"Jordan* and I were junior college sweethearts who continued to date throughout our university days and our 20s. We were in love and hoped to have a future together someday, but because we were both still quite young, we decided to wait until we were established in our careers before tying the knot and starting a family.
"When he was 30, Jordan was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of cancer that occurs when abnormal white blood cells - called lymphocytes - in the lymphatic system start growing uncontrollably. He had lost quite a bit of weight, and he was always tired and bruised easily. He also had swollen lymph nodes. A medical examination revealed what we feared: the cancer was aggressive and Jordan needed to undergo treatment immediately.
"When I found out about the diagnosis, my whole world came crashing down. A million questions ran through my mind: How much time would Jordan have? Would we get to fulfil our dream of having kids? How would I go through life without him? I was scared, worried, and heartbroken all at the same time."
An unexpected romantic connection
"All of Jordan's family members and friends rallied behind him as he began treatment. Because the lymphoma was considered advanced, Jordan had to undergo chemotherapy, which involved the use of a range of anti-cancer drugs. The drugs were administered intravenously. Jordan took time off work while he underwent treatment, which was just as well, considering that the drugs had some dreadful side effects, like mouth sores, a loss of appetite and nausea.
"I did my best to stay strong in those first few weeks. I found it hard to concentrate on my work. All I could think about was helping Jordan get through this ordeal. I spent as much time with him as possible, making sure that he got enough rest and doing whatever I could to lift his spirits.
"There was someone else spending a lot of time with us, too - Jordan's best friend, Ben*. I'd known Ben since university. Unless Jordan was around I didn't hang out with him very much, but now that Jordan was very sick, Ben and I were spending more time together privately. For instance, he would pick me up from work some evenings and drive me to Jordan's place or the hospital, or we'd go for coffee or a meal together after visiting Jordan. I felt very alone during that time, so it was wonderful having Ben around.
"Ben was a source of comfort and strength. I cried a lot and he was always there to wipe my tears away. Many nights, I'd call him just to talk about random things that had happened during the day, and he always listened to me. Ben was single, which was probably why he could devote a lot of time to me. But he struggled with Jordan's diagnosis, too, and needed my support as much as I needed his.
"Meanwhile, Jordan's condition was getting worse. His cancer wasn't responding well to the chemotherapy. Every time I saw him, he looked miserable and my heart would just break for him. I tried to keep my conversations with him positive - but instead of talking about the future like we always did, I'd reassure him that he would beat the cancer and be back to his old self in no time. Of course, a part of me didn't believe my own words, but I needed to be strong for him."
Forced to confront the truth
"Over the next several months, Jordan's condition deteriorated despite the chemotherapy. Because of his weakened immune system he was at risk of developing infections. He was also in a lot of pain, so his doctor recommended palliative treatment to help reduce the discomfort and improve his quality of life. Some days, Jordan was just too sick to even talk to me.
"I began to see less and less of Jordan and more and more of Ben. The more time we spent together, the closer we got, and finally it got to the point where neither of us could deny that we shared something special.
"'When Ben finally told me he loved me, my heart pounded with excitement. We were sitting in his car; we'd just finished dinner and he was sending me home. His declaration of love sounded natural and I wasn't the least bit surprised to hear it. Without hesitation I told him that I loved him, too.
"During those several months hanging out with each other, dating Ben didn't cross my mind even once. In fact, I was still so in love with Jordan, and so distraught over his condition, that I couldn't see myself with any other man, let alone my boyfriend's best friend. But all of a sudden, I was starting to think that I might be in love with Ben.
"That night in Ben's car, after we declared our love for each other and shared a kiss, we talked about the possibility of starting a serious relationship. The only problem was how it might come across to Jordan and his family."
A new beginning with a new man
"Ben and I agreed to keep our relationship private for the time being. We knew that Jordan didn't have much time left; there was little hope that he'd last beyond a couple of years. We still visited him, either separately or alone, but we hid the truth from him. And as much as I loved Ben, a part of me still loved Jordan. We practically grew up together; there was no way I would hurt him by breaking up with him now.
"Jordan knew that his health was deteriorating rapidly, too. He had come to terms with the possibility that he might not see his next birthday but that didn't mean he wasn't sad, angry or scared. Ben and I did the best we could to comfort him in his final days.
"Even after Jordan passed away, Ben and I still kept our relationship private out of respect for Jordan's family. Jordan's parents and grandparents, in particular, were devastated by the death, so Ben and I grieved with them.
"Finally, about 18 months after Jordan's passing, Ben and I made our relationship official. Jordan's parents were surprised but gave us their blessing. Our friends were happy for us, too.
"I cherish my relationship with Ben. Unlike with Jordan, Ben and I haven't planned out our future together in great detail. We're just taking each day as it comes, and hopefully, we'll be able to figure things out along the way. Our relationship and friendship with Jordan made us realise how precious life is, how precious every moment is. It's a gift to be alive, to able to see Ben and to hear his voice every day. Neither of us asked for this relationship to happen, but now that we have it we will treasure every second of it."
*Names have been changed
This article was first published in Her World Online