Marriage is beautiful, but just like a rose, it has several thorns and how you deal with them determines if you will continue to enjoy its beauty or loathe it. For Martin and Judith Sserunkuuma, the major thorn was a cancer diagnosis. “We can only testify that it was only God on our side, the author and finisher of our faith as is stated in Heb.12:2, who saved our marriage. “
Two weeks before giving birth to their last daughter, in April 2010, Judith saw a few drops of blood coming from one of her nipples. “I inquired from my gynaecologist who referred me to a breast surgeon. I then inquired from a friend, an oncologist, who made a physical examination but found no alarm then. He prescribed an ointment which I used but in vain. By March 2012, my nipple had gotten worse so I sought re-examination which confirmed that I had a rare type of breast cancer that does not form a lump inside the breast called pageant-disease of the breast,” she shares about the genesis of a gloomy time in her life.
On getting the report and sharing it with family and friends, panic set in that they insisted she goes for an operation immediately.
With no finances to see to it, they scheduled the operation for later which also gave Judith time to prepare herself emotionally. In May, Judith underwent surgery and later did chemotherapy which really drained her. For Martin, his faith in God was tested. “It was such a trying time for us. A baby and a sick mother were a lot to bear yet we had to walk each day together. It was an awful experience as a husband in all areas of my life, but God gave me the grace to go through it. Several thoughts crossed my mind, as I prayed that my wife pulls through. When she lost appetite, lost her hair while having the chemotherapy treatment and saw our daughter hold on to her mother, more so after medication, I prayed and believed more that it would be well.”
Judith had to stay away from her family for a week of treatment, and some mornings of special care to stabilize after getting her chemo shot.
The couple is indebted to God, not forgetting family and friends who made the trying time a little bearable. “While many spouses become caretakers, I am thankful for all the support we got which allowed me to keep our business running for the much-needed finances. During that time, I anchored on Ps 37:39 to find courage,” Martin reminisces.
If there was a shadow of doubt standing between the Sserunkuumas, this ailment broke it as they got even more determined to stand firm in faith and prayed more together. “We also learned that life should not be taken for granted. Each day is an opportunity to accomplish our God-given tasks and honour God while doing so.” In the interim, they trusted God for the healing while, taking medical advice and treatment. Judith was later, in 2014, after a year of periodically testing, declared cancer free. “He, however, advised we do checks as deemed fit.”
Meeting through Judith’s workmate doubling as Martin’s friend, the Sserunkuumas had no inkling that one day, they would be a couple. “One day, I did not find my friend and Judith came to let me know that she was not around since she had seen me a few times visiting.” Judith was warm and welcoming, something that endeared Martin to begin a conversation with her the next time he came around. “She was easy to talk to and when I learned she was a Christian; I was drawn for we really had something to share. I also realised that we had a few common friends when we met on their functions in addition to church events,” Martin smiles.
Judith remembers it like yesterday, saying, around 1998/99, they became friends and she would pass by his office on Kampala Road on her way home. “He had prospecting a girlfriend at University while I was also in another relationship, so, it was amazing that he would sometimes sign out for the day and we walk together to the Old Taxi Park. Unfortunately, none of these worked out.”
Judith did not want to have many relationships that led to nothing hence asking God to get her into one leading to marriage. “While I was waiting on the Lord for my breakthrough, I enjoyed my singleness with my girlfriends.” In regards to Martin, Judith thought Baganda men demanded too much respect inasmuch as she was not sure which other tribe would be ideal. On the other hand, Martin enjoyed his newfound relationship so much that the transition to courtship was barely noticed. “The only point I remember was that I really wanted her to be part of my life and prayerfully, I presented my marriage intentions which have been an answered prayer for the last 20 years.”
Judith pegs Martin’s failure to notice to the fact that they enjoyed each other’s company. “We were at ease, talking about anything, and he has this kind of humour that can keep one laughing. With him, I did not have to pretend about anything. As such, there was no need to try and win the other over, we were genuine friends,” Judith smiled.
Nonetheless, her issue was meeting Martin’s mother for she did not know what to expect. “When he took me for the first time, he told her I was his bride-to-be. She asked about his other friends that had visited earlier (these I had already met and knew) and Martin insisted I was his bride-to-be. This gave me comfort.”
With that, courtship was on and they pledged to God to respect each other. “We knew what behaviours God required of us through His word, so we decided to live by it. We also prayed together about our future and commitment to each other. We also believed God for our lives to be a reflection of what He had joined together and finally he was faithful through it all.” During that time, they enjoyed evening walks and eating out. “We would take a taxi from the Old Taxi Park, alight then take the longest route to my home. We would also have time together in the Sheraton gardens and once, to Makerere garden. Openness made the whole transition easier,” Judith shares.
Getting married on December 22, 2000, the 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 was also thankful to have her mother around. “Having been abroad for the last 20 years, it was beautiful to see her on my special day.” Martin laughs at the memory that it was only during studio time when he noticed that his bride did not have a bouquet. “I only noticed because that was when the flowers were brought.”
Looking at the first year of their marriage, Martin says it was enjoyable with all the adjustments to be made to fit in each other’s environment. “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 learned to live a day at a time, by the grace of God. I also knew this was my choice and I had to love the experience.” Agreeing to set the first year aside for just them, he says it has caused them to be always at peace in the company of each other regardless of where they are. “We share our projects and work together.”
On the other hand, Judith says she learned and purposed to let her husband live in a peaceful home. “Prov.21.9 was my motto. The Holy Spirit must have prompted me about it because while I had read it before, I was now required to live it out. For instance, in the beginning, I seemed to notice all my hubby’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 that 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 of it. At least that was our aim.” With that, while Judith would notify Martin about his mistake, but not dwell on it. “Sometimes, I would let it pass, especially if it wasn’t a matter of life and death, such as littering clothes. It is now easier to bear with each other and one another’s burdens.”
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 used them on guests and meetings for free because I had no support from him.” Choosing to learn from that, the couple has since chosen to be accountable to each other. “We both had personal accounts which we kept but availed our ATM cards if need to use the money on them arose, so we know each other’s password.” In matters of how money is used, the Sserunkuumas say they attend to the most crucial need such as school fees. “It doesn’t matter who earned it. It’s ours, so we split it accordingly. Tithing is also a major priority in the family.”
Another challenge over the years has been misunderstanding one another while communicating, resulting into conflict which usually lives one party unhappy for a while. “Nonetheless, learning to forgive has helped mend the broken pieces of the relationship.” They both choose to cool off before sharing their grievances to avoid actions they would regret which has made conflict resolution to yield a positive outcome. “Whenever I realise I am starting to raise my voice in a discussion, I keep quiet and say a prayer within me for God to calm me down, make me understand the situation from her point of view and then give me a way forward,” Martin shares.
For those intending to get married, they say that they need to determine to be married for life. “Your decision to stay married implies you work on your marriage so be intentional in everything you do and say and take it one day at a time. More to that, let the Word of God be your manual for your marriage because God is the author of this institution.”