Written by Libby Wilson, living with metastatic breast cancer

Once there was a girl who met a boy. The girl chased the boy until he agreed to be her boyfriend. They met in a town called Grande Prairie where sometimes it was dark and snowy all the time and sometimes it was light until 11pm. They used to drive to the city of Grande Prairie down the Alaska highway, under Northern lights. The only recognizable building on the horizon was a single shiny black tower. In Grande Prairie they skied at a place called Night Hawk, played mini golf in the park2, and then walked around Muskoseepi Park. When the girl decided to move back to Calgary (for what would turn out to be the worst job ever) the boy followed. They got two dogs and went to the dog park regularly, and also got two cats. They carpooled to work together every day. Eventually they got married. But life was tough because the girl couldn’t find a place in the world. She worked hard to find something to replace teaching (which had taken over her life and sucked her soul out) and yet still hadn’t resulted in permanent employment.  So, for years the boy supported the girl while she went back to school and took evening courses. They lost a baby, and they supported each other through the sadness.

Finally, it seemed years of climbing out of the abyss might be finally paying off. They had a baby, a small perfect beautiful baby called Violet. And the girl got an interview for her dream job. You could feel the excitement rising that finally their dreams were coming to fruition. Then came the heaviest blow they’d ever faced: cancer invaded the girl’s body and took hold. Cancer refused to let go and dreams fell away, first small things like hair, from a few months of chemotherapy. Then body parts. And then larger things like the chance to grow their family. Then the girl’s body started to breakdown, and she was never able to grow her hair back and she was at the mercy of the cancer which stole her bones and her ability to walk, and then her ability to breathe properly. They knew then that it would steal her life. Now the boy and girl walked through fire. It was never easy anymore. Every day was difficult. There were tears and anger and hopelessness. The boy had to take on all the work that the girl used to do, and he was always so stressed and worried. Raising a little girl in this tumultuous world neither of them understood was scary. They had never got to grow into the normal roles of mom and dad. Now every day it felt like they were parenting in the middle of a natural disaster – never safe, constantly facing fear. They wondered how much longer they could live with this constant fear, sadness and anxiety and how much worse it could get.

The one thing that got them through every day was watching their little girl grow. There is nothing quite as magical as a young child’s limitless imagination and boundless love. When the boy and the girl were sad one hug from their little girl could change their mood. Holding her chubby little hand, watching movies with her, or listening to the magical stories she made up about her toys were the things that were able to transport them from ‘cancerland’ to somewhere where only their love for their little family mattered. That little girl loved her mom so much that sometimes she brought tears to her mom’s eyes when she asked her to stay with her forever. “I’ll stay with you for as long as I can,” the girl answered.


They realized that before when they were trying to find careers or taking night classes, those were just normal, just the journey of life. They couldn’t have realized how privileged they were at that time, because they were able to work, make future plans, and live in good health. They wished so often they could go back to that life, especially the girl who felt she had become a completely different person. This is a reminder that when you’re looking for a partner the thing that matters most is that they care about you. You never know when a terrible situation will hit you and only the very lucky have someone that sticks around through that. It’s easy to find someone who loves you at your best, but if they stick around and weather years of your worst, they’re truly special.

Also, remember that things that are hard in life – like working, or returning to school to find a dream job or raising kids – may seem hard but they’re privileges sick people would give nearly anything for. Even being able to go to the grocery store, or the mall or the gym alone, and when you want to, is a privilege. Never let yourself forget that they are privileges or take them for granted. If you have a problem you can solve – like a job you don’t like, or some weight to lose or a difficult breakup, remember these problems have answers, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It may take time and lots of effort, and lots of tears and hard work, but solvable problems are a gift. They are the good type of problems to have, and you will realize this only when you’ve experienced the unsolvable type. ♡


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