THE BLOG

The Process, Part 5

02/26/2014 12:40 pm ET | Updated Apr 28, 2014

A large part of the reason I've been able to deal with The Process is my Beautiful and Talented Wife -- The BTW.

The BTW went though something like this 22 years ago when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Many of the memories from that experience immediately came back to life when I was diagnosed with the recurrence of Merkel cell and many of the questions she and I asked of the doctors and the choices we made were based on what we learned through her experience.

(She's doing quite well. Thanks for asking.)

Team Stan was created because having a team of health care professionals was among the most important lessons we learned from The BTW's experience.

We also learned about the extraordinary value of having a quarterback for the team. Without telling us he was doing it, our internist held frequent calls with The BTW's other doctors to make sure everyone was on the same page. That's why I made sure our internist was informed and involved in every step of The Process, including making sure that he got every report from every other member of Team Stan, even though he wasn't directly involved in my treatment.

But, by far, the most important thing I learned from The BTW's experience was the importance of my wedding vows.

I know that sounds ridiculously sentimental, but it really did come into play in a big way more than two decades ago.

When something bad like the BTW's cancer happens there's an urge to just run away so that you don't have to deal with the uncertainty, the emotions and the changes in your life that may be ahead. You say to yourself that you didn't sign up for this.

Except that I did. I vowed to The BTW when we were married that I would be there for her through sickness and health, and after seven very healthy years the sickness part was now presenting itself.

Twenty-two years later I have to rely on those same vows again, except this time it's the mirror image of what The BTW and I went through before. Because of her experience with cancer she's helping me understand the choices I have to make and the emotions I have to deal with. She's also been more than willing to do some of the things around the house that I typically do so I can get to sleep earlier. And she's been great at not being (or at least not acting) disappointed when we've canceled some of the plans we made before I was diagnosed.

This too is what I vowed to do when the BTW and I got married. I didn't just promise to be there for The BTW; I also promised to let her be there for me. That's part of the deal.

I can't tell you how much this is helping now. Rather than feeling less of a husband because of my situation, this is making our marriage even stronger. I'm making as good on this part of my vows as I did on the other 22 years ago and its extremely energizing.

This is a continuing series of blog posts by Stan Collender about his experience fighting cancer. "The Process" Stan is describing began last August.