I would like to tell you the story of the love of my life. Her name is Holli Rabon. She was born in Lapeer Michigan in 1977 to Carol and Tim McQueen. As a child, I am told, she was the quiet type. Holli liked to read and sew when other kids would be outside with their friends. The few friends she did have were close ones with who she remains in contact with still today. When she was seventeen years old she decided to join the army to serve her country and at the same time earn money for college that her parents could not afford. In basic training she broke her ankle so it took her a bit longer than most to finish her training but she pulled through. Holli's next duty station was the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California where she was to learn Russian. This is where her story ends and ours begins.
We met as most people do, completely by chance. It was just after Christmas leave and I was walking down the hall in my barracks when I saw my friend Chris sitting on a bed someone's room that I did not know. I decided to pop in and see who he was chatting with. After saying hi to Chris and turning to my right I was awestruck. One of the most beautiful women I had ever seen was sitting on the bed in front of me. Shiny auburn hair cut shoulder length, bright blue eyes, and a wonderful figure. I decided right then and there I would try to woo that little soldier girl. Holli was still on restriction as she had just got to her first base after basic training so she was not allowed to wear civilian clothes or leave base. She was determined to stick to the rules but that did not stop me from trying to corrupt her. After two hours of solid flirting I bent her to my will and got her to sneak out with Chris and me to Santa Cruz. We traveled up the coast in my little convertible with me doing my best to pry Holli out of her shell. We all ended up eating clam chowder at dinner in a restraint on a pier and walking around the board walk. I managed to get her to hold my hand and my heart raced. By the end of the night we were taking a moonlight stroll down the beach in Carmel. Nine months later I received orders to move to a new duty station so that weekend we took off to Reno to get married on my birthday. We spent the next year apart only seeing each other twice. At the end of her tour of duty, she got out on disability thanks to that broken ankle that never healed right in basic training, we moved in with my parents to start the next chapter of our life, together this time.
For three years Holli worked, went to college part time, and spent all her time with me. In late 2001 I get a call after working the night shift at The Home Depot from Holli asking if I was sitting down. I had been asleep and responded a bit groggily in the affirmative. That is when she dropped the bomb "I am pregnant." The first words I said without thinking were "OH shit." Not my best moment. Then I thought about it. We have a nice family sized home together, both with fair paying jobs, and we loved each other. Not the worst starting place for a family. In June 2002 our amazing daughter Kaylee was born. From the moment I laid eyes on her I was in love. Blue eyes like my wife, silky golden locks, and the most open smile and she had me wrapped around her finger. Three months later we have our first life changing health problem, Kaylee has a huge hole in heart and it is destroying her lungs. Holli and I are told to prepare for the worst as Kaylee goes into surgery to have the hole closed. After a lot of hard praying and miracle working doctors Kaylee pulls through. The problem is she will have to be on a special medicine all the time that is run through a pump that has to be kept cold at all times so one of us has to quit working to take care of her. Holli was in a better place in her job at the time so I quit mine and became a stay at home dad. All went well for the next three years, although raising a daughter on a four foot tube in her chest is a trial, Holli was always there for me. Then Kaylee, who was three at this point, starts having strokes. This nearly broke me. I was on the verge of losing my miracle girl again. Her left arm hung limp, her left leg could not support her weight and I was being crushed. Holli was there to hold me up. One night near Thanksgiving while in Texas Children's, Kaylee has another stroke. All the blood flow on the right side of her brain was being shut off by a collapsing carotid artery. Once again we are told to make plans for the worst. Holli and I cry and hold each other tight convinced we are about to lose our precious girl. As the night progresses and the surgery finishes up we find out the doctors were able to perform a cerebral angioplasty and save her life. Over the next two months Kaylee goes through two more major brain surgeries called Dural inversions. Our insurance called these procedures experimental and refused to pay the bills. Holli and I were stuck with over five hundred thousand dollars in medical bills. We found out that if we pay in one year enough medical expenses to bring us under the income to qualify for CHIPS they would cover Kaylee. So Holli and I pulled all our resources and got a loan from my parents and managed to get our bills paid. No daycare will take a little girl who is prone to have strokes so again it fell to me to raise Kaylee as Holli supported us.
The next year after trying for almost one month, Holli is again pregnant. In June 2006 she delivered to me my little buddy, Jay. He is strong and healthy with, once again, Holli's bright blue eyes. Jay and I become the best of friends. Holli is working on her teaching degree and I am working as a manager at an electronics store. Kaylee is doing fine in school, kids are very resilient. For two years we live a pretty normal life with a baby son and a growing girl. Holli and I are happy and she is doing well at the University of Houston. Then in 2008 we get hit again. Holli finds out at a routine mammogram that she has a lump. The biopsy turns up being malignant breast cancer. After long hours and hard thought, Holli opts to get a bilateral mastectomy. The cancer has spread to the lymph nodes under her right arm pit so they are removed during her surgery. I had been through hard times before with Kaylee but this time it is my partner in trouble. My pillar of support is the one under the knife and I am alone. Holli pulls through and is laid up in bed for more than a month. She puts her degree on hold and I become a chauffeur to her many reconstructive surgeries. Eventually she seems in the clear and life starts to get back to normal. I get a promotion at work. Holli is happy recovering as a stay at home mom for a bit. Kaylee heads into third grade and Jay is on his last year at home without the burden of an elementary education looming over his head yet. Life is normal once again.
The holidays of 2010 are in full swing. Thanksgiving has just passed, our house is alight, and our season's gifts are waiting in the closet. Holli shoulder is a bit sore after moving the empty Christmas boxes back into the attic and I tease her about being out of shape from her army days. A week later her shoulder is worse than ever so she decides to head to the VA to see her physician. Holli gets a routine x-ray and is told her results will be ready in about a week. We aren't really concerned and think it may just be a pinched nerve. The next day we get a call to come in to see Holli's oncologist. This scares us to the core and I keep thinking, "No, not again." The next day we get the news that it looks like cancer has popped a spur of bone off the ball at the top of Holli's arm bone and it was scraping the cuff of her shoulder. Up until now Holli and I had assumed the bilateral mastectomy had taken care of the cancer. Holli is sent for a PET scan. The breast cancer has spread all over her skeletal system. She had large tumors in her shoulder, her pelvis, her spine, and ribs. Other tumors were in too many places to count. Radiation managed to shrink the cancer in her shoulder enough for it to heal but she still cannot pick up our children for the pain. Since then her spine had needed radiation that cause burns on her chest. In late January Holli had such severe pain in her abdomen she remained on morphine in bed for almost two months while doctors tried to sort out what was causing her so much trouble. They decided to remove her ovaries to stop her from producing estrogen that was making the breast cancer grow and to try to eleveate her pain. It worked but caused her to remain bedridden for another month. We have been told that her medicine will not keep the cancer from spreading to vital places much longer as it has already gone to her lymph nodes, bones, and ovaries.
Our children are scared and I am terrified myself knowing that we will soon lose our beloved mother and wife. My rock which I have leaned on through so many difficult times is crumbling from the inside out. Medical bills are catching up and with all her time in the hospital or sick in bed my work has been suffering. Despite all my financial concerns the most weight hanging from my shoulders comes from my worry about how my two kids will handle losing their mother. We have already sat Kaylee and Jay down and told them that Mommy will not be with us much longer. Kaylee seems to understand but our six year old son Jay does not seem to get that he will not have his mother soon. I worry if I will be enough to guide them through the hard times they have ahead while growing up in the world. First dates, boyfriends, moving out to go to college, drinking, and all the other milestones and trip falls a person has to work through to become an adult. Can I pull through without Holli? The only answer I can come up with is that I must. As I still have her I need to learn from Holli the lessons of strength needed to face hard times. Despite all my troubles she is the one dyeing and whatever I feel must be magnified a hundred times over in her heart. I may labor to get through the hard times ahead but at least I get the joy of actually being there. Holli has to face the next few months knowing they will be her last. That she will never get to see Kaylee in her wedding dress or see Jay drive his first car. It will be hard for me to pay for college but at least I will get to be there to see them graduate.
Up until now that has been a brief history of the love of my life. Holli has my life fuller for being with me these last sixteen years. She has given me to children who are the center of my universe. Despite the pain I feel now as tears run down my cheeks as I type this I know that having her for the time I have is worth the pain of never had her at all. Would I walk by that room in the barracks and made the pain I feel now go away? NEVER. It has all been worth it because I love Holli.
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