I never thought I'd have a boyfriend after marrying my husband. I'm not that kind of girl. I'm a big believer in monogamy, fidelity and finding someone who enjoys sitting on the couch and binge-watching Netflix shows just as much as I do. A soulmate, if you will. I was lucky to find that co-couch lounger in January of 2000 and married him in 2004.
And then my chest turned on me and everything changed. In October of 2011, I felt a lump in my breast, which turned into a breast cancer diagnosis. After the traitorous culprits were amputated ("Off with their heads!" I liked to shout randomly, to the chagrin of strangers all around Portland), I sat in a recliner every three weeks for three months and had poison pumped into my veins through an IV that was always so difficult to place (evidently, my veins were not privy to my retaliatory personality or they might have cooperated a bit more). My binge-watching, couch-lounging partner was with me every step of the way. He held my hand before I was wheeled into the operating room for surgeries. He sat next to me during every chemotherapy treatment (where, to no surprise, we binge-watched old "Arrested Development" episodes while the IV dripped into my veins). He just generally stepped up to the plate and helped prevent my world from completely falling apart during that frightening time. Even though he was terrified, himself.
And then NED came into my life. No Evidence of Disease. There is a lot of discussion among people who have been treated for cancer about the proper term to describe them during and after this life-changing experience. "Survivor" is clearly the front-runner. But when do you become "a survivor?" Is it the minute you are diagnosed? Is it when your cancer is removed via surgery? Do you need to wait until after all of your treatments are complete to have technically survived? And what if the cancer comes back, and you're living with cancer? What about those friends who didn't survive? Those who were taken (usually far too soon) from us? While I completely respect and embrace my friends who identify themselves as "survivors," that word has always left more questions than answers for me. So I decided to date NED.
NED is the love that I never expected to find, the kind of love that comes along when you're not looking for it. My relationship with NED is intense; I go to sleep thinking about NED and wake up thinking about NED. There are very few moments when NED doesn't exert influence on my life, whether it's the way that I interact with my family and friends, the way I try to embrace the quiet moments of life more freely, or the way that I think about my role as a mother to my two girls. NED is always with me, as is the idea that my time with NED might be fleeting.
I love NED, I truly do, but that doesn't make dating NED easy. We go in for relationship counseling every six months at the oncology office where I wait patiently while I'm tested to see whether NED will be sticking around for a bit longer; NED holds a lot of control in our relationship, which takes some getting used to. There was one session in particular where I had the sinking feeling that NED might be dumping me, but after a scan, was relieved to learn that NED still had feelings for me. I've never loved NED more than on that day!
And how does my husband feel about my relationship with NED? I already knew that he was secure in our own relationship, and he's not the jealous type, but I didn't realize the special relationship he would also develop with NED. The love between those two is palpable. My husband summed up his feelings about NED best when he told me, "Molly, I hope NED is a part of our lives forever." I couldn't agree more. Love you, NED!