All Will Be Well: Saying “Yes”

Five years ago this summer, Dan asked me to marry him and I said “Yes”. Dan was in the middle of chemo and I was beginning a new career. Dan had several months left of aggressive treatment in Pennsylvania and I had just a few weeks before my move-in date in Virginia.

hanna wedding
Hanna and Dan on their wedding day.

When Dan and I made the choice to get married, we could not know for sure what obstacles lay between us and the future we had planned. Yes, he was in the middle of cancer treatment when we got engaged and, yes, it was a three-year protocol with various phases of more and less aggressive drugs along with frequent, painful procedures. Sure, Dan was in a high-risk group with statistically ominous survival rates. Of course, we suspected that our “normal” would be slightly different from that of our 20-something peers for whom cancer was not in their vocabulary. We knew all of those things.

And we did it anyway.

Dan and I knew that our wedding day would be different. We knew it would be hard to plan while I lived in Virginia learning a new job and city and while Dan lived in Pennsylvania conquering cancer. We knew there was a chance Dan would have a “chemo-y” day, as he dubbed them, on our wedding day, and that he’d have to fight through side effects. We knew, worse yet, that he could be in the hospital with an infection or complication and we’d have to postpone the day altogether. We knew all of those things.

And we got married anyway.

Dan and I tied the proverbial knot on April 10, 2010, on a warmer than average early spring day. It was the happiest day of our lives, just like the storybooks. We made our vows at a beautiful Mass and celebrated over drinks and dancing at our reception, surrounded by family and friends. Looking back more deeply on that day, I can see the foreshadowing of how cancer would insert itself into our lives, how it would make itself comfortable no matter the occasion, and then how we would pour it a glass of champagne and say, “cheers.” When I really look back, I remember how Dan took breaks between dancing because his back was sore from a recent spinal tap procedure, how he didn’t eat all of his meal because the chemo pills he’d taken that morning weren’t sitting well. I remember how Dan fell asleep as soon as the reception was over because he hadn’t gotten his usual nap that day. I also remember the sunshine, the family, the friends, the love. I remember the singing, the dancing, the laughing. I remember Dan.

I remember the joy.

Our choice to get married in the throws of chemo was deliberate and delicately considered. We got engaged in the summer, about six weeks after his diagnosis. He had just completed the initial phase of chemo and we’d gotten news that the leukemia was in remission so he could move on to the next “phase” of the protocol. We were in love, Dan had had the ring for months, and we wanted to proclaim to the world our commitment to marry. We knew that being married was the foundation of real, true, complete happiness; so our decision became simple. I knew that it was statistically likely that Dan would spend the rest of his life with me, but that I wouldn’t spend mine with him. We chose marriage, eager to embrace the challenges and sacrifices that we knew it would bring, in the midst of illness.

We loved being married. We worked through the challenges and we gracefully sacrificed. We loved each other and we loved love.

Saying “yes” to Dan was the best decision I ever made.

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  • I was in a creative writing program with your brother, Colin, and reading your beautifully written essays, I see that writing and a generosity of spirit run deep in your family. Bravo to you and Dan for lives well lived.

  • Hanna, thank you for sharing your story with all of us. You story give hope to others. You are an inspiration for many.

  • I’m so sorry. I just finished reading your short bio and noted that he passed away. I’m sorry Hanna. God blessed you both.

    • Thanks for your comment, Karyl. Continue to find the good things all around you, even when the fear and “side effect” nonsense seems overwhelming. I wish you the best of luck as you and your guy move through your own story. If and when you’re feeling alone, know there are so many just like us!

  • I hear you loud and clear. I fell in love with a man who just had chemo/rad/surgery 3 months after the fact for esophageal cancer, a death sentence. He has endured many, many invasive tests since that time for surveillance and so far, so good. He is amongst the very lowest of survival ratings of only 3% so far. We pray, we are blessed to have met each other, and we go through it all together. It’s worth it! Hang in there, it will all work out just fine! FYI cancer patients never “forget” about it. It’s on their minds 24/7 even if they are in remission. With every new ache and pain, they panic and of course, you will too. Many blessings to you dear.

  • Hanna, you and Dan shared a very special love, you were truly blessed. I have been praying for you and continue to pray that God gives you comfort for your days and I pray that your special love sustains you.

    Blessings to you,
    Kathleen (friend of Jen and Jeff)

  • I know this young couple and no matter what the next hurdle was, they faced it with courage and love and their mantra ALL WILL BE WELL – they enjoyed every little bit of the years they had together – this is our lesson from them – even a simple sunset or the ability to enjoy the sunshine is a blessing – life is too short to let the small irritations get in the way of enjoying being with our loved ones

  • So beautiful, Hanna and very real. Thanks for all your writing. It makes me appreciate each and every day and those I love. Give your Mom a hug from me. She knew me at St Ts(learning support teacher

  • Hanna, it’s so great to read this and know that you’re remembering the good times and working on reaching your new normal while looking on the past with happiness. I hope everything continues to go well for you. Good luck!

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