Cancer patient and doctor marry - then he dies
Kelli hadn't believed in love at first sight until she met John.
The second the pair locked eyes, the US woman knew that they were meant to be together.
But Kelli was married and John was her patient at the oncology clinic where she worked - it seemed like the universe was conspiring to keep them apart.
"I was two years into a not-so-healthy marriage, trying to convince myself my marriage and life wasn't falling apart," Kelli first wrote on Love What Matters.
"John had recently been diagnosed with stage four Metastatic Melanoma and had been referred to the clinic for treatment.
"I knew he was a special human the first time we met.
"I just didn't know how much he would go on to impact my life."
When John completed his treatment, Kelli honestly assumed that would be the last they would see of each other.
She had no idea that, over a year later, fate would bring them back together.
"I had started a new job at a hospital, was divorced, and had just moved into a tiny little duplex within walking distance from work," she said.
"I had made an online dating profile, and had been swiping haphazardly here and there.
"I was standing in my kitchen eating take away from a box, when suddenly, a new profile popped up on my screen: John's.
"And there was that earth-shattering grin staring right at me from the screen of my phone. I swiped right, he did too, and the rest was history."
Within a week, Kelli and John went on three dates and quickly became inseparable.
It seemed crazy but pretty soon they found it impossible to be apart, finding any excuse to be together that they could.
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October 8th, 2017, was the best day of my life. A week earlier, after a particularly hard hospitalization, John and I were sitting on the porch in the sunshine talking about options. In a pause, as we sat in silence, I looked at him and asked him if he wanted to get married. Exactly a week later, we exchanged our vows in front of our closest family and friends, our doggos by our sides. In the shadow of Mount Rainer, in our backyard. It was the most perfect day. So many smiles, laughter, and tears of joy. For a moment, we weren’t worried about treatments, time, or the what if’s. We were surrounded by so much love. I will never forget how that day felt. In a time of so much heartache and uncertainty it’s comforting to look back and remember this day. Remembering how quickly our families and friends came to our side and made that perfect day happen for us. Our people dropped everything to rally and put in work in the yard, making food and drinks, taking photos, just for us. It was so special. I am not sure where we go from here. But the love from John, our families and Friends, gets me, and us, through each day. These memories and hopes of better days to come keep us going. ❤️
"Remember that love at first sight thing? This was it. The real deal," Kelli said.
"John and I had an unworldly connection.
"It's hard to describe unless you have felt it.
"He was my soul mate, and I was his."
"We had the same thoughts, finished each other's sentences and shared a unique, whole, pure love for one another.
"It was a beautiful, miraculous and rare thing."
The couple had always known there was a possibility that John's cancer could come back.
When you have stage four cancer, even if you are deemed 'no evidence of disease' your body is still filled with cancer cells.
"(There are) microscopic little cancer cells just floating around waiting to settle down and start making tumours," Kelli said.
"As John not-so-lightly put it, it's essentially like having a guillotine hanging over your head."
"John was told he'd need to continue on the immunotherapy treatment for life.
"Thankfully, it was a low side-effect treatment, and we went on living the next year in bliss.
"We were hopelessly in love. Life was perfect. So freaking perfect."
But their idyllic bliss was shattered in September 2017 when John started vomiting, unable to keep even the smallest thing down.
Kelli rushed him to the nearest hospital where John's mum was waiting.
As John went in for tests, Kelli ducked home to pack a bag for him.
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When John was inpatient for treatment, we tried to be as normal as possible. So, we would set up Johns tray table so we could eat meals together when he was feeling well enough. I would sit cross legged on the foot of the bed, and we would eat dinner together and just talk. The nurses would come by just to swoon over “how cute” we were. Not kidding. 😂 After dinner, i’d snuggle up beside him in his hospital bed, and we’d watch movies before I crawled back to my cot. Even though living at the hospital for a week at a time was not the greatest, I would give anything to go back and have one more romantic tray table dinner and movie night. ❤️💔
"I'll never forget the phone call from his mum," she said.
"She said, 'Kelli, the cancer is back. He has a large tumour tangled in his intestines. They are transferring him to the university.'
"I sat on our bedroom floor and sobbed."
It was during this time that the pair decided to get married.
They tied the knot in a beautiful backyard ceremony just months before John had surgery to have the tumour removed.
Initially, doctors were confident that the cancer was gone but a scan in March 2018 showed it had actually spread across John's entire body.
"John's belief that he would beat this never once faltered," Kelli said.
"One night while sitting in his hospital bed with him, he said, 'I so badly want this to be our fairytale. Our happily ever after. I have to beat this. For you, for us.'
"But I knew in my heart this treatment wasn't working. "
Kelli remembers sitting in the hospital room looking into her husband's eyes.
Instead of their beautiful sparkle, they were dull, tingled yellow by the tumours taking over his liver.
She knew it was time to say goodbye, putting John into hospice care later that day.
"It was my turn to protect John now," Kelli said.
"He told everyone he was going home to get stronger.
"I was his hype man; I put on my brave face and followed his lead.
"Though we both knew this was the end, neither of us wanted to admit it to each other; we had to protect each other's hearts."
John took his final breath in Kelli's arms just a short time later.
In his final moments, Kelli whispered everything she wanted to tell him, how he had changed her life, how glad she was that they had had this time together.
"As we laid quietly together in our dimly lit room, John took his final breaths and slipped quietly into eternity at 11.15 p.m," she said.
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6 days ago, was 10 months. I remember the day he died like it was yesterday, but have little recollection of anything that has followed. It’s weird to be in a world that keeps turning when your life and world feels like it’s stopped dead in its tracks. Life as I knew it ceased to exist with the rise and fall of Johns last breath. This last year, time has been tracked “anniversaries”; how many months or weeks it’s been, first birthdays and holidays without him and all of the events he’s missed. As I draw near to a year without John, I feel anxious. In a grief naive society the one year mark seems to be this huge deal. If I survived a year, I’ve “made it”. The year is the mark where I should be feeling better and moving on, I should be happy again! I’ll tell you right now, this couldn’t be further from the truth! There’s truth behind the adage that things usually get worse before they get better. The further out I get the more I miss John; long for his hugs, his advice, his presence. The further out I get the more I wish for my old life back. I feel more anxiety about the future and what it looks like for me; What now? The anger and sense of abandonment get worse because people expect that I should’ve “moved on” by now because they have. Not a moment goes by where I don’t think about John or miss him. I am still in survival mode and always hoping this is just some horrible dream that I’ll wake up from. I don’t understand why Johns beautiful life had to be cut short and why he had to endure the suffering he did. I don’t think I will ever be able to understand. In the meantime, I cling on to Johns memory and his love. I imagine looking into his sparkly green blue eyes, feeling the energy from his smile, and feeling his hand wrapped around mine. John is my person. No matter the time that passes, this fact will never change. #widow #grief #griefoutloud #griefandloss #cancer #loss #stageivneedsmore #melanoma #melanomaawareness #memory
"It has been 10 months since I had to say goodbye.
"I don't know what life has in store for me on this new journey.
"I'm not sure if I'll be in love again, stay in our house, or even in the same state.
"I still live my life day-to-day; sometimes moment-to-moment, as that is all I can manage. "
You can follow Kelli on Instagram.
This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.