KCCure President Dena Battle shares her thoughts on caregiving and grief – and why even after a tough kidney cancer battle, she’s still grateful for the past and hopeful for the future.
We met on Capitol Hill, working as congressional aides. It wasn’t instant romance. In fact, he was dating my best friend. But, it was an instant bond – a rare and inexplicable connection that began with a conversation about books. He recommended that I read White Noise by Don DeLillo and I recommended Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer. I never became a fan of DeLillo but I became a fan of Chris.
The friendship that developed between us was easy – but grounded in important things. He was struggling with whether he should stay in politics or return to writing. When he e-mailed to ask my opinion about whether he should accept a job offer in Arkansas writing for a newspaper, it broke my heart to write back and tell him yes.
After he moved, we stayed in touch. I’d send him e-mails about day-to-day happenings in Washington and we’d discuss ideas for his next editorial. We exchanged more book titles and even read a few books together. When he casually suggested that I come down to visit him – because Arkansas is lovely in January – I immediately said yes.
The first visit resulted in buying a plane ticket for a second visit. And then a suggestion to meet in his home town of Savannah for St. Patrick’s Day. Despite a tropical storm that was converging on the city, I was instantly charmed by the place and the people.
The evening after St. Patrick’s Day we trekked down River Street, whisking from one bar to another, trying to find a dry, quiet place to sit. Chris seemed oddly distracted and unable to find a suitable restaurant. I was mystified since any place indoors seemed preferable to returning outdoors. We finally gave up on River Street and moved to a beautiful old Mansion called The Pink House. In the basement was a wine bar with a big roaring fire. The perfect place. When he asked me to marry him – without hesitation, I said yes.
As we approach the anniversary of that day, I think back on the years that we spent together. The joys of a true partnership, of welcoming two beautiful daughters into the world, professional successes, and most importantly – so much laughter.
And of course, I think of the sorrows. An emergency room diagnosis of kidney cancer that seemed unthinkable just moments before. A CT scan showing metastatic disease in his lungs. Five years of treatment, hospital rooms, a relentless search for a cure. Five weeks of unbearable watching and waiting. Holding his hand as he took his last breath.
From time to time – I think back and relive those moments. Playing them again in my head as we all do in life. Some are harder than others.
But when I replay that moment in Savannah, knowing everything that I know now, my answer is still always yes.