There are years we gain and years we lose. 2008 was a year of loss in my life. The week my husband (then boyfriend), Kevin had planned to propose to me with a hot air balloon ride over Sonoma County vineyards where we met and worked, my father’s heart decided to stop. Quietly and without a fuss, unlike many of our interactions, my father left me. In a blur, I traveled to Illinois and celebrated the life of my father that, like his heart, wasn’t given a chance at what it was fully capable of becoming. During that same week, a select part of my boyfriend’s body began to swell. It was a swelling that a woman knows is unusual – an interference in the beauty of her man. Between jet lag and my father’s service, we went to the nearest hospital for an ultra sound. Before that visit, I had believed ultrasounds were for positive images such as the validation of a forming life deep in a mother’s womb or the blank black space confirming a woman’s lack of breast cancer – but that day changed me. As the technician methodically waved her wand across my lover’s lap, I saw the tangled mess of what appeared to be an angry black widow weaving a wild web of sickness. Although disallowed from receiving a definite diagnosis, we looked at one another and knew hurt was to come.

Kevin, brave and stoic as is he, silently snuck into the web he was spun into during the memorial and hid behind the scenes so that the honor of my father was not jeopardized. But in his eyes, I saw a deep ocean of wonder and apprehension for the future. My family’s eyes released drops of rain as we shared stories of my father, though I knew mine shared a bit of worry for Kevin too. The following day we flew home and went to see his Doctor for a diagnosis of his entangled pictures taken just days before. “Testicular cancer,” the doctor confirmed with a precision I imaged he used in surgery. “It’s a very rare unique kind. Teratoma,” he continued.  “Good news is that it is localized to one testicle. Bad news, the entire testicle will be removed.”

We looked into each other’s eyes, the waves within each of us crashed wildly. “We can look into the lymph nodes, but I think we can get it all with this surgery,” he continued. “I would suggest you consider a sperm bank to ensure the remaining testicle is functioning properly – that is if you want a family in the future.” Family. In less than seven days, I faced the loss of my father, the approaching loss of my boyfriend’s testicle and now, possibly the loss at a chance of a child. In a blur, we hypnotically arrived at the sperm bank and somehow, behind the stark white walls, tried to find a piece of passion left to house a chance at a future life between the two of us. A bit of my boyfriend was contained and preserved, but after months of high fees, we decided we could no longer afford to pay for his frozen cells. We would have to depend on fate.

The day before Kevin’s surgery, while dressing for a last meal together before he faced his altered self, Kevin led me into the humble garden of our backyard. With a rose in hand, he knelt down on one knee and leaned in to me. The strength of his beating heart pounded against my body like a fierce drum. Holding the rose to my chest and looking up with a soft and settled tide set in his eyes he said, “We’ve learned in these past few days that we do not know what will happen in the future. Although we do not know what lies ahead, I do know that I love you and I want to spend my life with you. Will you marry me?” Our eyes lit full of joy. We did not need a hot air balloon to lift us up as was once planned – the love we shared in that moment raised us higher than any other time in our lives. It was the first time we did not reflect on the past or consider the future, but rested in the surety of our present situation. After teasing him with, “will you marry me,” I said yes and we celebrated as passionately as two lovers’ first encounter.

That year of loss was followed by a year of gain. I gained a husband, Kevin gained a wife, and we gained a new sense of hope. Following months of check-ups, Kevin’s cancer was clear and his health was steadying. We focused on completing our Master’s degrees over the next few years and slowly began revisiting the idea of a family. Was it a possibility? What would the chances for a child be in our lives? The winter of 2012, during the season of hope and miracles, we joined many nights together as husband and wife not solely for pleasure, but with the desire for a child. January was a month stained with the starkness of womanly red, but we tried again, and it was on Valentine’s Day 2013 we toasted to a growing family of three. It was in our story to lose so much, so deeply, to truly understand the miracle of living and gaining. My husband is a man so strong that half of what he could give was enough to bring a child into our lives and the loss of my father showed me the importance of loving those in our lives. We never know when we’ll face a year of loss or gain, but there is one thing I do know – when I look into my husband’s eyes, I see the promise of a growing family. For now, we are privileged for another year of fulfillment and have discovered this year has brought the best gift we’ve ever received.

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