Ms.Willows books for deserving kids
The following is a brief story of tough but loving times.... (Read on only if you feel you want to. This story is not a comedy - although if Nic had her way it would be...humour and wit were two of her best attributes)
My wife Nicole (Ms Willows) was an amazingly dedicated elementary school teacher who gave everything she had to her kids and received so much joy in return. We have all had that special teacher that helped shape our lives and Nicole was one of those. Nicole comes from a family of teachers (in fact her dad was my grade 8 home room teacher) and since the young age of 6 she only ever wanted to teach. Her sister Erika once shared with me her memory of how Nicole use to set up all her stuffed animals in the form of a class room. She would then make Erika sit in the middle and ask questions while she tought her class.
A brief history.....Nicole and I met through her best friend and my cousin Lauren when we were in high school however it wasn't until the fall of 2010 that we started to hang out. The connection Nic and I had was instantaneously amazing and something that we both never took for granted. Nic and I grew close very fast and we moved into our first condo in the spring of 2011. It was there we adopted our first cat Selleck who Nic adored. I always had animals growing up but at first Nic wanted nothing to do with a cat. Our first Christmas together I opened up my present from her and it was an emplty cat cage with a note inside saying "fine but it has to be adopted and it better be cute". Nicole knew how much I loved animals and that's how we worked together - we supported each other and made sacrifices for each other. Nic fell in love with Sell the minute we adopted him and shortly after we adopted Selleck's brother Gizmo. We bought our first home in the spring of 2012 and it was there that we began to think about having a family and getting married. We were both young professionals with careers we enjoyed and we had the strongest of relationships so in summer of 2013 I built up my nerve and asked Nic to marry me. She said yes of course and we began to plan our wedding. Everything in our lives was going perfectly however life isnt always easy and it's never perfect.
Despite living a very healthy and active life style Nicole was diagnosed with colon cancer in the fall of 2013. The symptoms mimicked those of being pregnant so you can imagine our shock when we found out the cause of the symptoms was not the start of our family but the start of an extremely tough journey. Nicole was in the hospital for over one month taking us through November/December of 2013 and during that time she had to have emergency surgery which resulted in most of her colon being removed. She returned to work within one week of being discharged despite her doctors advising her to stay off. As her husband I initially sided with her doctors notion and thought she needed to stay off however days after she was released I was convinced otherwise. We had made plans in December to attend to her school so she could visit her kids and watch their Christmas play. This is when I realized how special of an effect she truly had on her kids and how much she received in return from them. I have trouble putting the events of that day into words so all I can say is the energy exchanged between Ms Willows and her kids was something that movie scripts are written about. That was when I knew that I needed to support her decision and help her in any way I could so that she could be in class teaching as much as possible. Let it be noted that Nicole’s special ability to engage children didn’t stop with her class. Nicole was able to spread her gift throughout Crestview which she lovingly passed along to all the students and teachers in a way that one cannot describe.
Although Nicole wasn't large in stature and wasn't one to pat herself on the back she had a quiet confidence and fight in her like no other person I have met. Nicole battled back from her surgery with the help of medical doctors, naturopathic doctors, yoga, sport, nutrition , meditation, love and a drive like no other. I can't think of a day Nicole took off from "The Plan" and let me tell you a lot of time and energy was put into it. For the first year and a half after her diagnosis Nicole was able to get into the best shape of her life and all her CT scans kept coming back negative. The doctors kept telling us how miraculous of a recovery she had made. It was such an exciting time in both our lives and I will charish it forever.
A bit more about our lives.....Not a lot of people are aware of this but when Nicole first told me the news that her bowel obstruction was cancer she said to me “Matty we are breaking up because I am not putting you through this”. She was dead serious however what she didn’t realize was that her saying this only made me want to be with her more. Who wouldn’t want to be with such a beautiful and selfless person? In the next year and a half Nicole and I had a beautiful wedding, traveled the world together, built our beautiful dream home, visited out of town family regularly, and appreciated every moment of life like we wouldn’t have if we were “normal”. She was able to see her big brother move back to Winnipeg which she was ecstatic about and watched her baby sister, who is her best friend, grow up and move to Ottawa to complete her Masters. Probably most important to Nic was that she got one last season playing woman’s soccer with her sister which provided her so much joy. And I'll say it because she never did - Nic you were an amazing soccer player. I don't get impressed easily but watching Nicole school people on the soccer field was something else. We also decided that we needed to focus on our friendships with our amazing friends and we were able to spend so much time with all of them. That was the best year and a half of my life to date however need I remind you this does not have a fairy tale ending.
I remember it like it was yesterday. I was at work and unable to attend her CT scan results in the spring of 2015. Nicole had been having a little back pain which the doctors chalked up to a sports injury. I arrived home before Nicole and waited to hear the good news. She walked into our home and gave me a look that I'll never forget and we fell from our hill top and tumbled back down to the bottom. Nicole told me that they found a spot on her liver and that two of her lymph nodes were enlarged. After the two of us wept and held each other I looked at her strong and confident like I always did and told her that I wasn't worried and that we would conquer this like we did the everything else. To tell you the truth it was at that moment when I truly thought my wife might be taken from me and her friends&family. I didn't waiver from my strength role and we picked up the pieces and revised "The Plan". In the last year our life together we had ups and downs then a lot of downs. Nicole made a decision to keep this devastating news between her and I as best possible so as not to burden our loved ones. We had each other for support and for the most part it worked for us. Plus no one wants a “pity party” as Nicole like to put it. We were able to keep this under the radar until 3 months before her passing as things were getting so bad that people were asking questions. We shared the news with most close friends and some close family however we were very selective in who we told and what we said. In January Nicole made the hard decision to attempt one week of targeted radiation on a newly formed tumour in her abdomen as there weren’t any other less invasive options available to us. During this time Nicole still made her way to school as it was her classroom that gave her the energy to keep going. I can count on one hand how many sick days she took in that year and most were forced on her by me. I would get home from working my night shift and our driveway would have 4 feet of snow on it. Nicole would say "get the snow blower out and get me to my kids" which of course I would do (we live out of town and have a serious snow drift problem). I did whatever it took to get her to her "kiddies" so she could get that energy to keep fighting. Nicole told me one day that teaching was keeping her alive and I truly believe that is was. Nicole continued to get worse and when she went on spring break two weeks before her passing she hit a wall. Her adrenalin had worn off and her months of unbearable pain and sleepless nights caught up with her in a fierce way. Nicole made another tough decision to go on short term disability after her spring break. Once she had made that decision I saw a change in her. I don’t know if it was so much of a decision rather it was a forced realization as to her health decline. Nicole was a different person in the last two weeks but she kept up the fight. During that time there were some great moments of humour, wit and love but there was an underlying issue neither wanted to bring up. How does a married couple talk about one of them dying anyway? So we didn’t talk except for Nicole saying to me that she will never go back to the hospital again to get poked and prodded only to extend her agony a few days or weeks at best. One of Nic's best friends shared a text message Nicole sent the day before her passing in which she stated “if I am going to go out I am going to go out on my terms”. Well sweetie you went out on your terms and with that crazy strength of yours – it was only two days before her passing she said to me "Matty maybe I will feel better by the end of the week and I won't have to stay off". Nic you were right in that you did feel better by the end of the week however it wasn’t in the way you planned. Nicole left us on the early morning of April 9, 2016 and I will share with you that it was very peaceful which comforted me because I didn’t know how “the end” would ultimately play out. Thank you sweetie for making that as peaceful and easy on me as one could. I love you Nicole and you will always have a large piece of my heart. Smile sweetie you are now free.
Thanks for reading and thank you for supporting Ms Willows "kiddies"
- Her Matty
So sorry for your loss. I was surprised you are asking for money for books. Can you show us where all the money will be going? I have a personal library of thousands of books and most came from libraries. Also go fund me takes a huge chunk for fees so perhaps a local fundraiser may have been better. Just saying..and only the best to you and your family.
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The day Nicole passed away we were having a funeral for my niece. She too fought with everything she has as she also had a husband & a 13 year old daughter. Your wife was blessed to have you in her corner as my niece was blessed to have her husband & daughter. Some men do not stick around. Bless you ♥♥♥
Such a touching story. I am sorry for your loss. My mom supervised her class during their lunch break. They all seem like really sweet kids from what she has told me. What they want to do to remember her is so amazing.
Hi Matt, thank you for sharing about the love of your life! The last while must have been very hard on both of you, but also great that you could support Nicole. Nicole has touched so many people especailly the children at her school. The fund raiser is an awesome way for Nicole to be remember by all who loved her and that will miss her.My prays and thoughts are with you and family and friends.Hugs to all
I only knew Nicole breifly from high school functions and then randomly came to hers and Matts wedding social. I remember how she had such a kind heart and a warm positive energy around her. I can only inagine how lucky her students would've been to have her as their teacher. RIP Nicole. So many of my thoughts are with Matt and your family.
Please donate to this very worthy cause! Thank you for enriching Our lives with your beautiful personality. We will try hard to be half the person you were and the world we be better for it. Love you, Kellie & Mitch