There are things that happen in our lives that change it forever; Sept 19th will always be one of those days in my life as it is the day that I lost my best friend, the one who always had my back, who I could count on, my husband….
January 1997, at a broomball game was the first time I met Matt. I was 17 and he was 19 and in college; he had just started dating my friend and came out to watch her play. Over the next couple of weeks, I got to know him better and after she broke things off we continued to hang out, and not long after we started dating. Shortly after my 18th birthday in late February I knew that I would marry him….I know, I know how could you know, but I just did, I can’t explain it. I graduated from high school, stayed in Ottawa and attended Carleton University, and in November of 1998 we were engaged. Like any young couple we had our ups and downs, but we loved each other with all of our hearts and on October 5th, 2002 we got married….I was 23.
We had bought our first home together and for the first time lived somewhere other than under our parents’ roofs. It was an adjustment….being married, living together (all the time), owning and being responsible for a home, paying bills but we were happy and looking forward to all that the future had in store for us.
That first summer Matt was having very severe headaches and it got to the point that he would wake up with one and go to bed with one. He had always suffered from migraines but these were different. He went to the doctor and in July had a CT scan to see what could be causing all the headaches; they came back clear. However these headaches continued and it was a very special Dr. that he started seeing in Sept that pursued this and promised she would get to the bottom of it. We celebrated our 1st anniversary, and although I was concerned with all of the headaches he was experiencing I had no idea our life would be turned upside down within a few short months.
A few days before Christmas I went with him in the evening for another CT scan. Again I was concerned but once it was done we were concentrating on Christmas and all the hecticness it brings with it; even with all this craziness his scan was always in the back of my mind and I was just praying it wasn’t something serious. A short time after his scan, it was confirmed that there was something there, but they would need to do an MRI to see exactly what they were dealing with. In January he had his MRI and they confirmed that there was definitely a mass there that shouldn’t be there…..but wouldn’t know for sure what they were dealing with until they did a biopsy. Looking back on it now I don’t know how we got through that month, how we didn’t go crazy, how he kept it together because inside I was falling apart. I was scared, worried, mad, every emotion I experienced it that month…..most of all it was the unknown that scared me. I was a month away from turning 25, he was 27 and this was something we shouldn’t have been going through….we were still newlyweds that wanted a family, who wanted to grow old together….why was this happening? I was going to work everyday leaving Matt at home as he wasn’t allowed to work until we knew what exactly we were dealing with. He was a CYC worker at Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa and he loved his job and was an avid fisherman and I knew it was just killing him that he had to stay home and couldn’t do either of the things he was passionate about.
We got his biopsy date which was late January. They needed to make sure his head was stabilized during the procedure and in order to do that he had to have a frame screwed into his skull. This was something I thought only happened in the movies, but here we were….his Mom, Dad and I all there by his side as they screwed this frame into his skull. I can still remember the fear in his eyes, even though he put on a brave face, his eyes couldn’t lie…..
Once again we waited, which ended up to be an ongoing thing……waiting for answers. We spent a lot of time together and tried to stay positive, but the unknown was always there. Finally on February 6th we had the follow up appointment with the Neurologist; Matt’s sister, a nurse, came with us both for moral support but also would understand the medical lingo we knew would go right over our heads. I don’t remember everything he said that day, just that he started talking about going to see a specialist at the General Hospital here in Ottawa and that they would discuss what the next steps would be and then he said the word…..Oncologist….had I missed something, an Oncologist….what was he saying? So we asked…..does this mean that Matt has Brain Cancer? It was a hit in the gut like I have never felt before….Yes. I lost it, I couldn’t keep it in, I tried but it just came out, the tears wouldn’t stop (as they do right now as I write this)….I was waiting to be woken up from a bad dream, this couldn’t be real! Unfortunately it wasn’t a dream and we had to call Matt’s parents and then mine who were waiting to hear from us…..how do you make that call? I don’t know how we did, but we did. We got home that day and allowed it to sink in….again we cried, and spent the night cuddled on the couch. We had a battle ahead of us that we were both determined we were going to win.