Three months after graduating high school, I met my wife, the love of my life. Sandy, my best friend, collaborated with him and arranged for us to meet. I can still remember him standing on the front porch, hands in the pockets of his loose slacks, a Spitfire shirt, and his jet black spiked hair (he’d been invited over for a ‘kick back,’ old school jargon for a small gathering of mates).
He had light eyes, dark hair, broad shoulders, and a smirk that made you wonder what he was smirking at. Throughout the evening, we discussed everything from family to plans.
At 4 a.m., we had our first meal together at a drive-through Jack In The Box, which we ate in the front seat of his old Saturn coupe.
In retrospect, I know it was the night I fell in love, but I told him I wasn’t looking for anything serious because my family was moving from California to Texas the following year.
That, of course, was quickly abandoned! Within a few weeks, we spent all our time together, going to the movies (our favorite date night), dining out, and socializing with friends. Doing everything that young lovers do.
He planned a surprise for our first official anniversary a little more than a year later and about a month before I moved. We started early on Highway 4 in California because he was still in college and had a class later that day.
It’s a gorgeous area of California, with rolling hills and vista point turn-outs with breathtaking views. We stopped at one of the pull-outs to see the sunrise; it was a beautiful September morning that would stay with me forever.
As we stood on that horizon, he gave me my anniversary gift, a Black Hills gold band I’d seen in a store. I was surprised! It was amazing! We went back to enjoy the scenery.
He was wrapping his arms around my back when he suddenly spun me around! He got down on one knee and presented her with a magnificent marquise-cut solitaire engagement ring. Except for the part where he asked, “Will you marry me?” I can’t recall what he said. With tears in my eyes, I screamed, ‘YES!’ without hesitation.
The next year was spent planning our wedding and settling into married life. My family moved to Texas, and I lived with Kyle’s parents while we saved for our first apartment.
Those few months in his boyhood bedroom were the most difficult of our relationship, with many arguments, but we got through it and married on August 20, 2004.
That first year of marriage appeared to go by in a blur. We both worked full-time, with me in real estate and at a nearby warehouse. He was still a full-time college student studying history education.
It’s amusing to think back to when our only responsibilities were rent and our pet parrot, Napoleon, whom Kyle had bought me for Christmas our first year together (we lived in an apartment and couldn’t have any more animals).
Kyle sprung a huge surprise on me soon before our second wedding anniversary. He informed me that he had decided to drop out of school and pursue a career as a police officer! To say I was surprised he was interested in LE was an understatement, but there was nothing I could do about it.
Kyle didn’t decide without thoroughly analyzing all options and consequences. And when he made a decision, he stuck to it! After surviving (barely) the 6-month police academy and earning his degree, he was sworn in with the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on December 28th, 2005, at the age of 22. I was now the Deputy Wife and felt very proud of myself.
In those early days, we had everything we needed. We were getting our bearings in the young, married world, starting jobs, and juggling work, friends, and each other. Our world came to a halt when I learned that my mother had died just a week after he graduated.
We immediately boarded a plane to Texas – Kyle’s first flight – and arrived at my family’s residence early the next morning. As we lay down to sleep, I shifted over and glanced at Kyle, telling him I needed to take my baby sister home with me.
I am the oldest of six children, five of whom were adopted by my parents; I am the only biological kid. When I was nine years old, my father died abruptly, leaving my mother to raise us on her alone. Except for Destani (Dest), who was just five years old at the time, all of my siblings were of legal drinking age when my mother died.
Kyle glanced at me and stated, “Nope, I’m not leaving.” I told him no one would blame him if he took my baby sister and uprooted our lives, but he looked at me and replied, “Nope, I’m not going anywhere.” So there we were, 21 and 22 years old, parents of a tenacious and precocious five-year-old, sharing a one-bedroom apartment!
In 2006, we matured quickly. We bought our first home and decided it was time to start growing our family. We welcomed our incredible and intelligent daughter, Zoey, in December of that year, followed by our sweet little man, Cohen, around two years later.
The years that followed flew by in the blink of an eye. We had ups and downs, as all couples and families do, but we were building a life we both liked. Despite the stress of kids, careers, and responsibilities, we never forgot about each other. We always made time for ‘us,’ whether sneaking away to see a movie or going shopping; we genuinely enjoyed spending time together.
With a sophomore in high school and two pre-teens, we were a crazy-busy family of five in 2015; we barely had time for sports and work. Then, in September of that year, we learned that Kyle’s older brother had a medical problem and had died abruptly. He was a 14-year-old boy’s father.
Alyssa was a high school freshman, and she and Dest, our oldest, were cousins and best friends. Alyssa came home with us the night her father died to decompress and find a safe place to grieve.
I told Kyle as we were getting ready for bed, “You know,” and he answered, “I know.” We made it official and became her guardians. Alyssa completed our family in an unfathomable way; it’s like not realizing something is missing until you find it. Alyssa here, our Alyssa.
Our lives were chaotic, to say the least, but one thing remained constant: Kyle and I were rock solid. We experienced life together. We grew up together, reared our crazy gremlins, and adored each other.
We had a fantastic experience! We never passed down the chance to embark on an adventure. We planned the outings and made it a point to tell each other how much we meant to each other.
Then, on October 10, 2018, we were dealt the knockout punch, from which I am still recovering. That day, everything changed. Forever.
Kyle went to the ER after complaining of stomach pain for almost eight months, concerned that his gallbladder was failing. Following multiple tests, including a CT scan, we were informed that he had a mass on his pancreas and fluid in his abdomen. Without an official biopsy, the doctor couldn’t make a formal diagnosis, but she was positive he had pancreatic cancer.
I’ll remember how she broke the news to us for the rest of my life. When she mentioned the fluid, Kyle said, “Fluid!!” in his usual snide tone. It’s not, at the very least, cancer!’ Then she mentioned the tumor. My entire world came to a halt. I was deafeningly deafeningly deafeningly de; I couldn’t catch my breath. In the middle of a crowded ER corridor, I couldn’t stop the tears from running down my cheeks.
I was stuck in what felt like the worst moment of my life. I was just standing there staring at him. The formal diagnosis of Stage 4 Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer would have to wait a few weeks longer. The ‘old man’s cancer. Cancer patients are mostly men and have an average age of 72. Kyle was 36 years old when this happened. I’m 36 years old and healthy, vivacious, charming, smart, snarky, and gorgeous.
While we awaited the official diagnosis, we decided to spend a weekend with friends to enjoy some ‘us’ time and get away from the bad news we were expecting. Then something happened. His doctor called to inform us of the biopsy results, which confirmed our worst fears. At the hotel that night, I snuggled up in his lap, and we grieved together.
We had only told immediate family and a few close friends up until that point, some of whom were also on vacation with us. Things had altered at this point. We had to begin informing others. We had to begin informing everyone.
We spent as much time together as we could during those weeks and months of treatment. We attempted to keep things as normal as possible for the kids, and with the help of our great village, #KylesVillage, life went on semi-normally. We went camping, the kids continued to play sports, and we even took a family vacation to Hawaii.
Kyle was on a chemo break in June 2019 due to renal difficulties, but he was feeling amazing! His hair had begun to regrow, he could eat again, go fishing with Cohen, and even return to work for a month. Everything seemed to be going well, and we were certain he would fight cancer.
Cancer, on the other hand, does not take a rest. Cancer is unconcerned that you are busy making plans for your future.
Kyle’s cancer began to grow again after his chemo hiatus. Many people are unaware that restrictions must be followed when participating in trial therapy. In Kyle’s case, those rules included removing him from the experiment if his cancer regressed and began to develop again. Kyle was in the ER with a suspected obstruction towards the end of July.
We discovered it was a tumor growing after eight days in the hospital and that he would no longer be able to eat solid meals. We were sent home with liquid nutrition, which I was to give to him every night in the hopes that it would help him maintain his strength and allow him to resume therapy.
We could get him through one more round of chemo before he had to return to the hospital. His intestines were becoming increasingly afflicted by the tumors, and he was becoming increasingly feeble.
We met with Kyle’s oncologist after he was discharged for the second time, and he felt we should halt therapy and start talking about how to keep Kyle as comfortable as possible.
It was the only other time on our trip that I had been thrown off my feet. I was all in and ready to battle till the end. I was ready to give everything a go. I felt compelled to try anything. How could I just let him go when he was my person?
I asked Kyle what he wanted to do on the way home from that appointment. Do you want a second opinion? Is there an alternative to conventional medicine? ‘I’m exhausted,’ he replied, looking at me.
That’s when I realized it was time to call it a day. It was time for him to take a break. He knew the battle was over, and he was pleased that the doctor had informed me so that he didn’t have to.
He would have continued going if I had pushed him because it was who he was and how much he loved me. But it was time to come to a halt. It was time for me to relinquish control and let him depart on his terms.
At 36, I never envisaged myself as a widow or a single mother. This wasn’t my plan, and it wasn’t our plan, either. We had a love tale for the ages, one that I’ll never be able to describe completely. He was and always will be one of my favorite people. He and I created a life we enjoyed and relished every day. ‘If I don’t survive this, I want you to know I have no regrets,’ he told me shortly after his diagnosis.
“In my 36 years, I have experienced more than most individuals do in their 80 years.’ And, even though his life was cut short, he was correct! My gremlins and I have decided to #LiveLikeKyle every day from now on. We will always say yes to new experiences. ‘I love you,’ we’ll always say. We will continue to be surrounded by the most incredible community of people. We’ll live the life we want to live. I’m not sure what will happen next, but I know I’m not alone, and Kyle would be pleased with me – of us.”