Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Modern Day Love Story

When I was a kid, I thought about my Prince Charming, the perfect man, who always knew what to say, took care of my every need, and no matter how fat I was, never said that I looked fat in anything. When I was a kid, things were easy, I would finish school, go to university, be rich by twenty five years old, have two kids and be married by the time I was thirty. When I was a kid, I had it planned, and the possibility of not achieving any of this never crossed my mind.
When I was in high school, I never really had a boyfriend. I like to pretend that it was because they were all too immature but I think it’s safe to say that the size of my hips scared most of them away. At the ripe old age of 18, I wasn’t sure if love was ever going to happen for me.
I considered myself someone who hadn't faced much adversity in my life. I mean, I have always struggled with my weight and I had arthritis by the time I was sixteen but everyone has something, right? When my aunt died of pancreatic cancer, I started looking at life a little differently. Why her? Why so young? Why cancer?
Fast forward about six years and after I had come to terms with my aunt's death, as I ploughed through university my childhood dreams slipped away. After 20 years of marriage, my parents split up shattering much of what I believed in, instead of being rich, I was borrowing more and more money from the government to sustain my six years at university, kids were nowhere in sight and I had just broken up with who I had considered to be my soul mate. Boy, did I miss being six years old and seeing the world with rose coloured glasses. 
So as I entered my fourth year of university, I was determined to get through the year and graduate. In the mean time, I got to know Keith. I mean I had known him for five years at this point but I knew him as my brothers’ friend. We started hanging out and once he started making the four hour drive to Ottawa to see me on weekends, I knew we were becoming more than friends. Near the end of my first semester of my last year, we made it official.
One year turned into two and between going back to university for two more degrees and working at a pretty steady pace, Keith packed up all of his life and moved it to Ottawa to be with me. After a few more years, it started to become apparent that Prince Charming doesn’t exist. Hahaha, just kidding Babe! But seriously, what I started to realize is that Keith and I work very hard (as a team) to make our relationship work. There is no secret, and we aren't perfect but damn we make a good pair.
I graduated in 2009 and Keith and I took a six week trip to Europe. When we came back, I got a decent job, as did Keith and things were starting to fall into place. After the split of my parents, I didn't know if I was prepared to get married but Keith and I were discussing starting a family, certainly not right away, but within a couple of years. Then right in the middle of careers and baby came cancer. 
The morning of my diagnosis, my mom came with me to the appointment and although we were convinced that it was nothing, I didn't want to go alone in case it was something. I called Keith at work and said 'I have cancer.' There are no words for the feeling that I had at that moment. What I wanted to say was 'I have cancer but I promise I'll do my best not to die, okay?' and although I wanted to be strong for him (knowing how scared he must have been to hear me say those words) I needed him to be strong for me.
As time moved on, we were able to joke about cancer. I still insist that everyone should have a 20% off everything card while in treatment (including big purchases like cars, houses, and student loans). A week after my diagnosis, I came home to a gift on the kitchen table. I opened it to find a journal inside and a card that said 'for everything you can't tell me.' 
As one appointment turned into twenty, Keith was by my side for everything and as my needle phobia only worsened, his protective hugs and his tear wiping abilities only got stronger. He walked me to the washroom when I could barely walk myself there after surgery, he emptied my drain because I couldn't do it myself, he would shower with me just so I wouldn't have to accept my mastectomy by touching it and to be honest, he even dressed me for a couple of weeks.
After surgery was chemo and although I was bald with only one breast and packing on the steroid pounds, I never questioned his love for me once. After chemo #3, I hadn't left the house in six days. After responding 'no' to the daily 'are we going to leave the house today' question, on day six he told me that it was time to leave the house. I told him that I wasn't feeling well and he said 'Sweetie, you have to try.' It took about a half an hour to get dressed (between the nausea and the fatigue) but I did it. I walked to the end of the hallway, took the elevator downstairs and went outside. I made it about nine steps into the parking lot and said 'I'm going to throw up' and he quickly said 'Ok, let's turn around.' I got back into bed and Keith said 'I'm proud of you for trying.' The next day I walked for about fifteen minutes and the next even longer. Without Keith, I would still be in bed.
I have heard of too many women who deal with breast cancer alone or whose partners throw themselves into work or turn to alcohol to cope. Keith heard the diagnosis and instantly treated my cancer as our cancer. I never had a choice in having cancer, I knew what my fate was, but he did. Keith could have left, he had the choice and he chose to stay.
Chemo ended but the fatigue didn't. I spent a lot of time sleeping for the months after chemo and again, some days I didn't leave the house.  Keith never made me feel guilty or pressured me to 'get more done' or to go back to work. A week after chemo ended, I posted a blog called 'My New Normal' and this is the one and only comment that Keith has ever written on my blog;

I have tried to tell you all the positive “comments” in person about your blog. I didn’t want to have it become about us, as much as it should be about you. You deserve your own place to write about all the feelings you have, (which are a lot) and as we all know, you react well to a reward system.
You are an amazing woman. It’s no suprise you have so much support and love surrounding you, seeing as that you can brighten anyone’s day just by being yourself. You have taken over not only my friends, but my family with your charm. I can’t tell you how many times I will tell friends or family, “yes, I will be there” and the first words out of their mouths are “is Katie coming?”. I used to be popular, but now I’m just the guy who brings Katie.
I sincerely believe you have found your true calling through this awful experience, and will take the education and passion you have for teaching and use it to change peoples’ lives. You have the gift of being able to express an idea to someone in a way they can comprehend, without coming across as superior or pretentious. Your amazing sense of humour and quick wit can pull people out of their shell and help them open up to you and your ideas.
There are great things in store for you my sweet, and this is only the beginning.
Love Keith

I'm not trying to pretend that at 28 years old or after six years of a relationship that we've got it figured out. I somewhat think that the idea of a 'soulmate' takes away from a relationship. It gives us the idea that once you find that one person in the world that you are destined to be with, everything will work itself out, that there is no work involved and that you don't have to try, and until you find that person, it is you that is doing something wrong by looking in the wrong places. I don't believe in soul mates, I believe in working hard, giving and taking, being on the same team, and communication.
In May, we were at a cancer retreat and at the end of the weekend, one of the cancer survivors came over to Keith and I and said 'Do you guys always laugh this much?' and together we said 'Yes.' We just get each other. Keith still makes me laugh harder than anyone else and what I'm most proud of is that I can make him laugh just as hard. I can safely say that I still have a crush on my boyfriend after six years.

To Keith,
I'm proud to be yours and to call you mine
Thank you for caring enough to stay.


  1. Bawling. This is such a beautiful story. The journal? For all the things you can't tell him? Brilliant. I'm so glad you have support.

    1. Thanks Margi, I know I am lucky girl!

    2. Love, love love this post and love that Margi and you connected. Who knew my friend I met in Spain would be reading the blog of my friend from Ottawa? I just LOVE both of you and am so excited to have you on the #Delhi2013 trip and to see you and Keith next week. You both make me laugh until my stomach hurts.

    3. I LOVE everything about your comment.

  2. Thanks for making me start off my Friday with (happy) tears. You guys are the best, and I wish you the best for many more years to come.

  3. Wow, I don't even know where to start Katie... Candice and I have only met you a few times, but I can honestly say that we both think that you have an amazing "energy" about you. Each time we saw you we wished that we had spent more time with you. It had been quite a while since I had seen Keith and I could see something different about him immediately. I can see how happy he is! I love your honestly and bravery. I totally agree with Keith's comment... keep writing! We look forward to seeing you guys again next time we are in the area (we are moving to Owen Sound in the spring).

    Wayne (Bob) Simpson

    1. Bob, where do I start? Thank you so much for your message. It was incredible. I am so touched by what you said.

      Owen Sound isn't close, but it is at least in the same province! Yahoo!! That is very exciting news.

  4. Katie....
    I don't even know what to say..... this is beautiful and tonight, I'm going to sleep with a smile on my face wrapped in YOUR love story....

  5. Wow! You don't know me but I follow your blog from New Zealand. I am blessed with an amazing hubby of 19 years who has been there every step of the way too. It was so lovely to read of the connection you and Keith have and that he has been your support in so many ways. You are right when you say a cancer diagnosis can change a relationship - I knew a lady who did not tell her husband of her cancer, in spite of having surgery, until it had spread and even then it was not the full truth I that it was now terminal. I feel so sorry, and I have to admit a bit angry, that he was never given the opportunity to be that support. The journal was so thoughtful as there is often a part of us that needs to keep a little bit back - what a keeper. Best of luck, Catherine

    1. Catherine, thank you so much for writing to me.

      I am grateful that you have someone as wonderful as Keith - I don't know what I would have done without him.

      It breaks my heart to hear of women who face cancer alone and you're right, she never gave him the chance to be a supporter although, can you imagine the pain she must have also felt keeping it to herself.

      Sometimes people have asked me if I find it difficult to be so open or even 'public' about my story. I think it is almost 'easy' because I get so much support from people I don't even know but who also 'get it' and therefore 'get me'.

      Thanks again for connecting Catherine!