All You Need Is Love

All You Need Is Love

From Chicken Soup for the Breast Cancer Survivor's Soul

All You Need Is Love

Love is a fruit in season at all times.

Mother Teresa

When people ask me, “How did you survive cancer?” I don’t have to think twice. Bottom line? It was love—the love of God, as well as my patient, funny, rock-solid husband, Fred.

Poor Freddie never knew from one day to the next what kind of weird things stress was going to bring out in me, especially during those early weeks. But he hung in there because he loves me. I’ll give you a “for instance.”

One morning, I announced to my husband, “Hey, Freddie, I’m pretty sure I’ve figured out why I got breast cancer!”

He has learned by now to just say, “Okay,” when I make an announcement like this. This time, he looked a little worried, but said, “Okay. . . .”

This is one of the reasons I love the guy so much. As far as I’m concerned, after twenty years with me, he’s eligible for sainthood. I can’t for the life of me figure out what I ever did to deserve him. Or, for that matter, what the poor guy ever did to deserve me! See, before I met Fred, I hadn’t so much fallen in love as I’d stepped in it.

With the exception of my first love, Billy, in the sixth grade, and a few sweet but doomed relationships over the next thirteen years, my track record consisted mostly of men who thought I’d placed this ad in the personals: “Doormat seeking man to support. Only abusive, married, alcoholic, drug-addicted parolees need apply.”

By the time Fred came along, I was a bitter twenty-six-year-old woman who believed there was nothing a man could do for me that a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates and an electric blanket couldn’t do as well.

We met in Hawaii. I was vacationing; he was born and raised there.

Somewhere in my girlhood daydreams, I’d always pictured the man I’d end up happily married to some day. He’d be five to ten years older than me, six foot tall or better, have dark hair, and probably be a lawyer or doctor.

This just proves what I’ve always believed: God has a sense of humor. Freddie is six years younger than me, five foot six (to my five foot eight), has blond hair and was a struggling student (in engineering, not medical or law school) when I met him. In addition to all that, we were as different as oil and vinegar.

I knew it would never work. He was cuter than that proverbial bug’s ear, smart, funny and willing to love me in spite of my rotten attitude, but it just wouldn’t work. I kept telling him that, but he insisted it would and followed me home to Oregon. It took two years for me to figure out that oil and vinegar, while totally different, make a great salad dressing—something that clever Freddie had been trying to tell me all along. Finally realizing that I was in love with him was like seeing him through a clean pair of glasses.

You see, Freddie is a deep-rooted tree . . . and I’m a hummingbird flitting high overhead. He needs my bright colors and my outlook of the world . . . and I need the safety of his branches, the nurturing warmth of his leaves.

We got married and lived hopefully ever after.

So, as I was saying, my announcement of, “I think I’ve figured out why I got cancer!” was met with a wary, “Okay.”

“It’s my own fault, most likely.”

He nodded, looking trapped.

“See, it all happened when I started to develop back in the sixth grade,” I said. “Actually, it may even be my mother’s fault.”

“Your mother’s fault?”

“She never told me about the development business, you know. I mean . . . how exactly the whole boob thing was going to come about,” I said, frowning. “One day I woke up and there it was.”

“There what was?”

“A lump!”

Fred looked confused, but waited to see where this was going.

“Yeah. One side had a lump. So my first thought was, Oh, terrific, I have cancer! But after the initial panic, I figured that maybe if I could flatten it back out, I’d be okay.”

“Flatten it out?” My husband’s mouth dropped open far enough to catch flies.

“Well, yeah! So I spent the next month or so pounding on it, mashing it against my desk at school—which, I wanna tell ya, got to be pretty darned painful after awhile—in the hopes that it would just give up and go away.”

“You didn’t!” Fred groaned, grimacing at the mental picture.

“Yup, I did. But not only didn’t it go away, about the time when I’d convinced myself that it was a slow-growing kind of cancer and that maybe I could even live into my teens . . . it happened.”

“What happened?”

“I woke up one morning and the OTHER side had a lump!”

My husband’s eyebrows went up two-and-a-half inches. “The other side had a lump?”

I nodded seriously. “So I knew there was no way around it. I had to go tell my mom that I was dying. Of course, she handled it with all the sensitivity one would expect from their mother during a crisis like that: She laughed, and then explained about what was going on and how it wasn’t unusual for girls’ breast development to start on one side first.”

Fred rolled his eyes and began massaging his temples.

“So I figure I probably discombobulated my DNA or something, pounding on myself like that! It’s probably my own fault they’re defective now.” I sighed. “Guess I’ll never know, huh?”

Fred just shook his head and stared at me for a long minute. Finally, he grinned and said, “I love you. You’re about one raisin short of a fruitcake, but I love you.”

See what I mean about him?

So like I said, when people ask, “How did you survive cancer? What’s the one main thing that got you through?” this is what I tell them: “The Beatles definitely knew what they were talking about: ‘All You Need Is Love.’”

Tina Wagner Mattern

More stories from our partners