“Ev­ery day I thank God for th­ese sec­ond chances!”

Woman's World - - In Sickness And In Health - —Kristin Hig­son Hughes

Just as Ta­mara Bruzzo D’onofrio was re­united with “the one that got away,” she learned she had can­cer. “I’d un­der­stand if you didn’t stick around,” she told Lu­cas. Yet by some mir­a­cle, the cou­ple would get their hap­pily-ever-af­ter . . .

Slid­ing into her car, Ta­mara Bruzzo felt an­other cough­ing at­tack com­ing on. For days, the 21-year-old had had a lin­ger­ing cough that left her as ex­hausted as if she’d just run a marathon and a fever that seemed to come and go. Still, she’d gone for a man­i­cure—she and Lu­cas had week­end plans!

Ta­mara and Lu­cas D’onofrio met when she was a sopho­more and he a se­nior at their Boca Ra­ton, Florida, high school. Soon they were a cou­ple, go­ing to the movies, hold­ing hands at pep ral­lies, play­ing games at the church car­ni­val and talk­ing late into the night.

Even when they went their sep­a­rate ways af­ter three years of dat­ing, Ta­mara couldn’t stop think­ing about Lu­cas. She tried see­ing some­one else, but . . . there was no spark. No­body made her laugh like Lu­cas did. No­body made her feel beau­ti­ful like Lu­cas did.

Then one day, a year af­ter they’d bro­ken up, Ta­mara got a text—from Lu­cas!

Do you want to hang out? he asked.

That evening, they just sat in the car and talked for hours again— and cried, too.

“I’ve missed you so much,” Ta­mara blurted.

“I never should have let you go,” Lu­cas ad­mit­ted. And soon, they were a cou­ple again.

Since they had got­ten back to­gether, Ta­mara had never been hap­pier. But now, with a stab­bing pain in her chest, she found her­self fum­bling for her cell­phone.

“I’m go­ing to the hospi­tal,” she told her mom.

Sec­ond chances

Ter­rifi ed it was some­thing with her heart—her dad had suf­fered a heart at­tack at age 26!— Ta­mara headed straight to the ER. Af­ter a se­ries of tests, the doc­tor ap­peared, his face ashen. “We found a large mass in your chest. It ap­pears to be B-cell nonHodgkin lym­phoma, can­cer of the lymph nodes,” he de­ter­mined. Even as her mom burst into tears, Ta­mara told her­self: I’m not go­ing to cry. Still, her hands trem­bled as she texted Lu­cas at work. Doc­tor says it’s lym­phoma. What’s that? Lu­cas replied. Can­cer, she ad­mit­ted. I’m on my way. On­col­o­gists ex­plained that Ta­mara would re­quire ag­gres­sive chemo­ther­apy—five days in the hospi­tal for each treat­ment—to shrink her tu­mor. “I’m go­ing to be hon­est: It’s go­ing to be a night­mare for four months,” one warned bluntly. So, soon af­ter, Ta­mara took Lu­cas’s hand. “Lis­ten. You’re only 24. You don’t have to stay with me. Go live your life. I’d to­tally un­der­stand.” But Lu­cas shook his head. “You’re crazy if you think I’m leav­ing again. I just got you back! Be­sides—you’re go­ing to beat this!” he said, kiss­ing Ta­mara.

As Ta­mara was checked into the hospi­tal for chemo, Lu­cas spent as much time as pos­si­ble with her. When her bones ached from the treat­ments, Lu­cas would gently mas­sage her arms and legs to help re­lieve the pain. And af­ter she took a shower one night and her long brown hair fell out, Lu­cas came back to visit the next day with his own head shaved.

“Thank you for do­ing this for me!” Ta­mara laughed, then cried at his sweet­ness.

“Look at you! You’re beau­ti­ful even now. And I told you: I’m in this for the long haul,” Lu­cas promised.

The evening of her fi­nal chemo­ther­apy treat­ment, Ta­mara’s sis­ter coaxed her out into the hall for a minute, help­ing her tug her chemo pole. When they went back in­side, Ta­mara found her room filled with bal­loons, framed pic­tures of her and Lu­cas and hun­dreds of tiny can­dles lin­ing a path strewn with rose petals! And there, be­side her hospi­tal bed, stood Lu­cas, hold­ing an enor­mous bou­quet of roses.

“You are the strong­est per­son I know. I don’t know what I would do with­out you in my life, and I can’t be­lieve how lucky I am that we are back to­gether.” Then, falling to one knee, Lu­cas pro­posed.

“I love you, Ta­mara. Will you marry me?”

“Yes!” Ta­mara cried.

The power of love

Soon af­ter, they had even more to cel­e­brate: Ta­mara was pro­nounced can­cer-free!

Over the next months, as she went to fol­low-up ap­point­ments and for blood work, Ta­mara and Lu­cas planned their wed­ding. On an au­tumn day, as they ex­changed their vows—in good times and bad; in sick­ness and health—they smiled know­ing they’d al­ready lived them. And that evening, as they danced to Ed Sheeran’s “Think­ing Out Loud” . . . Peo­ple fall in love in mys­te­ri­ous ways/ Well, me—i fall in love with you ev­ery sin­gle day . . . Ta­mara felt like the luck­i­est woman in the world.

To­day, the new­ly­weds are en­joy­ing their new life, are run­ning a busi­ness to­gether and Ta­mara is health­ier than ever.

“I know I am blessed to have this sec­ond chance with Lu­cas and at life, and I know we are for­ever. Yes, any­thing can hap­pen. But Lu­cas and I are proof that with love, you can get through any­thing!”

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