Would You Marry Another Person with Cancer?
A conversation with Eric Young.
I attended a Chanukah party at Rabbi Menashe Goldberger’s home. Goldberger is one of the Kollel rabbis, and a wonderful mentor for me. After several people shared inspiring stories at the party, not knowing Eric Young, who was at the party, we asked him to tell an inspiring story. He was reluctant at first, but eventually, told the following story.
Eric is a man in his 60s. He said he was a widow, having lost his wife to a medical issue several years ago. He told his story by recounting a story he heard at another party that he was at a while back.
I was at a party, and a couple insisted that they had to tell me the following story. I had no idea why they were going to tell me this story, but they felt that I had to hear it, nevertheless.
The story they told me was about a man who was happily married for several decades when his wife was informed that she had incurable cancer. After a lengthy battle with the disease, the wife died and the husband stayed single as a widower for several years. I immediately knew the reason why I had to hear the story, for it was similar to my situation.
The husband then met a lovely woman and they both fell in love and talked about getting married. The husband to be was at first reluctant to marry again because of the way his first wife had died, but his love of this woman made him consider marrying again. He thought his love for this woman overcame any of his worries.
Before the wedding, the woman had a medical exam, and she was told by her doctor that she now had cancer, again, an incurable cancer. The question then occurred to both of them — should they marry given that the woman had a short time to live?
In considering his decision to marry his fiancé or not, the man thought about the impact it would have on his new wife. Would she really want to be married for such a short time period, and then put her new husband through the same misery he had when his first wife died? The man wasn’t sure it would be acceptable to his bride if she caused her new found husband another round of suffering. The man didn’t know what to do, for he wanted to do what was right for his fiancé. Now as a man, what would you do if you found yourself in this situation?
The woman also went through a series of considerations. She worried about the impact her short marriage would have on her husband-to-be. She didn’t want to put him through another cancer marriage that would quickly end with her death and cause him to suffer endlessly for something so similar to his first wife’s death. The woman knew that the few months that she would live would be much happier with her husband, but she worried about the impact it would have on him after she died that could last for years. Now, as a woman, what would you do if you found yourself in this situation?
In the end, they both decided to get married, and the wife did die several months after their marriage.
Eric never explained why he told that story, but the reason was clear to me. Eric lost a wife to a medical disease, probably cancer, but he believed that it should not prevent him from marrying again. He should put aside his worries and marry if he found the right person to marry, regardless of the short time they would be together. However, the main point of the story is that in being married it is more important to consider the impact of any decision in the marriage, and that consideration should apply to any marriage, even if for only for a short period of time. Marrying shifts the focus from the major concern in a decision on yourself to a new focus on your spouse.
The bottom line: Considering the impact of a decision on your spouse should override a consideration of the impact on yourself.