Love While Living with MBC
I never dreamed that at 40 I would be twice divorced. To be honest, after my metastatic breast cancer (mBC) diagnosis, I never imagined I would be alive at 40. As it tends to do, breast cancer snuck up on me and family. It brought a lot of changes, both mental and physical. Because of those changes, it was time to for me to adjust the direction of my life and marriage. After 10 years together, I decided to leave the safety and security of my marriage. I was no longer fulfilled or connected to the man who brought me through some of the most challenging times of my life. It happens … perspectives shift. Things that were once important no longer seem to matter. The things that I took for granted before cancer were now the most important to me again: traveling, exploring, LOVE. Between the time I made this decision and finally took the necessary steps to leave, we lived under the same roof and acted more like roommates than husband and wife. I never felt so alone.
I made the choice to retreat to my childhood home, where happy memories abound, and began the process of remodeling and repairing the damage of 10 years of renters and nearly 70 years of wear and tear. I threw my heart and soul into the space … along with most of my savings. I touched every surface and I designed every detail with a purpose. When it was done, I realized that instead of processing the heartache of my marriage ending, I had masked the pain by staying busy. Underneath it all, I came to realize that beyond the feelings of heartbreak, I had never actually dealt with my mBC diagnosis. While I made sure everyone around me was okay: my daughters, my husband, my mother, brothers, and friends, I never took the time to make sure Beth was okay. Thus, began the real sweat equity of putting myself and my life back together.
I’ve always enjoyed my alone time and believed I need more than most. However, living in a two-story home alone with my thoughts, thinking about being terminally ill and dying alone, feeling like I let everyone down by leaving my marriage, hurting someone I loved, and all while being a bit financially strained, was all very difficult to reconcile. I had to deeply examine it all to finally realize that it was okay to live my life on my own terms. Nothing I had done was malicious and I could still love my husband, even though I no longer wished to live as his wife. I was okay and I was enough for me and, sometimes, that’s all anyone can be. I resigned myself to my TV-less little cottage, with my yoga and my healthy eats, my two puppy dogs, and my work. I was happier than I could ever remember ... and then I met David.
On a rainy and snowy day, February 11th, 2018 I was at a #Cancerland event as part of New York Fashion Week. I was opening the show in the place of my dear friend Champagne Joy, who had passed away from mBC the previous March. I wore high heel boots that day because of the weather (I usually wear flats) and just as I was about to step out and onto the stage, my ankle rolled in the shoes and I quickly reached my right arm out to find some stability. The first thing I grabbed was David’s forearm. I remember looking up and into those blue eyes and, just like in the movies, I knew instantly. I can’t explain it, I wouldn’t believe it if I were you either, but there, in that crowd of people, in a city of millions, was my person.
I went on stage, gave my talk, took my seat, and watched the show. As soon as I could get backstage, I returned to the spot where we met. He was there, standing at the top of a steep staircase. He reached out to take my hand to help me down, but I told him, “If you were a real gentleman, you would carry me!” And so, he did. David swept me off my feet. He carried me to the basement floor where camera crews and press were waiting for interviews. I was off to finish my work. I never saw him again in the crowd and those blue eyes were lost to me.
The next day, as I was climbing into bed, I received a notification on my phone from Facebook Messenger. I opened the message and there he was. Finally, a name to go with the face. He found my name buried in old emails about the event and searched for me online (apparently having had the same feeling I had felt), and his first line was, “You know, New York is full of staircases.” Who was this guy? What is his game? So, I made him wait a day before I returned his message.
For the first two days we chatted a lot online and then I invited him to my house for a long weekend. So crazy, I know! But I just knew it would be ok. Every day for a month we texted, video chatted, or spoke on the phone. Then, he got on a plane and came to North Carolina for four days. We’ve been inseparable ever since.
Now, I realize how serendipitous our meeting was and I realize that not everyone will experience the same magic moment. I know that if this man can meet, fall in love with and accept me totally, with a terminal illness, no breasts, and with the physical limitations that come with cancer treatments, then anyone can meet his or her soul mate, no matter what baggage you bring to the table … mBC or otherwise.
David has made me feel beautiful and strong. His presence in my life makes me feel whole. Not that my life wasn’t wonderful before David, but I realize that he, that WE, were missing. He is the icing on the cake and the cherry on top. I love him and he makes me feel loved, and when you face your own mortality and realize how short life is, there isn’t anything much more important than LOVE.