February 27, 2014
How my ovarian cancer diagnosis strengthened my marriage
BY Brittany Hurst
2012 promised to be a great year for me. I was graduating from college in May and marrying the man of my dreams in the fall. But at the end of 2011, I started experiencing abdominal pain. It took nearly a year for doctors to figure the cause of my symptoms: ovarian cancer.
Life interrupted by ovarian cancer
Brandon proposed where we first met: on the beach. I was so surprised I forgot to say yes, leaving him kneeling in the sand until he finally said, "Are you going to say something."
On Sept. 15, 2012, we got married at a historic venue in downtown Dothan, Ala., my hometown. We spent the whole night dancing. It was the happiest day of my life.
But in the weeks that followed, the pain in my abdomen became worse. I had already had my gallbladder removed and made six trips to the emergency room earlier that year. No one could tell me what was wrong. Finally, during my seventh ER visit, just five weeks after our wedding, I was diagnosed after an exploratory surgery.
It was a lot to take in, hearing, "You have cancer." We asked the doctors where they send their family members for ovarian cancer treatment if it were them. They told us to go to MD Anderson.
I stayed in the hospital in Alabama for seven days after the surgery. One day while Brandon was away, a group of my friends came to visit. I asked them to look after Brandon if I didn't overcome this.
Visiting MD Anderson for ovarian cancer treatment
My first visit to MD Anderson was a seven-day stay. After a discussion with my oncologist, we decided that the plan would be three rounds of chemotherapy, surgery and then three more rounds of chemo. I completed my first chemo session four hours after the discussion.
The thought of being age 25 with stage III ovarian cancer seemed unreal, but I tried to live my life as if nothing was wrong. Attitude is everything when going through your cancer treatment. Sure, I had some down times, but there were way more ups.
In July I finished my chemo and was declared cancer-free, but I've been continuing to visit MD Anderson every three months to make sure the cancer hasn't returned.
When we said our vows Brandon and I had no idea that in "sickness and in health" would be tested so soon. We learned how important we were to each other really quick.
Typically, I'm the emotional one and Brandon tends to be the serious one. But after my ovarian cancer diagnosis, he had to not only figure out how to be a husband, but also how to be a caregiver. The days I was down he would give me pep talks. When I didn't want to get out of bed, he would call or text to tell me to quit dwelling on the things I couldn't change. He always told me, "We only have one option. That option is to fight."
Our relationship changed in many aspects, but at the same time it stayed the same. We're still the couple that met on the beach, but now we're stronger.