It was one of the most challenging years of my life. My heart was unsure of what it needed to be happy, what direction to go and did not want to settle for good enough.
As I tried to sort it all out my decision was made for me. The person I loved was diagnosed with cancer and together we would battle.
As we learned to live with the uncertainty of what was ahead for us, there were so many feelings. I wanted to feel hopeful and optimistic. He was young, in great shape and the idea of it being anything but positive was unthinkable. ‘He will be ok and this will make us stronger.’ I believed this.
My days were spent teaching my beautiful students and my evenings I spent by his side at the hospital. The families at school took such good care of me, started a bank account to support, offered food and truly leaned in when I had nothing left. The faces of those kids everyday is what kept me going, they breathed life in me when I felt I could not catch mine.
Imagine having feeling of being ‘ripped off’ this was not what I signed up for and not how I imagined my life and he was in the hospital fighting for his! I felt such shame. I held onto all that I was feeling and let it fester inside, it ate away at me like the cancer ate away at him. But I kept smiling.
I remember driving down Whyte ave each night wanting to scream out my window as I saw couples together, holding hands, laughing and doing what I so desperately hoped to do. but instead I held it in, put a smile on my face and pushed through.
My 25th birthday , Christmas Eve, was spent on a greyhound bus heading to Calgary where he was getting a bone marrow transplant. The ticket, a ‘teacher gift’ from one of my students. As you can imagine my birthdays were typically fully surrounded by family, joy and chaos. So being alone on a bus was far from normal. Once I arrived and throughout the 2 weeks that I stayed, the feeling of alone, never left. But the smile of my face remained.
With him being in hospital, we had only my income and it was modest. I had so many creative ways to survive as I never wanted him to worry about things as he fought his battle. I recall one time going to my sisters and having fresh fruit and it tasted like the most delicious thing I had ever eaten. Many night I slept on the floor of my classroom as I never had the gas money or energy to go home and back after being at the hospital all night. No one knew and the smile remained.
When his brother was getting married, he was the best man and would be dressed in a tuxedo and cowboy hat. He looked so handsome as he was getting fitted. I too wanted something to feel good in and even went window shopping with a friend and found a jumpsuit that I loved. She encouraged me to buy it but I knew I just couldn’t. I have other things I can wear that I love and I smiled and moved on.
A few weeks before the wedding I came home to that jumpsuit, in my size laying on my bed. It had a note on it saying ‘This jumpsuit was made for you to wear. I want you to have it and one day you can pay me back. I won’t take no for an answer. Wear the jumpsuit!’
That single moment in time, as I stood their completely alone, I was able to let go of my strength and my smile and accept, feel and express every emotion.
I wore the jumpsuit to the wedding in May and wore it again 3 months later as I stood in front of the church when his battle was over.
Although it was ‘just a jumpsuit’ the significance of the gift was far greater.
I hope over the years I have and will continue to offer a jumpsuit to others, like she did for me. 💜
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