When Brett and I got married on July 24, 2009 we knew that we loved each other and we couldn’t wait to see what life would bring. We were so excited about building a life based on our faith and our love and we couldn’t wait to have children. Little did we know the trials that would come our way.
Shortly after we got married I found out that I would most likely have fertility problems. And I did. We started trying and eventually, with the help of a wonderful doctor, we were able to get pregnant with our beautiful twins. We were overjoyed! We couldn’t wait to meet Wyatt and Olivia and have a complete family.
Having them wasn’t nearly as simple as we expected. Wyatt and Olivia were born early at 32 weeks at a high risk hospital in Denver after I developed severe preeclampsia that included pulmonary edema (my lungs filling with fluid). I spent about a week in the hospital and the twins spent a month in the NICU. When we finally got to come home as a family, the babies were both on oxygen and Brett and I were overwhelmed. We were brand new parents with two premature newborns on oxygen. It was stressful!
Then on July 16, 2012 (just one week after the babies both finally were weaned off of oxygen) Olivia was diagnosed with brain cancer. It absolutely shocked us and crushed us. We were rattled to our core. This was truly my worst nightmare, and the thought of losing Olivia was so painful that we both went back inside of ourselves a little bit.
Over the course of the next 16 months of Olivia’s cancer battle we experienced a lot of trials in our marriage. Olivia and her care and well-being became our main focus. And our family dynamic changed. We were constantly busy taking care of our children, traveling, talking to doctors, filling prescriptions, etc that it was hard to find time to talk to each other. And it was impossible to actually take any time to be alone together. A date night was pretty much unheard of! It is easy to lose that spark or to stop really looking at that other person.
It’s also easy to start taking out your frustrations and stress on your partner. Probably every cancer parent has done that to their spouse at one point or another. You are both exhausted emotionally and physically and scared to death of what might be ahead for your sick child and your family.
Ultimately, our sweet Olivia lost her battle on October 22, 2013. Brett and I clung to each other. We talked through our feelings and emotions and took the attitude that we were in this together and that we would love and trust each other, and love and trust God to the end. Neither of us blame the other that we didn’t do enough. We know that all of us fought until the end. I’m so grateful for my husband and I know that he’s grateful for me. We have withstood truly gut-wrenching trials in our more than 4 years of marriage and I know that, that in and of itself is a miracle.
My advice to any couple facing the devastation of a cancer battle or the loss of a child is to cling to each other. Talk to each other. Try to make even the smallest amount of time for one another and try to be respectful to each other at all times. This other person is the one person in this world that knows exactly what you are going through. If you are there for each other, you have a chance to make it out to the other side, no matter what that may look like.