"Good morning, love, I brought you a cup of tea!"Kevin Weedon

"One who walks the road with love will never walk the road alone." — C. T. Davis

Romeo and Juliet may have had it hard, but theirs was a short young love. A few days after moving in with my love, I beheld her, anæsthetically challenged from surgery, festooned with wires and pipes, in a sterile recovery room in our local hospital. We were newly in love, and this is our story.

We have loved and been loved before, and despite our not believing in love at first sight, cannot deny that it was real for us. Christine and I met through Everything2, of course, and after some bobbing and weaving on my part, we managed to converse through the many miraculous ways afforded us by the Internet. After only a few (if lengthy) phone calls, we arranged for me to fly to America to meet her, which I duly did, in November 2004. Having met one another at the airport (cue much hugging, laughter, tears of joy!) we spent four weeks together, and falling even more deeply in love, proved the true love we suspected.

I also had the opportunity to meet her daughter, and the last barrier was removed when she accepted me as a big part of their lives. It helped that I came with them to imp/buddah's aunt's funeral to support them both - she died from ovarian cancer three weeks into my stay. I saw the love they shared not just with each other, but with their friends and family. Following my return to England, I proposed, she accepted, and we made plans for us to hold a handfasting in England.

As it happened, the date we picked was my birthday (I'm not a great celebrator of such anniversaries), so we invited all of E2 to the event on Hampstead Heath. A huge group of noders came to wish us well, many from far-away places (Wiccanpiper flew from Illinois to be the High Priest), Montecarlo came from Sweden, Coolbeans from Ireland. Love proven publicly, we took off to the Nine Ladies, where it all began.

It is said that the course of true love never runs smooth, and true to form, our road (and our plans) became a little rockier than we'd have liked. On February 25, 2005 Christine was diagnosed with breast cancer, requiring surgery. insane with love and worry, I immediately made plans to fly out, and leaving my former life behind, came to the US to nurse her through the opening treatments.

Now the tale truly begins.

The day of the surgery was upon us. People drove from all over Northern California, and Christine's sister flew down from Washington to stay with us. With family and friends supporting us both, Christine was wheeled into surgery for a mastectomy. The previous evening, the three of us were at home, making a plaster moulding of Christine's torso. We wrote with a Sharpie on her breasts, "Please remove this one, with all the cancer", and "Please leave this one alone!" For the last time, I held my two-breasted love in my arms as we fell asleep.

Christine has said to me many times since that, of all her friends, she was the happiest with her boobs. Now she emerged from anæsthesia, smiling through her haze, winking at me, and all the love I ever felt fountained up in me. This was the woman I loved most, this one. The Amazon, breaking down, but never quitting. My own calendar girl who by dint of loving determination had raised her daughter single-handed for six years. The woman who, to this day, snuggles close to me and (I dare share this one intimacy) grooms my furry belly.

Occasionally, people tell me I'm brave, or a hero. I deny it all. I did what I did for love, love for these two women, for the imp is now twelve. The bravery will follow, as almost inevitably, she will be taken from me sooner than anyone would like. We make and remake plans as we approach each new diagnosis and spread of metastatic cancer (one surgery, four rounds of chemotherapy, three radiation treatments) and learn to manage together as a family, the unpleasantness of living with chronic disease.

Breast cancer is, however, not who we are. In amongst the stresses and strains (and occasional fights) there is much love. I find myself sometimes, gazing at her. Asleep or awake, radiation-burned, chemo-bald or steroid-swollen, she is my love, and I will stay with her until whatever end comes, and when. She is more than breasts to me.

My favourite and last memory of my Mum and Dad was a day when Mum was having her own medical treatment, and Dad was looking at her with such love that I still cry when I think of the moment. He was filled with the truest love, that goes on unconditionally, without limit. I remember them smiling at each other, a smile that is forever now a memory. Thank you both, for teaching me about lifelong love, and happiness through distress.

Christine, the least I can do is bring you a cup of tea in bed when I can. Remember how much do I love thee. Happy Valentine's Day, sweet my love. I still see only you.

Love and thanks to a multitude, both here and elsewhere. You all know who you are, those who have visited, given us hospitality, gifts, prayer and thoughtfulness. That also is a part of love, in my book, and I love you in return.

In some part written for LoveQuest 2011: Chocolates, Sonnets, and Alcohol. In every other part, written for Christine and Tess.

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