Would you marry someone you knew was terminal?

Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010 ( 25 moms have responded )

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Since co-founding Stand Up To Cancer in 2008, and because of my own bouts with the disease, I have spent many nights reading informative articles on things like translational research, immunotherapy, and gene pathways. For all those heady scientific journals on possibilities, it's the personal stories, like Chicago Tribune reporter Duaa Eldeib's moving portrait of Nick Schmidt and Bahar Mallah that are the loudest drumbeat, in the war against cancer.



Nick was already diagnosed with cancer when he met Bahar at a bar one cold Chicago night. She noticed he wasn't drinking. "I have cancer, but I'll buy you a drink," Nick said. "That's your line?" Bahar replied. "That's a horrible, horrible line."



And so began their journey as a couple, "blissfully in love." He was the patient. She was a pharmaceutical rep who could change his IVs and manage his ports. Save for the cancer, their lives were similar to all those other "blissful couples" who were just beginning a life together in 2008. But we all know cancer complicates everything, even falling in love.



What is so striking about the piece is that in learning about the courage of this couple (in Nick's case, his willingness to experience love in spite of his disease, and Bahar's willingness to risk loving someone whose life would likely be cut short) we are forced to ask ourselves, "Would I marry someone I knew was terminal?"



If there is one ultimate dividing line in our collective being, it is a line between those who take risks and those who play it safe. How many of us, on hearing the word "cancer" in a pick-up line, would bow out gracefully? How many would have not returned a phone call, or declined an invitation from a handsome man going through chemo? How many of us would have said, "She'll never be interested in me, why bother?"



Bahar told the Tribune: "There are people who beat this... why can't he be one of them? Every new treatment he was on didn't exist when he was on the treatment before that. There will come a time when science is going to catch up, so (we) should keep trying."



In that one sentence, Bahar embodies everything that is right with the cancer movement. And we, the risk-takers, who know that 51 days spent with the love of your life is better than a lifetime of never experiencing love at all -- we are the ones who must stand on the frontlines of this fight to end cancer. We are the only hope to end it.



The first step is embracing the spirit that inspired Bahar Mallah -- go forward despite the odds. We must put aside our cynicism and hopelessness, and embrace the risk-taker in science, in love, in art, in life, in ourselves.



Sir Richard Branson understands this intuitively. It's why he's had all the wild success he's achieved. Recently, Branson's Virgin America struck up a novel partnership with Stand Up To Cancer. As you fly Virgin America and enjoy their in-flight entertainment system, you can now donate to Stand Up To Cancer right from your seat. Virgin America has also initiated a series of online promotions to encourage donations from the ground.



I mention this because as we kicked around Branson's idea, there were those on our team who thought the public wouldn't be interested. Why donate to cancer just because an airline asks you to? Yet, since September, we have received tens of thousands of dollars for innovative cancer research projects from passengers, crew and Virgin America "teammates" who have engaged in Virgin America's pledge to fight cancer. This is just the start of Sir Richard's plans to combat cancer from 35,000 feet -- he wants to name planes, donate portions of sales, and maybe host benefits from the sky. He has an idea a minute, and they are usually extraordinary.



Sir Richard's effort is one small example of an individual rethinking what's possible vis-à-vis cancer. I could name hundreds. But it's not enough. It will take all of us, risking big and small. Stand Up To Cancer, along with many other organizations, is working to change the dynamic in the field of cancer research. Believe it or not, that's the easy part. The harder part is moving the public to take action, to reinvest, and restore its faith in the 40-plus-year war on cancer. There are many credible and rational reasons why this is. But like Bahar discovered, sometimes a risk is worth it, despite the odds, and the naysayers.



I would be remiss not to mention my friend, and tireless health care advocate, Elizabeth Edwards. She lived her life to the fullest despite her disease. Elizabeth said in recent years, "I have been sustained throughout my life by three saving graces -- my family, my friends, and a faith in the power of resilience and hope. These graces have carried me through difficult times and they have brought more joy to the good times than I ever could have imagined. The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. But I have found that in the simple act of living with hope, and in the daily effort to have a positive impact in the world, the days I do have are made all the more meaningful and precious. And for that I am grateful."



The connection between Elizabeth Edwards and Bahar Mallah runs deeper than just two people affected by cancer. They are two people who bravely stood up against cancer, whose lives weren't defined by it, and who believed life was worth living even when you are forced to play an impossible hand.

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Becky - posted on 12/20/2010

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Yes, I would certainly marry someone who was terminal if I was in love with him. But, I'm not sure I would pursue a relationship with someone if I found out they had a terminal illness before getting involved with them. I don't know. I'd be his friend, I'd be there for him, but I'd try not to fall in love, because that would just be so hard. But I guess if I did, then I would marry him.

Joanna - posted on 12/19/2010

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Well a person without cancer could die from a car accident or a heart attack, etc. Everyone dies and you don't know when it's coming. Loving someone with a terminal illness is like loving anyone else - aren't we all terminal in a sense?

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Johnny - posted on 04/20/2011

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Yes, definitely.

One of my good friends from college died two years ago from colon cancer. She was married to the love of her life, her boyfriend of 6 years, about 5 months before she passed. They knew it was terminal, but they proceeded to enjoy their lives as if they had an eternity. As far as I know, he has not expressed any regrets at choosing to be with his true love.

Veronique - posted on 04/20/2011

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I would in a heart beat. If i met a guy and he was terminal ans i so loved him yes why not. Nobody knows for certain how long we have on earth and just because doctors say that you should die whithin a certain lapse of time doesn't mean you will. Why deprieve your self of something so beautiful as love because of an illiness, and even so why deprieve someone else who wants to love you till the day you die no matter how long that is. Life is to short to base it on sickness, i say live your life like if each day was your last, because really healthy or not, nobody knows when your number is up......

Merry - posted on 04/14/2011

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If I was in love then definitely.
My mom died of cancer when I was 15 and while it's different then a spousal relationship, I wouldn't trade those 15 years with her as my mom with a lifetime of another woman as my mom!
Sure it hurts awfully when someone you love dies, but when the pain starts easing up, the love you had remains. That's a beautiful feeling.

Reminds me of the movie I watched last week, love and other drugs. He chose to be with her even though she had parkinsons disease. Love is love and when you have it for someone nothing should stand in your way of pursuing it to it's fullest.

Bonnie - posted on 04/14/2011

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I have heard of spouses asking for a divorce because their spouse is terminally ill. It breaks my heart.

Lady Heather - posted on 04/14/2011

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I wouldn't turn down a cancer patient for a date. As the woman in the article said - lots of people beat it anyways. And I just think that's a strange reason not to give someone a shot. They could be the love of your life. Sure, it might not last long. But I wouldn't take back my relationship with Leif if it only lasted a year.

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Of course i would marry.Theres nothing that would stop me from marrying someone i loved dearly.♥



JANE, i am so sorry for your loss.

Louise - posted on 04/14/2011

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If I was in love with that person then yes I would marry someone that was terminal. OK the outlook is bleak but why not carry on as normal as much as you can and if marriage was on the cards then why wait when time is so short. I think it is a very brave person that gets involved with someone who is terminal because you already know that your heart is going to be broken very soon. Why should cancer stop you experiencing something as lovely as a wedding. The wedding would give you wonderful memories and your partner a day of not worrying about the disease but living a full life. My sister in law married a man when she had terminal cancer, they had not been dating very long when she was told that the prognosis was not good and they continued to have there wedding day. Six months later she was gone, he has never married again and every year he places a wreath on her grave on there anniversary. I don't think he will ever marry again or date it has been 14 years and he has not moved on.

Stifler's - posted on 04/14/2011

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If I was in love with them hell yeah. It would be really hard knowing you'd have to say goodbye though.

Jane - posted on 04/14/2011

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I did. He passed away December 8, 2010. He had colon cancer but what killed him was pneumonia.

Bonnie - posted on 12/20/2010

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I think you fall in love with whom you fall in love with because of the person they are inside. What they have should not change that. If my feelings are deep enough for this person, I feel there would be no way to change that. Hust cherish every moment with them.

Mrs. - posted on 12/19/2010

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Sorry ladies that movie is pure shlock.

Anywho, I would. Having dealt with painful chronic illness that has left me handicapped and bedridden for long periods, I know what it means to have a partner who sticks it out no matter what. They are hard to find. I've said to my fiance, you know it's love when someone is giving your dirty bed ridden ass a sponge bath. We all hope to find anyone, family members included who'll be there through that. I know that because people have put their lives on hold to care for me, I would do the same in a heart beat if I loved them.

Katherine - posted on 12/19/2010

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I guess it wouldn't matter whether you married or not. You're still in love.

You still may have to watch that person die. That's life though whether it's anticipated or not. Something could always happen when you least expect it.

Tah - posted on 12/19/2010

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yes jessica..love that movie and watch it everytime it comes on. I would like to think that i would marry in that instance...

Dana - posted on 12/19/2010

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You can't help who you fall in love with, you can hope that you find love, no matter who it may be with.

Jessica - posted on 12/19/2010

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Makes me think of the movie " A Walk to Remember" I love that movie, make me cry everytime! Yes, I would do just about anything for the ones I love.

Shauna - posted on 12/19/2010

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i would most def marry someone with a terminal illness. I would love them each and everyday and stick with them untill the end.

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My cousin died of Cystic Fibrosis in January 2007. She was 25 years old. She had married her high school boyfriend, who had been around her illness and seen its devastation for years, and thought he knew what he was getting into. It was rough, he had NO IDEA. But he stuck it out and helped to make her final years, days, hours....full of love and tenderness.

I am the type who normally follows my heart. I'd marry for love. Terminal illness or not.

Tara - posted on 12/19/2010

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I would. If I fell in love with someone who had terminal cancer, I would marry them and treat each day like a gift.
Life doesn't stop when you are diagnosed, for many people I know, life started in full force upon diagnosis. Some are here today still celebrating their life, and some have passed on, having lived life to its fullest as much as possible.
The other side of this debate (if you can call it that) is the people who leave when there is a diagnosis of cancer.
A friend of mine from highschool was diagnosed during a pregnancy, she chose to abort so that she could go ahead with treatment, he husband left her because of her "selfish" act. She beat the disease but still can't get over the fact the "love of her life" walked away when she needed him most.

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