Real Life

Real life: My fiancé died three days after proposing

Our love gave us something to hold on to.

By Brittany Smith

Rosie Rechichi, 21, from Perth, WA, shares her heartbreaking true story:

Dramatic music burst from my laptop as I put on a movie.
But instead of keeping my eyes glued to the screen I watched my boyfriend, Michael's reactions.
"I wish you were next to me," I admitted, gazing at his face through my phone.
He smiled wistfully.
"I'll see you in three weeks," he vowed.
We'd been in a long distance relationship since we met over a year ago on a cruise around Croatia.
He lived in Adelaide and I was based in Perth.But ever since I saw him at the bow of the ship, I knew he was the one for me.
He was the most genuine and kind person I'd ever met and we shared the same interests, like going to the gym and watching movies.
Despite the distance between us, we had a long-term plan.
We were even saving up to buy a house together, with Michael working as a dental hygienist while I had a job in real estate.
We video called every morning before work and spoke for three hours every night.
One morning, my smile faded when I saw dark circles under Michael's eyes.
"I've got a cold," he explained. "I'm struggling to breathe."
Being a typical bloke, he didn't think it was worth going to the doctor but I managed to convince him.
When he called me the next day, my heart thudded to see him sobbing uncontrollably.
We were young, but we knew we wanted to be together.
I stood there frozen in shock. Michael had always been so healthy, how could he have cancer?
He explained that an x-ray showed a mass on his lungs but further testing needed to determine whether that was cancerous or simply pneumonia.
I swallowed a lump in my throat, trying to stay strong for him.
"It'll be early stages, if you do," I soothed. "You'll be fine."
I drove home, struggling to see through my tears.
I needed to be with him.
I landed in Adelaide a day and a half later.
Michael looked weak in his hospital bed but his face lit up when he saw me.
I hid my worry and instead, smiled and kissed his cheek tenderly.
Once his parents, Peter and Deb, left for the night, we got back into old habits and watched movies on my laptop.
A few hours later, Michael turned to me.
I was snuggled against his chest, but the serious look in his eyes made me sit up.
"Will you marry me?" he blurted.
Happy tears fell down my cheeks.
We were young but we knew what we wanted, so why wait?
"Yes," I squealed.
I flew to Adelaide to be with Michael in the hospital.
Even though Michael didn't have a ring prepared it was a beautiful moment.
But I couldn't ignore the sadness in his eyes.
"You're the reason I'm fighting," he choked. "This wedding will get me through."
I nearly broke down at his words but I wanted our engagement to be a happy moment.
We held each other through the night but Michael struggled to sleep.
Every time he drifted off his oxygen levels dropped on the monitor.
He woke, coughing and spluttering.
I was terrified.
The next day, we told Peter and Deb about our engagement.
They were thrilled but distracted by Michael's health, especially since he was struggling to breathe.
Docs hoped that if Michael was put in an induced coma with a breathing mask, his oxygen levels might improve.
"What am I gonna do if I can't talk to you?" I asked him.
We'd never gone a day without speaking and I didn't know how I'd cope.
Michael smiled grimly.
"It's better than dying," he joked.
I held his hand as he was put under then stayed by his side.
Docs warned Deb, Peter and me that Michael could still hear us so we spoke to him frequently.
With Peter and Deb, I'm raising money to fight this disease.
Another day passed and Michael's oxygen levels didn't improve.
We sat by his side, encouraging him to do better.
"Come on," I whispered. "Breathe, my love."
I reassured myself that Michael's cancer was still in the early stages.
He hadn't shown a single symptom until the day before he was diagnosed.
He couldn't possibly be dying.
My mum, Anne, and my best friends, Maria and Teagen, flew over to be with me but I remained positive.
After another anxious day by Michael's bedside, Peter took me aside.
"Docs said his breathing levels have been too low for too long," he choked. "There's nothing they can do."
Blinking, I struggled to take in his words.
I could hear myself asking Peter why we were giving up but I couldn't feel anything.
I was numb.
Everyone around me started crying but I couldn't muster a single tear.
I couldn't consider that the love of my life was about to die.
Over the next few hours we sat with Michael, talking and holding hands.
When doctors took away his breathing mask, my lip quivered.
"I love you," I whispered in his ear.
I ran out of the room before I could see him slip away.
I couldn't bear to watch it.
Over the next few days I buckled down, helping Michael's family plan the funeral.
That strange, numb sensation followed me.
We had gotten engaged just three days ago. How could this be real?
Michael was so young and healthy.
An autopsy revealed the mass on Michael's lungs was in fact acute myeloid leukaemia, not pneumonia.
Even though he hadn't shown any symptoms, his cancer had progressed and spread further than any of us could've known.
It was terrifying, realising how quickly you could lose someone without any warning.
At Michael's funeral, my lips quivered as I spoke.
"Losing Michael is the hardest thing I will ever go through," I read. "He will forever be my one true love."
Afterwards, I felt like my whole world was crashing down.
Michael and I had planned to be together forever.
What would I do without him?
Michael was my one true love.
Six months have passed and I'm only slowly coming to terms with his death.
When he was put to sleep, I didn't know how I'd cope without talking to him.
Now I'll never hear his voice again.
His family and I are fundraising for The Leukaemia Foundation, so more research can be done to find a cure.
So far, through our gofundme account, we've raised $45,000.
Leukaemia robbed me of my soul mate and I'll spend the rest of my life fighting to make sure that doesn't happen to anyone else.

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