To say that a life threatening illness changes a person’s perspective is pretty universally accepted. But the part of the cliche that gets omitted is that this perspective shift can take years. When you suffer the challenges that make you stronger, you see none of the benefits, but the pain is an open wound. I was on more steroids than my body could take, I was swollen and I was angry, all I could see was rage. But she loved me anyway. I couldn’t place my focus anywhere but on my own problems, to be poured over and agonized about for hours. She loved me anyway. I couldn’t take it and I broke up with her. She loved me anyway. I needed a new kidney and had a completely uncertain future. She loved me anyway.
My sister was two years older than me and she transferred schools in the beginning of her sophomore year. She quickly became friends with a girl named Shelley. Shelley lived about 10 minutes away from us and I would see her quite often, especially once I began going to the same school.
So I was vaguely aware that Shelley had a younger sister when I was doing some Myspace stalking about 15 years later and I came across a pretty young lady name Katie. Yes, I stalked my way to an amazing relationship on Myspace. You will never be this good. The funniest part of it is that I accidentally clicked “add friend.” I was appalled when I saw that I had accidentally pushed that button and I quickly pushed it again to cancel the request. “Oh shit,” I remembered telling my friend Justin, “she’s going to get an email saying ‘Matt Dibble wants to be your friend.’ Shit shit shit.” I made a quick executive decision that I was going to direct message her and I told her some lie that I thought she was my friend’s sister. “What a weird mistake that we actually know each other.” Total lie and she could see right through it. We chatted for a bit online, I allowed her to make the connection to our sisters (my sister Renee had spent a lot of time at their house too), and we laughed about it.
That weekend, I’m at a bar in Royal Oak and I hear “hello Matt Dibble.” I turn and recognize Katie immediately, even though we’d never met and she didn’t look anything like her profile picture. “Hey, little Katie Waggoner!” That opener didn’t go over well, but we chatted for a bit. When we tell the story now, she shares how nervous she was to approach me and I in turn joke about how I could see the beer shaking in her hand. She was a knockout. White shirt and brown pants. I’ll never forget. She says that the next day she was telling her sister she ran into me and was interested. Her sister’s response was, “He actually said ‘little Katie Waggoner?’ Yeah he’s not interested.”
That wasn’t true at all. The next weekend we were both going to Chicago to be with friends, but met up both nights. We spent the second night making out on her friend’s front porch for like 2 hours.
We dated for 2 years before I got sick. She was there through the entire thing. From multiple trips to the ER at 2 am because I was pissing blood, to mis-diagnosis after mis-diagnosis, through the search for a kidney and eventual transplant and recovery, she never lost faith that I would get healthy and this time would end and we could continue building our life. That’s hard to hear and understand when you’re caught in the midst of a cocktail of self pity, self doubt, and fear… Honestly, I’m just now feeling somewhat recovered emotionally. She was so strong around me. I later found out that she would allow herself to break down in the car on the ride home from work.
It’s easy to do the right thing, to be a good person, and make solid decisions when things are easy. But when times were tough, she loved me anyway. It didn’t take long after that to realize that no matter life brings, I too, will love her anyway.