Cancer and MarriageIt seems that cancer has touched almost every life in some way.

Cancer has really been on my mind recently.  This weekend the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure was hosted in St. Louis with record participation.  My wife Bethany often runs in the race in honor of her grandmother who died from breast cancer just before we started dating, but she opted not to this year given she’s about to give birth.  Cancer has affected both of us in a variety of ways over the years, and our marriage has been impacted as well.

The impact of cancer in our lives has been especially meaningful lately, though.

Honoring One of Best Women I’ve Known

On Sunday, Bethany’s Godmother and our close family friend Tracie Gray passed away after fighting ovarian cancer for more than five courageous years.  Our relationship with Tracie and her family is deep and meaningful.

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We are Godparents to her granddaughter and her daughter is the Godmother of our son.  Tracie was my mother-in-law’s best friend, and her husband P.D. is a great friend and bowhunting buddy of mine.

Tracie and P.D. were one of those couples that really personified the goodness of marriage.  They were high school sweethearts that always seemed so happy and content with their life.  When you spent any time around them, it was obvious they were meant to spend the rest of their lives together.

Bethany and I have been together since our high school years, and some of our first dates ended with movies and pizza at P.D. and Tracie’s house.  We have spent many evenings together with them around a campfire, and many days boating in a lake or floating in rafts down a local river.  Tracie was literally a part of half of my life.

It is no exaggeration to say that Tracie and P.D. were awesome role models for how marriage was supposed to be.  They were great parents, faithful Christians and wonderful examples of how true love looks, acts and perseveres.

In Sickness and In Health

You may recall a recent post I wrote about the difficulty of marriage during periods of prolonged illness.  My Dad is struggling as well, but that post was also inspired by Tracie.  She was so tough until the end of her life and, just as remarkable, P.D. was a rock of strength at her side through all of the many struggles that accompany the ravages of ovarian cancer.

Tracie’s friends and family were with her and honoring her until her final days.  She lived a life that earned the love and respect of many, and the outpouring of support at her recent benefit was incredible.  I’m sure the love and honor will be overflowing at her visitation and funeral in the next few days as well.

Tracie was simply an awesome person that touched many lives.  It’s another story of the unfairness of cancer and its effect on the lives of so many.

Ovarian Cancer Awareness

After her diagnosis, Tracie’s family started an organization and Facebook page called Teal We Find a Cure to raise awareness of ovarian cancer and generate funds for research.  I cannot stress enough the importance of learning about ovarian cancer.  From their Facebook page, here is some food for thought:

Do you know what color the ovarian cancer awareness ribbon is? It is TEAL, but most people are not aware.

Most people are also not aware that ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because many of the symptoms are vague and similar to other abdominal problems. Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of gynecologic cancer deaths among women in America.

Only 24 percent of ovarian cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, when the cancer is confined to the ovary. Most cases are diagnosed after the cancer has spread to other parts of the body, making it difficult to treat successfully.

One woman out of every 55 will develop ovarian cancer at some point in her lifetime.

Please do your part and inform the women in your lives about the risks and symptoms of ovarian cancer.

Please Share Your Story

I am sure that most of us have been faced with the impacts of cancer in our married lives.

I’d really appreciate hearing from each of you in the comments about your experiences with cancer.


About the author 


Dustin Riechmann created Engaged Marriage to help other married couples live a life they love (especially) when they feel too busy to make it happen. He has many passions, including sharing ways to enjoy an awesome marriage in 15 minutes a day, but his heart belongs with his wife Bethany and their three young kids.

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  1. I’m so sorry for your loss. My mother’s first round of breast cancer came when I was just 6 & her second was when I turned 18. I’m so grateful every day that God moved in her situation & that I still have her. I can remember my toothpaste making her sick when I came close to kiss her because of her chemo & radiation treatments. She has been cancer free for 12 years now & I, like your wife, am running our local Ribbon Race 5K in October in honor of my mom. It’s the best thing I can think of to do for her to let her know how proud I am that she fought hard & won.

    1. Thanks so much, Skeemer118. God bless your mother and all that you are doing to raise funds and awareness to battle breast cancer!

  2. I was surprised at how deeply Tracie’s passing affected me yesterday as I didn’t know her personally. I’m glad you put this post up today; I felt moved to do something in her honor as well, but I wasn’t sure what.

    In the next few days, her family will be celebrating her life, but it seems like all I can think about is, as you called it, the “ravages of cancer”. It seems like she deserves to be remembered with joy, and to have a few days where no one mentions the awful “c” word, the robber disease–“the silent killer”. Its shadow has hung on her life for too long. But, my anger at the disease, coupled with not knowing Tracie as well, makes my focus hang on her husband and kids loss, as I try to push the word “unfair” out of my mind. It just chokes me up thinking about the excited grandma she must have been–another word that comes to mind is “why”. May God comfort them.

    To address the comment prompt, as you know, my Dad is battling colon cancer (for 2 years now; diagnosed at 51). We pray he has many years to go, and we pray this round of chemotherapy will knock his cancer counts to zero. The uncertainty lingers, but as I’m sure the Gray family can attest, you want to concentrate on living life and pleasing God to the fullest for whatever time is left; we don’t weep now, and we hope to have a long time before goodbye. You do learn a lot from cancer, and your friends and family in Christ become even dearer. Most importantly, you learn to trust God more than ever.

    I highly recommend people visiting the “Teal We Find a Cure” site for resources on ovarian cancer. I would add, ovarian cancer and colon cancer can be part of a familial syndrome related to abdominal cancers. My aunt (Dad’s sister) has been battling ovarian and abdominal cancers for close to 9 years. One of the “beauties” of colon cancer is how it can be detected so effectively with proper/early screening/colonoscopy; I pray the same can be true someday for ovarian cancer. I would urge people with any type of cancer in their family to be especially vigilant. There is just too much pain out there already.

    1. Wendy, your comment was so helpful and meaningful to me. I know your family continues to deal with the uncertainly of your Dad’s colon cancer, and I know your strong faith is instrumental in keeping this horrible disease in perspective and continuing to live life to the fullest.

      Each day is truly a blessing.

  3. I’m sorry for your loss Dustin. This is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I have been blessed in that my family has not been touched by cancer to the extent that others’ have. My dad had testicular cancer, but treatment was successful. I know so many others that have been battling and that have lost the battle. It has to stop. So, I participate in events to raise funds and awareness.

    In 2007, I walked 60 KM in 2 days for the Weekend to End Breast Cancer. My 4-man team and I raised $12,000. In 2008, some friends, including our husbands, ran in the Underwear Affair – raising awareness for cancers “down there” – we raised $8,000. This year, in two weeks, my friend and I are riding 200KM+ in 2 days for the Ride to Conquer Cancer. We are trying to raise another $8,000. Our training has been raising awareness as well.

    It is the least we can do to combat this terrible disease. Thanks for posting this and helping to raise the awareness. No one should have to lose a loved one to this disease.

    1. Thank you SO much for all of your activism, Shawna. I really believe it’s the collective efforts of all of these seemingly small fund-raising and awareness campaigns that will see cancer eradicated in our lifetime.

  4. I am so sorry for your lose.
    Cancer is a horrible disease that in a lot of cases is preventable and treatable with the proper health care and awareness. I have been a volunteer with the American Cancer Society Relay For Life for 15 years now. When I first started I had zero personal connection to cancer, I just wanted to help my community.
    In the last 15 years I have lost my Grandma to cancer, watched a good friend battle 4 different cancer diagnosis, I have had a personal cancer scare, my uncle had cancer, my Dad has had a cancer scare, and my husband’s grandfather died of cancer, and the list could go on.
    One thing I have learned from my volunteer work with the ACS is that research is a life saver! The only way I have of fighting cancer and helping those I love is to continue volunteering and raising money to fight cancer. I happen to be involved with the ACS, but there are a lot of organizations out there the support cancer research and treatment.
    Get involved! I know it is hard…the year my Grandma died I was so angry and hurt that it took every ounce of strength I had to attend the Relay For Life event that year. But I have found that every other person at the Relay’s, walks, and fundraisers has had to deal with cancer in one way or another and they will lend you their strength to get you through.
    My thoughts are with all those that were touched by Tracie’s life and those who will feel her lose. I pray for all to find peace in their hearts and the ability to celebrate the life she led.

    1. Wow Jen, your comment is so fantastic! Thank you for your personal support but most of all for all of the great work you are doing in the fight against cancer.

  5. Dustin,

    I am so sorry for your loss. This post is both a great way to honour your close friend and to raise awareness of a cancer not often highlighted.

    I lost my Mother to breast cancer 5 years ago, so I understand how devastating cancer can be to a family. I also watched how hard her illness was on my father and they way their marriage changed and evolved through this time.

    What I learned is how important it is to accept people’s reactions and not expect anything specific. Everyone does the best they can with what they have at the time, this takes all different forms for all different people.

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thank you, Shannon. I’m sorry to hear about your loss, and I think your advice about accepting people’s reactions is so wise. It’s a tough time for all, and everyone deals with loss differently.

  6. So sorry to all for the loss of Tracie she was a wonderful woman and yes a very strong one RIP Tracie. A year ago I developed cancer cells while pregnant with my son, it was luckily found in time that all I needed was the cells frozen out and a D&C after giving birth to my healthy baby boy. That same year my sister had to have a hyrsterectomy for the same reason. Cancer runs strong in our family and Ive had many people whom are close to me pass from cancer.Im also happy to hear my fathers cancer is still in remission for over a year now and hes doing well at the age of 78. It is very important to catch it early. Im very happy with your post Dustin and also the “Teal we find a cure” page. I remember when Tracie found out and how tragic it was with her kemo,she lived a good strong life after that and done best to make others were aware of the silent killer which made her an even stronger and respected woman.

    1. Thank you, Sara! I really appreciate your thoughtful comment and you sharing your personal stories about how cancer has affected you and your family.

  7. This wound is very fresh. My mother was diagnosed 5 months ago with stage 4 lung cancer. It had already spread to her brain. With treatment the prognosis was 6 months to a year, but only 10 days after being diagnosed she had a stroke that left her without use of her right side and with nearly no ability to speak. Because of the radiation she had already received they could not treat the stroke and because of the stroke they could no longer continue her radiation treatments. She died on April 24th at the age of 57.

    My mother was my best friend and I am now living every day trying to learn how to live without her. Not a day goes by where there isn’t a time when I would have called if she was still here. My children were only 3 and 6 months when she died. My son will have absolutely no memory of her and that pains me deeply. My daughter still asks when she is coming back from Heaven. It’s a pain I never knew I could feel.

    1. My heart aches for you, Angela. Reading your comment actually brought tears to my eyes, and I greatly appreciate you sharing it with our community. I don’t have the right words to console you (no one does), but I want you to know that my own thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

  8. Dustin – I’m so sorry to hear of your loss, but writing about it always helps bring acceptance and comfort – at least it does for me. My Dad died of brain cancer 6 years ago, and I was asked to share my story in a book titled “Letters from the Waiting Room”, by Lewis Seifert. It’s a compilation of stories where people have had to wait and in the waiting, what God said to them. I highly recommend it for those who are grieving! On another note – my maiden name is Gray and my daughter’s name is Tracy – just hearing your friend’s name gave me a connection! I will pray for the Gray family.

    Here is my story:

    My Mom was the first to notice that my Dad was acting strangely. He would take his dinner dishes into the bathroom sink. He would miss turns as he drove to the church they had attended together for years. Yes, he was still driving at the time.

    My Mom was afraid.

    She asked me to go with her to a large clinic for a complete evaluation of his health and well-being. It was a 3 hour trip that required us to stay overnight. We arrived to his first appointment only to wait. The room was full of others who were also waiting for the same thing – to be seen and diagnosed.

    My Mom was reading a magazine, I was writing in my journal, and my Dad was just sitting as we waited to hear his name called.

    It was in that moment that I heard a still, small voice whisper to me, “I’m about to call your Dad’s name and this time you won’t be able to come with him.”

    Surprisingly, this thought didn’t frighten me, but it brought comfort and peace. I realized that there was another who was carefully watching over my Dad’s soul, and I could trust Him.

    After two more weeks of appointments and tests, an MRI of his brain was scheduled. I’ll never forget that day!

    The nurse escorted him out to the waiting room and said, “The doctor wants to see him right away in his office. All other tests have been canceled for today.”

    The walk to his office was slow and evenly paced, for that was how my Dad walked. I wanted to run and scream and fight back, but we walked slow and steady holding back tears and the dreaded truth.

    The doctor confirmed what we had suspected, “Your Dad has a brain tumor that is malignant and inoperable!”

    My Dad didn’t understand. He only wanted to know if he could play golf.

    The doctor kindly responded, “You can do whatever you feel up to doing.”

    My Dad was the only happy one in the office. He replied, “Doc, that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.” He didn’t have the ability to realize his dour diagnosis, and we realized what a kindness this was for him.

    Eight weeks later my Dad was completely bed-ridden and unable to talk. He never played golf again. As the Hospice nurse cared for him she informed us that his death was imminent. I stood by his bed offering him drops of water on a tiny sponge while I cried. This was the moment God had told me was coming. He was about to open the door of Heaven and call my Dad’s name, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go with him. I was sad in knowing that I was sitting with my Dad for the final time in this life, but I was rejoicing in the fact that I was about to be as near to Heaven as I had ever been. Eternity, I realized, was only a closed door away from me.

    How grateful I was that my Dad had walked with me down the aisle of our church when I was only 10 years old as I responded to the gospel. He had walked me to My Savior then, and now it was my turn to walk him to His Savior forever.

    One day I will follow your lead, Daddy, and see you again in Heaven when God calls my name from the waiting room.

    By Debi Walter

    1. WOW Debi, that is such an incredible, real and moving story. Thank you so much for sharing it with me and the entire Engaged Marriage community!

  9. I was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was seriously dating my husband. He was there all the way, even when I was bald and missing body parts. Now that we’re married, it’s as if he’s ‘rescued me’ and that’s done now…so his relationship efforts have come to a screeching halt. Was it the cancer? Or was it the fact that he has a rescuer personality, and now the goal has been ‘conquered’?

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