Life. Everyday I find something that blows my mind, takes me by surprise or goes beyond my imagination of possibilities. Never for a moment in my short life did I imagine I’d be a 25-year-old widow. In the space of one year, I went from being single to engaged to married to widowed. To reflect on the long list of events that happened during that same year, blows my mind. If it weren’t for the love in my heart reminding me of Cam’s presence in my life and the pain in my soul reminding me of Cam’s absence, I feel like I’ve lived someone else’s life. Or it’s like I’ve watched a really sad movie that moved me, leaving me with feeling a mixture of warmth and sadness and longing. I almost don’t believe this is my story, my life, my romantic drama movie. It’s a strange sensation.
To recount, here’s a brief snapshot of the short time Cam and I spent together:
Aug 2010 – we began dating, well “Skype dating” actually. I was in Queensland when Cam and I got back in touch and were taken by complete surprise at the intensity of the love that quickly bloomed between us. A few weeks later, I decided to move to Perth to be with Cam.
Oct 2010 – Cam proposed to me. Crazy? A bit hasty you say? I can understand that people would see it that way and that’s fine. But Cam and I were living in a different reality to most normal crazy-in-love-couples. We didn’t know how much time we would have together. He was in remission at the time. We had hope that a miracle would happen of course, but Cam was upfront in telling me the doctor’s prognosis was 6 months to 2 years. It didn’t matter to me. Any amount of time with this incredible man was worth it to me. I loved him and I wanted to be with him for every possible second. It was as simple as that. Cam proposed with a beautiful song he had written and played for me at Cottesloe Beach. It was the most stunning day I’ve ever seen in Perth – 8 o’clock in the morning, perfect temperature, cloudless blue sky, no wind, the water was completely flat and dazzling under the warm sun. Beautiful. Loving. Intentional. Perfect. All that Cam was to me.
Nov 2010 – I moved to Perth. Cam flew over to Queensland where we spent a week planning our wedding that was to be held in Brisbane in January 2011. We then took two weeks to drive from Brisbane to Melbourne and across the Nullabor to Perth. It was our time to get to know each other when in each other’s presence. We spent hours almost every night talking on Skype for months before then, but we considered this time as another layer of getting to know each other. So fiancé, do you like, um, stuff?
Dec 2010 – Following routine blood tests, I got my first hit of bad news while Cam received it for the umpteenth time. The cancer activity in Cam’s body was active again. Chemo treatment was imminent. It was just a matter of waiting. Waiting for a miracle or waiting for cancer activity to continue to climb and reach a certain level before a chemo trial could start.
Jan 2011 – Pain and tiredness was on the increase for Cam. It reached the point where we went to emergency at Charlie’s a few times in January. I think it was the first time Cam was in hospital when we watched on TV the tragic news of the floods in South West Queensland. We also watched our wedding reception venue literally get washed down the Brisbane River (search for Drift Restaurant on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean). Cam was in too much pain to travel, our wedding reception sunk to the bottom of a river and Brisbane city was underwater – perhaps not a good time or place for a wedding. While seeing the funny side of all this (not many people can say their wedding drifted downstream), we decided to cancel our Brisbane wedding and move it to Perth in February.
Feb 2011 – Chemo trial starts. We didn’t get the miracle we were hoping for. Looking back, I was probably a little naive and in denial but I so desperately wanted to be optimistic and “think positive” and will Cam’s body back to health. A tumour on his back had grown large enough to feel it and pain constantly had to be managed with drugs. He was in no state to enjoy our marital celebrations so we again decided to postpone the February wedding and wait until he was feeling better to schedule another date. It was this same day that we cancelled the wedding that I had my first car accident on my way home after visiting Cam in hospital. It wasn’t the best day.
Mar 2011 – I think it was this month that I started to intentionally open my heart to God. Chemo continued and the cancer levels decreased. My heart softened to God’s love and Cam and I grew closer, our love and relationship grew deeper. All the while I was still resisting, challenging Cam with questions, trying to used logic to understand what it meant to have “relationship” with God. What is a “believer” anyway? I also started working again. And Cam started going to the Healing Rooms in Vic Park 2 or 3 times per week. We began to put all our energy into seeking God and a healing miracle.
Apr 2011 – I gave in. I gave in to God, fell in love with Jesus and I finally “got it”. I finally understood what He did for us on the cross. So I was baptised on 17 April. Yay! The most memorable part of that awesome day, was Cam by my side holding my hand in the freezing water, as I declared my love for Jesus. I really think this was the happiest time we shared. We were so smitten and so excited to be seeking God together, building each other up in our faith (and exploring my newfound faith), pushing the boundaries of our relationship and our relationship with God. If I could go back to just one moment in time with Cam, it would be somewhere around this time. We also set a new date for our wedding on 2 July.
May 2011 – Cam had been in hospital a couple of times after chemo started with digestive problems. But it was around May I think that the blood tests indicated that the chemo wasn’t working because cancer levels started to increase. We continued to put all our trust and faith in God and didn’t let bad results discourage us from pursuing healing.
June 2011 – Blood test results went from bad to worse. Tumour pain was rapidly getting worse. Two weeks before our wedding, Cam’s doctor gave a prognosis of 2 weeks to 2 months. The very next day, I quit my job.
July 2011 – I was given a gift. A husband. An amazing, loving, adoring, generous, inspirational, beautiful husband. I am the luckiest woman in all history to become Cam’s wife. Some women don’t like the idea of losing their identity when they marry. I personally love being identified as Cam’s wife. We had a lovely wedding, surrounded by so many amazing, loyal and wonderful family and friends. Soon after our wedding, we had to have some serious and difficult conversations. Newlyweds should not have the “what if I die” conversations. We wanted to remain hopeful and also be realistic so it was a necessary conversation but so incredibly difficult. Mind you, when I say serious, Cam’s idea of serious was to suggest putting roof racks on the Mustang to transport his casket. Cute. Not long after that, Cam woke up in the middle of the night with severe pain and breathing difficulties so I took him up to emergency. Doctors checked him out, breathing got better, and they discharged him within a few hours. The next night the same thing happened only it was much worse and much more frightening for us. He was in way too much pain for me to even drive him to emergency so I called an ambulance. We thought that would be the trip to the hospital where he wouldn’t come out again. But somehow, miraculously, he became just well enough to be discharged a week later with heavy doses of hydromorphone manage the perpetual pain. After he was discharged, we were graciously able to have a honeymoon away in Margaret River for a week. Memories for which I will be ever-grateful.
Aug 2011 – Immediately after our return from Margaret River, Cam went back into hospital. Two weeks later, I held my darling husband’s hand as he took his last breath. My heart was completely and utterly shattered. And I became angry with God.
Since then, the days have been hazy. I’ve been living in a cloud of grief that is sometimes so overwhelming that I can’t breathe. It’s been hard, really hard. It still is. And at times very dark and lonely. But it hasn’t been all bad. I know with absolute certainty it’s only with God’s guidance, love and grace that I have been able to keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no doubt in my mind about that. If all this had happened two years ago, before I knew God, well, I don’t even want to think about that. Thankfully, I never have to.