The sharp knife of a short life


They say when you fall in love, you crash to the ground and all your bones break, but you don’t notice because of the beautiful person at your side.
Then suddenly they’re gone and everything changes. You’re trying to hold your bones together, but their old clothes don’t work as a cast; they won’t fix the craters in your ribs.
Alexandria Kaiser always knew what the future was going to hold. Then in a split second, her world came crashing down, as she held his arm and watched him take his final breath.
“When I was with my boyfriend, when he was still alive, I had my life planned out. Then everything changed; my whole life was basically taken away from me,” she said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
“So now, I’m by myself and have to re-plan everything.”
Kaiser, known to her friends as Allie, is a 19-year-old student at MCCC who has recently faced the tragedy of losing her boyfriend, Lance Joseph, to a rare cancer called Rhabdomyosarcoma, or RMS.
“Slowly, over time, we were talking about things, we were planning to get married. We knew we would make those plans,” she said.
Allie’s friends and family have realize the toll this has taken on her.
“Losing Lance was like Allie losing a part of her,” said friend Brianna Haworth.
Lance had battled RMS, a cancer that attacks the muscles, at the age of 3, and had survived. Then he was diagnosed with it again on Feb. 15, 2014.
“A lot of people didn’t know how serious it was and what he was going through. I think people were optimistic because he had it when he was younger and he battled it,” Allie said.
When Lance was diagnosed in February, the cancer had already progressed to stage four and was spreading rapidly.
“It spread through his system so fast, we didn’t know what to expect,” Allie said.
Lance had been having extreme back pain and blamed it on lifting something heavy. He had done a lot of physical work and was in great shape, so he thought he had just pulled a muscle in his back.
“One day he called me and told me he had to go to the emergency room. He said, ‘My back is killing me and something just isn’t right,’ ” Allie said.
The doctors took x-rays and found cancer in his spine; he was transferred to the University of Michigan hospital.
In the beginning, his chemotherapy treatment didn’t bother him much. As radiation was added, along with other medications, the pain started getting worse.
“He knew he was going to die, so he wanted to live life normal. He quit taking the medications and went home,” Allie said.
“He had Hospice come in and take care of him at a point when he couldn’t do things alone. He wanted to be home always; he hated being at the hospital.”
Lance fought as long as he could, until there was no more progress being made, she said.
“Doctors quit prescribing the treatments; they weren’t being progressive and giving him as many options,” she said.
“They pretty much gave us time periods, and I didn’t want to believe it.”
Before Lance died, Allie was a religious person; she believed there was going to be a positive outcome.
“It’s just kind of one of those things where you think it will never happen to you,” Allie said “  “I used to be religious, I was always told to believe in miracles and that’s what I was hoping for, but I don’t so much now.”
Allie holds close to her heart the years she spent with Lance.
“He made me experience more things than I probably ever have in my life,” she said. “He was always adventurous, always up for things. He opened my eyes, he gave me opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten to do with anyone else.”
Throughout the years, they shared many great memories.
“Every summer we went up north during Fourth of July. It was my birthday weekend and he would bring his boat up and we would always go on the lake and wake board and tube,” Allie said.
 “He loved being on the boat and he loved to travel so we would always go to different lakes.”
Lance worked hard for everything he had, Allie said.
“That’s what gave us opportunities to go on the boat, to go four-wheeling, go up north to do all these things. He taught me to work really hard for anything I wanted.”
Allie said she had a very loving relationship with Lance.
“We did everything together. Every year we went to the Toledo Zoo lights; we spent every holiday together with both of our families. We even bought a dog together,” she said.
Haworth said Allie’s memories of Lance are what help push her through each day.
“She cherishes the memories that her and Lance had made throughout their relationship, and I think that’s what keeps her going every day. She is truly the strongest person I know,” Haworth said.
Even with the IV’s in his arms and the appearance cancer left on his skin, Allie said her feelings for him never changed.
“Our relationship changed, but our love never did. He was afraid for me to see him how he was, but it never made me love him any less. I didn’t care how he looked or how he was behaving that day. Overall it never affected our love for each other,” she said.
Through the hardest times, Allie said Lance was known to be a fighter. He never gave up and proved the cliché, “to live every day like it’s your last.”
“He was a strong guy and always honest. He was a fighter. He fought through it all and took every opportunity he had,” she said.
Now, Allie is trying to learn how to cope with Lance’s death.
“I do go to therapy, I have a therapist and a psychiatrist. My family is very supportive and I have a close friend, Brianna, who helps me. She always asks me to go out and do things, asks how I’m doing,” Allie said.
“They know when I’m having a bad day and when I want to be left alone.”
Allie said Lance’s death has changed her life in many ways. Her friendships have started to drift and people don’t seem as friendly.
“A lot has changed with groups of friends, relationships,” she said. “When I started dating Lance, all of his friends became my friends, so basically after he had passed away, a lot of friendships changed,” she said.
 “A lot of people are there for you in that moment of need, but weeks after he passed away, things and friendships started not being as close.”
Allie is learning to adjust to all the different reactions that people have to her situation.
“A lot of people I don’t even know, know about me and ask how I’m doing and it’s just a different feeling,” she said.
“I was never known in high school or considered to be popular, and now it’s like I could be sitting next to someone, have no idea who they are, and they know everything about me and what I’m going through.
“It’s a weird feeling.”
Allie was used to being with the same circle of friends and is now unwillingly learning to deal with the changes. 
“A lot of my friends are all couples, and that’s how we would hangout, so now I’m kind of singled out,” she said.
According to Melissa Grey, an MCCC Psychology professor, when someone loses a partner, they often also lose other members of their social group.
“Grief is a special kind of pain, and it is a pain that can be a precious burden,” Grey said.
Over time, the impact of Lance’s death has affected Allie more. Rather than getting better, it seems to be getting worse.
“When it happened, I was almost in a denial. Like it wasn’t real, and now months later, it’s really hitting me,” Allie said.
 “I’m not used to not going and doing the things I used to do and not seeing him every day.”
Grey explained it’s very common for people to go through a phase of denial when grieving.
“There’s a famous theorist, Elizabeth Kubler Ross, who popularized the stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance,” Grey said. “They actually don’t occur as stages but as experiences.”
“These don’t take place in steps; it’s possible to go back to any of these experiences at any time,” she said.
Always keeping Lance in her heart, Allie is trying to live her life the best she can.
“A lot of people tell me I should live my life for him, and do things that make me happy,” Allie said.
If nothing else, Allie hopes that people will still consider her as the same person she’s always been. Coping with her boyfriend’s death hasn’t changed her as a person.
“It bothers me when people are constantly bringing it up or talking about it. I just want to be treated the same. People are almost afraid to talk to me. I’m not mean; I just would rather people would not be hesitant to talk to me,” she said.