Married at 73 After Two Cancer Battles
- At 73 years old, Louisiana native and two-time cancer survivor (colon and breast cancer) Audrey Parker fulfilled her lifelong dream of getting married.
- Now, at age 74, she and her husband, Allen Green, 75, are sharing their story to remind people not to let age stop you from finding true love.
- Cancer is an experience that can surely take an emotional toll on both the patient and the spouse of the person who’s sick, as well as their relationship. But Audrey has made it known that she can lean on her husband, Allen.
Audrey always dreamed of getting married and starting a family, but when she reached her 40s without a wedding or children, she was starting to think it wasn’t in the cards for her.Read More
But life was playing the long game with Audrey. At 49 years old, she went to her high school reunion and reconnected with Allen. She said she knew of Allen in high school, but they didn’t personally know one another.
But it seems Allen had a different memory from high school.
“He comes to me (and) he goes, ‘Miss Parker, I’m not gonna let you get away this time this easily,’” Audrey recalled. “I never anticipated it going any further.”
The couple started dating shortly after, but their honeymoon phase was short-lived when, in November 2002, Audrey received some devastating news: she had colon cancer.
“I told him that if he couldn’t handle it, he could leave, and I wouldn’t hold it against him,” Audrey told People. But Allen stayed. “He said that, no, he was going to be there with me.”
Audrey successfully beat colon cancer, but her fight wasn’t quite over. A few years later, in October 2008, she was diagnosed with breast cancer; the cancer had spread and she had 18 lymph nodes removed along with a double mastectomy (surgery to remove both breasts).
She also went through chemotherapy and radiation. The grueling treatments caused her to move in with her sister, but Allen was still by her side.
She successfully beat breast cancer, too! With a new outlook on life and her 73rd birthday on the horizon, she told Allen to “Wow me” when he asked what she wanted to celebrate her special day.
And wow her he did. On March 27, 2021, Audrey’s 73rd birthday, Allen got down on one knee and asked his longtime girlfriend to marry him.
“There was screaming and hollering,” Allen told People. “I said, ‘Now, would you accept me to be your husband?’” He also asked Audrey: “Are you wowed now?”
The couple wed on July 16, 2021, just a few months after Allen’s surprise proposal.
“I felt like the queen,” Audrey told People. “I had a regular wedding like a 20- or 30-year-old person. I was not cheated for anything.”
“When you look back and you see where you are, there’s no way it could’ve been better than what it is at that moment,” Audrey told TODAY. “And you realize that every step you went through, every disappointment, every tear, every dark day you spent … was worth it.”
When the One You Love is Sick
It’s incredibly important for cancer patients to have a strong support system when going through what’s most likely one of the hardest times of their lives, and just being there can do wonders.
Cancer is also an experience that can surely take an emotional toll on both the patient and the spouse of the person who’s sick, as well as their relationship. But Audrey has made it known that she can lean on her husband, Allen. She even told him she would understand if he wanted to leave when she was first diagnosed with cancer, and he said no. He stayed by her side through not one, but two cancer battles.
This strain cancer can put on a relationship is something actress and melanoma survivor Jill Kargman can attest to, as cancer was a true test of her relationship’s strength. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Kargman said the disease “is a great way to find out if you’re with the love of your life or a shithead.”
“I think it presses the fast-forward button on getting to the bottom of that answer, because a lot of people in middle age are kind of at a crossroads, waiting for their kids to fly the coop,” Kargman said. “I think if you’re with someone who is not supportive and kind of emotionally checked out or doesn’t tell you you’re still beautiful with that, this might not be your person.”
Understanding Colon Cancer
Colorectal cancer affects your large intestine (colon) or the end of your intestine (rectum).
The cancer starts when abnormal lumps called polyps grow in the colon or rectum. If you don’t have these polyps removed, they can sometimes turn into cancer. It takes up to 10 years for a colon polyp to become full-blown cancer, so if you get the recommended screenings, then your doctor will have time to remove any polyps that form before they can cause problems.
SurvivorNet experts recommend that people at average risk of colon cancer start regular screening at age 45.
Stages one through three colon cancers are cancers that haven’t spread far from the colon. Because of this, there’s the potential for a cure with surgical resection.
However, advanced stages of colon cancer aren’t always curable. But because there are so many treatment options available, the disease can often be managed. (It should be noted that it remains unknown what stage Audrey’s colon cancer had reached when she was diagnosed with the disease.)
Understanding Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is a common cancer that’s been the subject of much research. Many women (like Audrey) develop breast cancer every year, but men can develop this cancer, too — though it’s more rare, in part, due to the simple fact that they have less breast tissue.
There are many treatment options for people with this disease, but treatment depends greatly on the specifics of each case. (It’s important to note that the stage and type of Audrey’s breast cancer is unknown, as well.)
Identifying these specifics means looking into whether the cancerous cells have certain receptors. These receptors — the estrogen receptor, the progesterone receptor and the HER2 receptor — can help identify the unique features of the cancer and help personalize treatment.
“These receptors — I like to imagine them like little hands on the outside of the cell — they can grab hold of what we call ligands, and these ligands are essentially the hormones that may be circulating in the bloodstream that can then be pulled into this cancer cell and used as a fertilizer, as growth support for the cells,” Dr. Elizabeth Comen, a medical oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, previously told SurvivorNet.
One example of a type of ligand that can stimulate a cancer cell is the hormone estrogen, hence why an estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer will grow when stimulated by estrogen. For these cases, your doctor may offer treatment that specifically targets the estrogen receptor. But for HER2-positive breast cancers, therapies that uniquely target the HER2 receptor may be the most beneficial.
“The good news is there are so many different treatments and options available, and doctors really are attuned to trying to understand patients better, to figure out what are their individual needs,” Dr. Comen said.
Contributing: SurvivorNet staff