being alive, and yet still find it possible to get pissed off at your partner because they forgot to buy milk. Ultimately, it was love and commitment that not only kept us afloat but brought us closer.
If you are navigating your own journey with cancer right now, feel free to jump to PART TWO or go directly to the APPENDIX, where we’ve put together some tips to help you stay on top of all that’s necessary. Those sections are an abbreviated version of what we learned. You will see how we started out one way but ended up very differently. Dare I say, we became stronger and wiser—and we hope you do, too. It was a wild ride, but in the end, we did find our way back to a new normal, a better normal. One filled with a deeper love, a new purpose, and a life dedicated to sharing our story and helping others.
C’mon, let’s get on with it!
And on that note—we hope you have fun on the ride.
We’ll see you at THE END.
JJ and LT
All events, arguments, emotions, and epiphanies actually happened.
All names, dates, and times are based on real people and true facts.
(But seriously, you couldn’t make this up, anyway!)