23 September 2017

A Wedding, Immigration, and Cancer

Just 12 days short of my first anniversary from heart surgery I got married to my wonderful British girlfriend, Karen. It was also the day before I celebrated my 21st year of sobriety. We got married in the Presbyterian Church, which is the American branch of the Church of Scotland. Kind of fitting since I am a member of the Episcopalian Church, which is the American branch of the Church of England. In the corner of the church was an American flag, nope we didn’t have a flag of the United Kingdom anywhere.

It was a very small wedding, yet it was beautiful and perfect. By the end of the day, complete strangers were friends and the next day we heard from a couple of people how they wished all weddings were like that.

The same day we got married, we went with the vicar to the courthouse and got all the paperwork done and had everything in our hands right away. Karen would take this proof with her back to England and would start the process for me to move to England.

It was a process that we had no idea how long it would take. We knew for non-Europeans wanting to immigrate to the United Kingdom was an uphill climb. One that you had to make sure that all the “t’s” were crossed and all the “i’s” were dotted. There was no way we could have handled it on our own. The reality was that there was no way Karen could handle it all. It was unfair of me to dump it all on her, but there was no other way. She lived in England while I was over 5,000 miles away.

The best thing we did to make sure we could be together was to hire an attorney to do the paperwork for us. It may have cost us some money, but the stress and worries it saved us was well worth it.

Three months after our wedding and just over a year since heart surgery, I was granted a visa to live and work in the United Kingdom and I started my new life, in a new country on 1 January 2016. I was so happy and also relieved when I moved.

Before my health scare, I knew something wasn’t right but I had no idea what could be wrong. So, after everything happened and everything was fixed, I felt comfortable with the move. Not because of my health, rather because I wasn’t bringing illness into our new life together.

Sadly, within ten months of living in England, I was diagnosed with mouth cancer. As much as I wanted to protect Karen from my past health issues, there was nothing I could do to protect her from this happening. What I could do though, was to make it as least painful as possible. That meant doing everything doctors wanted me to do and to be active in every procedure I had to take.
Admittedly, I hated and feared a lot of it and even wanted to quit but I made it through and today I am cancer-free with a strong heart. Today, my wife looks at me and knows how much fight I have in me, not just for my life but for ours as a couple...

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