Jolene and Gaius at Wheeler’s Estate. Photo: Her World
“I was 14, and Gaius, 16, was my senior in secondary school. He was boyishly handsome and seemed more mature than all the other boys in my social circle. I added him on Facebook, he accepted the invite, and we started chatting on MSN Messenger. When we finally met in person, we hit it off instantly, and within two weeks, were ‘going steady’.
In Gaius, I found support and a listening ear, which mattered because of my family circumstances. My mother had died when I was three, and my father and I were taking care of my elder sister, now 25, who has a mental disorder. Gaius was kind and empathetic – exactly what I needed when my peers didn’t always know how to react.
We’ve seen each other through personal tragedy. In 2014, his mother had a seizure when a blood vessel in her brain ruptured. Shortly after, she died. There was so much grieving in the days that followed, but Gaius refused to shed a tear in front of his family. ‘They don’t have anyone, but I have you to help me cope,’ he told me.
After his mother’s death, Gaius and I were like any other couple. We especially loved to travel. In February 2017, we went to Melbourne, but he drifted through the entire trip like a sleepwalker, and complained about feeling tired all the time.
About a month after we got home, the headaches started. Throughout the day, he would feel an incessant, sharp pain in his head, and a buzzing in his ear. He developed a squint, and one eye was unable to focus on what was directly in front of him.
We saw a general practitioner about his worsening headaches. But when the pain did not stop after three weeks, we went to the accident and emergency department. At Changi General Hospital, we waited hours for an MRI scan, then waited some more for the results. I went back to the office to finish some work, but promised Gaius I’d be back soon. Later, he called. ‘They found two growths in my brain,’ he said.
I rushed back to the hospital, where doctors were preparing to transfer him to the Singapore General Hospital (SGH), where an oncologist ran more tests. Gaius’ tumours were definitely cancerous, and very aggressive. Surgery was scheduled for the following week to relieve the pressure on his brain before starting chemotherapy. I cried more than I ever had before. The hospital became my new home; I stopped going to the office. Thankfully, my bosses were very understanding and let me work from the hospital. Over the week, Gaius’ condition deteriorated rapidly. He lost so much strength he couldn’t walk. He did not have energy to talk, and spent most of his time asleep.
On the day of the surgery, I was paralysed with anxiety, but he pulled through, and it seemed everything would be all right. But it wasn’t. In fact, things got worse. Post-surgery, Gaius couldn’t keep food down, and suddenly went into convulsions. His heart was racing, and he wasn’t responsive. Doctors had to do a second surgery to place a shunt in his brain. After that, we were told that he had to start chemotherapy as soon as possible because the tumour was growing rapidly. But there was one big concern: the chemotherapy drugs would render him infertile.
It was a shock – we had always envisioned having three kids. ‘If you want, we can freeze his sperm,’ the doctors said. But Gaius wasn’t even completely lucid. How could I expect him to do this? We chose to forgo the freezing and start chemotherapy as soon as possible. At that point, all I cared about was making sure he stayed alive.
Chemotherapy was hard. Gaius was hooked up to an intravenous drip for six to 12 hours a day over 15 days. He went through four cycles of this. I fed him and tried to keep him entertained, although he seemed so out of it. Leaving him never crossed my mind. To me, love is a choice and a commitment. In May, we were at the hospital for yet another cycle of chemotherapy when Gaius turned to me and asked: ‘Will you go pick up your engagement ring for me?’
It was not the most romantic proposal, but my heart sang. We had planned to get married in 2017, when I turned 21, which was also our relationship’s seven-year mark. Gaius hadn’t let cancer derail the plan. In fact, he’d had a ring made some months before his diagnosis. He was soon well enough to be discharged. At home, I continued to care for him. It was stressful, but I was just grateful to have him back. In November, his doctor told us that the cancer was gone.
We decided not to have a big wedding as it was more important for us to celebrate with each other. In January this year, we had a simple ceremony at the Registry of Marriages. I haven’t really let myself think about the possibility that we might never have kids, but we may consider adoption in future.
For now, our HDB flat is almost ready, and we’re planning a trip to Iceland to see the aurora borealis. Gaius has another MRI appointment scheduled – to make sure the cancer is gone for good. Whatever the result, we’re determined to plan a future together.”
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Her World magazine. Pick up your copy from newsstands now to read other heart-warming love stories like this one.
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