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Love at the time of illness

Posted in Life & Love

think happy thoughtsThis story is not mine to tell. I stole it – a conversation with one of those strangers who, under certain circumstances, become intimate for a few hours, to then vanish forevermore. I should have asked for her permission to tell it but now it’s too late. I decided to write it because it poses an interesting conundrum – walking away from her, I asked myself “Would I do it? Would I go forward under the same circumstances?”

Lauren (not her real name) is a pixie of a woman, with animated blue eyes and short blond hair, how I would picture a good fairy. A failed marriage which dissolved when still young, and after years spent building a business she loved Lauren never had much time to fall in love, until an acquaintance set her up on a blind date, when she was in her early 50s.

Dinner with the stranger goes smoothly.
“Everybody always told me I would know it immediately when I met the right man. I don’t know that is what I thought but I remember thinking, once dinner was over, I hope this man calls me again.”

He did. He was interesting and kind and, early in their acquaintance, he disclosed he had cancer.
What kind? Lauren asked.
The good kind, he replied. I am fine now.

A year later, he was not so fine. The cancer was back, the expectations not great. They got married and, two years and 8 months after their first meeting, he died.

“I wouldn’t change anything. I would do it all over again” Lauren answered my unspoken question.

What kind of person does it take to open her arms to heartbreak willingly and joyfully? Would you trade a handful of months of happiness for years of just memories? Or is being in love, no matter the circumstances, a recipe for heartbreak along the continuum of any relationship anyway?

In youth, death can have romantic connotations, in the way only improbable circumstances can. At 50 or 60, the possibility of death is much more tangible. Would you welcome it so readily as Lauren did?

We fall in love full of good intentions, hoping for the brightest future, but to know from the start the outcome will be a permanent separation, sooner rather than later – how many of us would even consider it? Yet, doesn’t the person who has entered the realm of the sick deserve a shot at love, whatever the cost?

The other side of this story is the single cancer patient, who struggles with when to bring up the big C: too soon and it will scare prospective partners away; too late and it will feel like a betrayal.
There are no easy options when navigating an illness alone and none of them as charming as The Fault in our Stars.

Lauren was accepting of an illness she knew would rob her of love but her husband was also accepting of her presence, and let her in at a time of vulnerability and diminished capabilities. Maybe the difference between love at 20 and love at 50 is that, when we are young, we tend to think we can change ourselves and our partners. At 50, we take what is and we simply egg us on to be the best versions of ourselves that we can, no matter the circumstances.

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10 Comments

  1. Elena
    Elena

    I would do the same too. Complicated, ohh yes, big time but I would say yes regardless

    August 11, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Yes, you would. Little tender heart that you have…

      August 12, 2016
      |Reply
  2. Aren’t all relationships a potential invitation to heartbreak? I’d rather have two years of love than a lifetime of regret…

    August 9, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      Definitely, although we rarely enter them with heartbreak in sight. I would most likely follow my heart too.

      August 10, 2016
      |Reply
  3. My first instinct is to say, yes, love regardless. But, when it comes down to it, in reality, I suppose the choice is a bit more complicated. It kind of depends on the strength of the attraction/attachment and of the relationship itself.
    Hmm… I think I’ll stick with my first answer

    August 9, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      It takes a lot of vulnerability from both parts: I have met many sick people who would never want to be a burden.

      August 10, 2016
      |Reply
  4. I admire her and would do the same in a heartbeat.

    August 9, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I probably would too, with no regrets, I think.

      August 10, 2016
      |Reply
  5. All of life is kind of a gamble. Would you fail to pursue a relationship if you thought someone would get hit by a bus? I think Lauren lived a wonderful lifetime in that 2 + years. Good for her.

    August 9, 2016
    |Reply
    • camparigirl
      camparigirl

      I think knowing for sure would make quite a few hesitate – I am the ultimate romantic so I very much understand.

      August 10, 2016
      |Reply

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