Hi everyone, this is Jonathan, Sarah’s boyfriend of the last year and a half (and many more to come). Sarah was first told that she had breast cancer one year ago today, so she’s asked me to write a little something for your board. Before I do, I’d like to send you all my best wishes and prayers for the future, whether you’ve just found out or whether you’re recovering from treatment. You’ve all been a great source of support and knowledge (and humour) for Sarah – and I’m sure each other – particularly as we live in Belgium at the moment, and most of Sarah’s family and friends are in the US (and mine in the UK).
My memories of the day are not great. Unlike Sarah, I’ve not kept a journal or record of any kind – this is the first time that I’ve written anything about this whole period (aside from short emails to family). At this point last year, we had been going out for just over three months. I took a day off work and met Sarah at her apartment. She was obviously very nervous. After trying to eat something before we went, Sarah quickly threw it all back up. We then took a train to Leuven (about a half-hour outside of Brussels) and waited for the doctor. Although slightly pessimistic by nature (I’m betting better, though), I wasn’t thinking the worst, probably because the worst in this case is too bad to think about before you have to. At the appointment itself, Sarah was first seen by a young female doctor who cautiously said that the lump could be cancerous and went to get the senior doctor, Dr Neven. As soon as he saw Sarah’s x-rays, Dr Neven immediately said, without any hesitation, that it was cancer.
Despite being at the hospital for hours that day, my overriding memory is only of Dr Neven coming into the room and saying at once that it was cancer. He then talked with Sarah about her medical history, told us about possible courses of action and I think that we saw another doctor, but I guess it’s not surprising that my memory has been condensed to pretty much that one moment.
What’s more important is what has happened since then. Everyone at the hospital in Leuven has been extremely helpful and friendly, especially Dr Neven (who, I’ve just remembered, ran after us when we had left his consulting room to give us his mobile and home phone numbers in case we needed to reach him for any reason). Things then moved very quickly: surgery within a month, chemo in early September and radiation after Christmas.
Sarah was unbelievably strong throughout the entire thing and was always incredibly bright and optimistic, which meant, in turn, that I was too. In fact, and I’m not very proud of this, I whine more about my slightly-imaginary hair loss than Sarah every does about what she’s going through. Even with tubes coming out of her side, suffering from chemo sickness or having her hair fall out, Sarah always amazed me with her refusal to feel sorry for herself. I’m sure the same is true of you all – I almost cried the last time I had a bad hangover, so God only knows that I’d be like in your situation….
Her positive attitude was clear from the start – she had the mastectomy during the football World Cup and the first thing that she said upon waking up from the anaesthesia was “What was the score?” (I can’t remember who was playing) Not quite the first thing you expect to hear, but it had us all in hysterics. There have, of course, been a few changes to our lives – alcohol and late nights are out (with exceptions), fatigue and hot flashes are in, enjoying the sun or the swimming pool (we went to Spain after the surgery but before chemo) was very difficult for Sarah, we’re trying to eat more healthily, etc, as you all know.
If anything, we’re closer because of what has happened. I love being with Sarah, so having to spend less time with other people and more time together is only a good thing. We go away on the weekends as often as possible (and Sarah’s been to about a half-dozen places with other friends during the last few months) and we are perhaps thinking a little more firmly than otherwise about the future. Once you’ve been through something like this, there hopefully aren’t many worse things that could come.
Sarah could have gone back to the US for treatment, but I’m very glad that she chose to stay in Belgium. Our first year together was not normal in some ways, but when it’s this good in these circumstances, I can’t wait to see what’s ahead.