Not your everyday love story
Megan Williams has a love story to tell this Valentine’s Day.
But it doesn’t have your typical fairytale ending.
The New Westminster native’s book, Our Interrupted Fairy Tale, launched Tuesday on Amazon.
It tells the story of her relationship with Chad Warren, who she first met at a tennis camp when she was 16 and he was 26. A few days later she heard through the grapevine he’d been diagnosed with blood cancer.
Nothing developed between them at the time, but three years later she was home from a break from her college tennis team when she saw Chad again at the Blue Mountain Tennis Club.
“Chad Warren, you’re alive!” she recalls saying.
“I hadn’t given him much thought. I assumed he had died,” she admits sheepishly. “I didn’t realize how smitten I was with him until I began seeing him in tournaments.”
One day she went to the New Westminster Tennis Club to support her friend Max who was playing a tournament match. It turned out Chad was Max’s opponent, and she started watching him and couldn’t help but notice the muscles bulging from his tank top. It wasn’t long before they were dating.
But while their love blossomed his health deteriorated. Multiple myeloma, she says, is more vicious than leukemia. Friends and family wondered why she would get involved with someone whose prognosis was so bleak.
“I was interested in him and not what illness he had,” says Williams, 29. “He did a good job of hiding it and not making it in the forefront of everybody’s conversation. I never thought it’d be the end of him.”
He couldn’t hide it totally, though, especially when his energy levels kept dropping. At the same time, their relationship other grew and soon she knew he was the love of her life.
“He was awesome,” recalls Williams. “I had yet to meet anybody that got me, and he did from the very beginning. I gained a best friend.”
Having already experienced being in his early 20s and playing college tennis himself, Chad understood what she was going through.
“I was struggling with tennis, not just as a player but with my identity,” Williams says. “My personal and tennis identities were colliding in a big way.”
They carried out a long distance relationship as she returned to Jacksonville University in Florida.
After school she decided to spread her wings so she headed over to London to live for a while and travel Europe. Although Chad supported her globetrotting, everything changed one day when she phoned from Hungary and he was quiet. Finally he told her he missed her. When she asked why, he said, “because it’s hard to have you away.”
He went on to tell her the cancer was beating him. Right then she “realized home was where the heart was” even though she had never wanted “to be the girl who left for the guy.”
So they moved in together, and fought the cancer together—going from doctor’s appointment to doctor’s appointment.
It wasn’t all a fairy tale. His optimistic personality was in juxtaposition to her admittedly being “not a positive person.”
“I was following his lead and he tried his best to protect me.”
Megan Williams and Chad Warren
Eventually, Chad had a second bone marrow transplant. Just before the operation they had a five-minute conversation about how the outcome would either lengthen his life, or shorten the end of it.
It was a prophetic statement.
It was a surreal time of despair and excitement, Williams recalls. She’d visit Chad at Vancouver General Hospital, and then go to another floor at VGH to visit one of her best friends from school, Eva Markvoort, whose documentary 65 Red Roses about her battle with cystic fibrosis had caught the attention of the world.
In contrast, professionally it was an exciting time since Williams was working for the City of West Vancouver as a communications liaison for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
In November 2009, the doctors told them “there’s nothing else we can do” for Chad and he died three days later.
The low point came a week after, when everyone scattered following the funeral.
“Your regular life has to resume, but when the other half of your regular life has fallen out from under you, you realize it’s different.”
The Olympics distracted her for a while, but a month after the closing ceremonies Markvoort died.
Eventually she found work with the BC Transplant Society, an organization her family is familiar with. A few years ago, her brother Bryn received a kidney donated by their mother Brenda.
When he was alive, Chad and Williams liked to blog, and Chad had set a goal of raising $1 million for the Hematology Research and Clinical Trials Unit with his website www.chads1million.com.
She was cleaning out a closet one day when she found a big garbage bag. At the bottom was a diary of Chad’s from nine years earlier. In the back, he had written it should be published when the time is right.
To her the time was right.
“It sounds cheesy, but that’s all it is. I believe what we had was big enough and special enough that it deserves a place in time, and not in a blog entry,” says Williams.
On the advice of a well-known author she met on a bus while on a business trip, Williams would write 1,000 words a day. A year ago, she took a draft to a publisher, who was interested, but she was unwilling to sign over control to a junior editor.
Williams hired a Globe and Mail senior editor to massage and improve the story.
“It couldn’t have turned out any better,” said Williams, who is currently dating Brad Watt, another New Westminster native.
“It’s not just a family story that would appeal to the six of us. It’s a love story … It’s done in the most honest way possible. It shows the flaws, it doesn’t glamorize the cancer or the relationship because it was flawed because of its tenuousness.
“Most of all I just want people to know about Chad.”
The book was launched on Amazon on Tuesday (Feb. 11), Chad’s birthday. William was excited one night when she checked her website, ourinterruptedfairtale.com, and realized she had pre-orders. By last Thursday she had close to 400. Our Interrupted Fairy Tale is also available at all Black Bond Books including their New Westminster store in Royal City Centre.