September 11, 2017
Dating after a T-cell lymphoma diagnosis: a love story
BY James Deshautelle
As a bald, sick, 26-year-old cancer patient, I wasn't expecting to fall in love. I only weighed about 100 pounds, was taking multiple medications (each with a different set of side effects) and was generally looking unattractive. But that's exactly what happened after I met the woman who would eventually become my wife.
Laura and I connected through an online Catholic dating service in February 2008. We'd only known each other a few weeks when I was re-diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma — a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. I tried to break it off with her, thinking no woman in her right mind would ever want to date a cancer patient. I was wrong.
Most people would've run the other way, but not her. That’s one reason I knew Laura was “the one” very early on. In fact, the first time we saw each other in person, I thought, “I’ve found my future wife.”
Connecting during my non-Hodgkin lymphoma treatment
Initially, our conversations just made me happy. They gave me something to look forward to and think about during treatment. But as we became closer, our conversations seemed to revolve more around us as a normal couple, not around me and the cancer. Laura treated me as if I wasn't sick. With her, it sometimes felt like I didn't even have cancer.
Laura visited me in Houston quite a bit while I was preparing for an allogeneic stem cell transplant. And even though I was experiencing memory lapses, joint pain, digestive problems and other side effects, I was happier than I’d been in years. Just having someone there to constantly reinforce the good things in life made the experience easier to bear and put me in a much better mood.
Even when we talked about my cancer, everything Laura said was positive. She told me funny stories and prayed for me a lot. Those things may not sound like much, but to me, they made a world of difference.
Love and parenthood after my allogeneic stem cell transplant
Any woman who can endure the hard times when her boyfriend is fighting cancer is definitely a keeper. So naturally, when Laura stood by my side through it all, it only reinforced my belief that she was “the one.” I proposed in February 2009, and we married in July of that same year.
When Laura still hadn’t gotten pregnant after we’d been married a few years, we decided to expand our family through adoption. I’d been told that the stem cell transplant would probably leave me sterile, but I chose not to bank my sperm beforehand. We decided to let God grow our family the way He wanted to.
That’s how Audrey came into our lives in 2013, and Aaron in 2015. And it’s how we’re hoping to bring another child into our family.
I can't imagine my life without Laura and our beautiful children. Our road to marriage and parenthood wasn’t the traditional one, but it’s still a miracle.
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Our road to marriage and parenthood wasn’t the traditional one, but it’s still a miracle.