Elephants And Tea - March 2020 - 9

DATING WITH CANCER
me by my dear friend, Brenna Murphy) on
my shirt for a promotional video for GVCC
and for my session. I've loved Andrew's
music since I was an early teen, and he
was the first AYA cancer survivor I ever
heard of. I clapped back at Tommy, "You
didn't tell me you liked Andrew McMahon,
soooooooo???" He rightfully said "touche"
and proceeded to talk about his first Jack's
Mannequin concert. For what it's worth,
I'm pretty sure this is the cancer equivalent
of DM sliding. I also noticed Tommy was
responding to me a lot more on the GRYT
general discussion chat room.
A project came up and I needed to talk
with someone at GRYT about it. I emailed
Dave and asked if Tommy could help me
because he seemed like the right person
for the job. Dave said "Sure, Tommy can
help you with whatever you need!" I told
Tommy that I am a demanding person as
I require he have a snack and beverage
during our meeting since I want him to
be energized and hydrated. Being the professional he is, he complied and showed
me that he acquired the goods on our first
Zoom meeting. Being the person I am, of
course I was going to turn this into a stand
up special. Eventually, Tommy and I both
laughed so hard we cried. And, well...we
didn't stop talking.
I started getting good morning texts in
my second language, Gaelige (Irish), from
him. We learned our birthdays are close
together. We are both big fans of the song
"Africa" by Toto and like to text the lyrics.
We have a similar humor and it made our
daily (and nightly) conversations fun. Even
better, Tommy knew I had cancer. I didn't
need to hide or disclose it. He knew all of
it, and it didn't change how he viewed me.
And it was then I realized I wasn't scared
of falling in love anymore.
Well, that was until we had our f irst
FaceTime. It bombed. Hard. Tommy was
ver y ner vous, but kept denying that he
was in an effort to seem cool. I don't even
want to go into the greatest hits from that
conversation, but I realized the next day
that ner ves were probably a good thing
and he was still the Tommy I was really
enjoying talking to. He eventually told me
he loved me, and he said it with his whole
heart and fully confident. I was scared I
would never hear those words again, but
not only did I hear that, I heard how much

he respected the journey it took for me to
get to him. Which, yes, included cancer.
Next thing I know, about a month later, I am f lying to Rochester, NY. I hug
my mom goodbye at the airport in Tyler,
TX and ref lect on how being a "Rut h "
led me to this moment. After three airplanes and delays, I arrived in Rochester
at 11 pm. I waited anxiously for Tommy
to arrive in the airport lobby, since I was
there before he parked. The doors finally
opened and I saw him walking towards
me. I screamed and started running as
fast as socially acceptable in an airport.
When we made contact there was a loud
thud, but I remember his arms wrapped
around me. And out of his pocket he pulled
out a container of Tums. Sometimes my
calcium drops af ter my thyroidectomy,
and Tums is the quick fix. By doing this,
I knew Tommy fully accepted me, and I
knew I made the right decision by coming.
However, one day we sat in a Wegmans
grocer y store park ing lot. I was cr ying
ver y ha rd a nd feel i ng sca red . I stated
every reason why we wouldn't work. Our
cultures are very different, we live in different places, my cancer might be back
and I don't want to go through treatment
again, were just a few of them. I remember
Tommy sitting next to me, ref lective and
calm. He took a breath in and explained
that he loved me and who I was. He always
dreamed of being with someone like me
and that is all that mattered. Not where
I came from, what I've gone through or
what I will go through. That was all the
reassurance I needed. Later that night,
with Spotify on shuff le, we drove through
downtown Rochester. Rochester's skyline
has so many beautiful colors at night, and
I noticed that when I f lew in. It just so
happened that "Synesthesia" by Andrew
McMahon came on. With the classic line,
"And I see colors when I hear your voice."
it was just too perfect.
I remember wa k i ng up t he nex t day
washing my face in the bathroom. I caught
a glimpse of myself in the mirror. I
saw the spark in my eyes again.
I realized I was finally accepting myself after my diagnosis.
I wa s a lways beaut i f u l a nd
whole, Tommy just made me
see it again. His accepta nce
made me accept myself, and I

Relationships
started to really love who I saw staring
back at me again.
I a r r i v e d b a c k i n Te x a s a n d a f t e r
Thanksgiving, I was back in Houston for
my scans and appointments with my care
team. I reminded Tommy t hat I didn't
want to go back on treatment again several times, and one day he sent me a song
by an artist called Half an Orange. It was
called "I Need U To Stay" and I think it
perfectly summed up his feelings that he
wanted me to do whatever it took to be
with him and have a future together. I
got the message and I was prepared for
whatever news I received. What I had with
Tommy was worth it.
What I didn't know is later that December I would ask the same thing of Tommy.
He had been struggling with a lot of emotional pain in secret, and the reality of care
giving combined with other stresses wore
him down. I told him that I needed him
to stay, and that I too needed him to do
whatever it took to be with me and have
a future together. Thankfully, he listened
and entered into an outpatient menta l
health treatment program for two weeks.
Tommy would have told you that GVCC
or graduating college with two degrees
was his greatest accomplishment, but I'm
convinced that this is. I am so proud of
Tommy and I am thankful we both had
the support of GRYT.
I still can't believe all the details here.
The thing I kept running away from actually led me to Tommy. Dave, who helped
me believe in love again after cancer, actually hired Tommy and helped shaped him
into the compassionate man he is within
the cancer community. Andrew McMahon,
founder of the Dear Jack Foundation and
AYA cancer survivor brought us together.
Life is not a Hallmark movie where you
find love and all is well. The same thing
is true for cancer. As I write this, I don't
know what the future holds. Just like you
don't with your next scan, college exam,
or job interview. But I want you to know
that cancer does not disqualify you
from love of any kind. And you
know what? Most of all I hope
you fall in love with yourself
again. Because we need you
to stay. l
ALEXA JETT

ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
MARCH 2020

9


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Elephants And Tea - March 2020

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Contents
Elephants And Tea - March 2020 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - March 2020 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - March 2020 - 1
Elephants And Tea - March 2020 - Contents
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