A cancer diagnosis reinforced our bond

Wednesday November 25 2020

Judith and Martin say when getting married, a couple should be sure they want to spend their entire lives together. This way, even challenges become easy to overcome. PHOTO | RACHEL MABALA

By Joan Salmon

Marriage is beautiful since it gives you an opportunity to be selfless. But, it also comes with ups and downs and how a couple handles the challenges will determine whether the marriage lasts or not. For Martin and Judith Sserunkuuma, the challenge was a cancer diagnosis. 

In April 2010, two weeks before giving birth to their last born daughter, Judith noticed blood coming from one of her nipples. 

“I went to see my gynaecologist, who referred me to a breast surgeon. I then visited an oncologist, who, after a physical examination, found nothing to worry about. He prescribed an ointment, which I used, in vain. By March 2012, the ailment had become worse so I went for more tests, which confirmed that I had Paget’s disease of the breast, a rare condition associated with breast cancer,” says Judith.


After receiving the diagnosis and sharing the bad news with family and friends, panic set in. They all unanimously agreed that she schedules an operation immediately. However, with no money to pay for an immediate operation, they scheduled it for a later date, which was a blessing in disguise because it gave Judith time to emotionally prepare for what was to come. 

The couple also got time to tell their two older children that mummy was sick and they needed not disturb her. Although the children stayed with their parents, family and friends ensured that they were well taken care of and on days their mother was not so sick, they would spend time with her. Judith also continued breastfeeding the baby from the one breast that was okay.  “It was tough and strange but this became our new normal,” she says.



In May 2012, Judith underwent surgery at a cost of Shs4m. She also underwent chemotherapy, which the couple admit took a toll on her. Martin says his faith in God was tested.

“Having a baby and a sick wife to take care of was a lot to bear yet I knew we had to walk each day together. It was an awful experience as a husband to watch my wife lose her appetite, her hair and to always watch our daughter hold on to her mother like life was coming to an end. I prayed without ceasing and I believed that it would be well,” he says.

On days Judith was really unwell after chemotherapy, she would be admitted to hospital to ensure she felt better before returning home. 

Martin can only remember this time as tormenting and full of uncertainty.

“I was not sure if she would make it and wondered how I would handle the family if my best friend left me. There was one time when the situation was so bad that I barely slept for a week,” he says.

The couple is indebted to God, not forgetting family and friends who made the trying time bearable. “While many spouses become caretakers, I am thankful for all the support we received, which enabled me to keep our business running for the much-needed finances,” Martin shares, adding that in 2014, Judith was declared cancer-free. 


The couple met through Judith’s workmate, who was also Martin’s friend. “One day, I went to visit my friend, only to find Judith, who informed me that my friend had gone to run errands,” he recalls. Judith was so welcoming that Martin wanted to know more about her. He, therefore, started visiting more often and each time he did, they talked about different things easily. “She was so easy to talk to and when I learned she was a Christian, I was drawn to her for we really had something in common,” Martin says. 


Judith says around 1998/1999, she and Martin became friends and she would pass by his office on Kampala Road on her way home. “He would sometimes sign out for the day so that we take a walk together to the Old Taxi Park. However, we had no romantic feelings for each other. He was at the time dating someone else and I was also in a relationship,” she says.

When her relationship failed, Judith prayed to God for man who would become her husband.  Since Martin’s relationship had also failed, he set his eyes on his now best friend, who had every quality he wanted in a wife. They enjoyed their time together as friends that the transition to courtship was barely noticeable. “I really wanted her to be part of my life and after praying about it, I presented my marriage intentions, which have been an answered prayer for the last 20 years,”  he says.


The couple got married on December 22, 2000 but not without any challenges. The wedding preparations were smooth until a day to the wedding when the food service providers changed their commitment. “We are grateful to God who brings help at the point of need, because our friends helped out at this critical moment and we managed to get alternative service providers,” Judith says. 

Looking at the first year of their marriage, Martin says it was enjoyable although they needed to make some adjustments. “I was positive about everything that was happening because I knew it was all part of the learning process. I do not remember stressful days because I learnt to live a day at a time, by the grace of God. I also knew this was my choice and I had to enjoy the experience,” he adds.

On the other hand, Judith says she purposed to let her husband live in a peaceful home. “At first, I seemed to notice all my husband’s shortfalls such as socks left at the entrance and many other small issues, that he once asked me if I had no shortfalls. While I told him he had to let me know so I could work on them, I realised I could do better because if I was going to grow old with him, we needed to enjoy every day,” she says.


Finances are a major deal breaker in marriage and Judith says she once invested in one network marketing business without agreeing with Martin. “I bought products but failed to sell them. In the end, I gave them away for free because I had no support from him,” she says.

Choosing to learn from that, the couple has since chosen to be accountable to each other. “We both have personal accounts but avail our ATM cards and passwords in case one needs to use money on either account. They also attend to the most crucial needs such as school fees first. “It does not matter who earned it. It is ours, so we split it accordingly.’’ 


For those intending to get married, the couple say it is important to remember that marriage is for life. “Be intentional in everything you do and take one day at a time. More to that, let the Word of God be your manual because God is the