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Letting go: Author grapples with guilt as partner falls critically ill

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/5/2015 (810 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

2This situation is at the root of Albertan Lynette Loeppky's debut memoir Cease, written about her life with Cecile Kaysoe. Kaysoe (or "Cec" -- hence the book's title) and Loeppky own a hobby farm outside Calgary. When they first meet, Kaysoe is a hard-headed businesswoman, general manager of a freight-forwarding company. Loeppky, 15 years her junior, is impressed by Kaysoe's ability to handle any type of work, be it preparing dinner, shovelling manure or pitching bales.

"It was her quiet confidence that drew me to her. Her certainty. The way she made eye contact. She was comfortable in her body, at home in first class, accustomed to concierge service. But there was a weathered quality about her too. Fine lines fanned out around her eyes."

Trudie Lee

Trudie Lee

After living with Kaysoe for more than eight years, Loeppky feels trapped and unable to make a wholehearted commitment. Her ambivalence continues even when Kaysoe is hospitalized. "Cec said once that she had never loved anyone like she loved me. She said it with a shake of her head as though she hoped to snap herself out of it. I could tell that she wanted me to say the same back to her. I couldn't... I could have lied but she would have known."

This feeling partially arises from her suspicions that Kaysoe has embellished her past colourful exploits, including a relationship with a Danish photojournalist who took her with him to remote locations and war zones. There are also unexplained registered letters from the Canada Revenue Agency that Kaysoe places unopened in a drawer.

Loeppky is working out how she will break up with Kaysoe when she realizes Kaysoe is ill. Racked by back pain on New Year's Day, Kaysoe's toughness finally cracks and she reveals that she's sick.

"I should have packed my suitcase when I had the chance," Loeppky writes.

On Feb. 27, Loeppky rushes Kaysoe into emergency in a Calgary hospital. She details the passage of the next three weeks as she watches Kaysoe's rapid physical deterioration, caused by an aggressive form of ovarian cancer.

For anyone who has experienced the pain of watching a loved one coping with a devastating disease while hospitalized, some of what Loeppky writes will likely ring true. She describes the frustration she feels when Kaysoe isn't being treated quickly enough to ease her pain.

Medical staff avoid giving the women an honest diagnosis and estimate of how much time Kaysoe has left. Hardest to believe is how Kaysoe's appointment with an oncologist is rescheduled three times until she is so weak that she must be taken by stretcher to the doctor's office just days before her death.

Affected by severe pain and varying medications, Kaysoe often lashes out, making Loeppky further question their continuing relationship. But then there are the times Kaysoe reaches out for her hand, needing the comfort of the woman she loves.

Kaysoe tells Loeppky, "'I loved you immensely but not wisely... I loved you big, but not good.'"

"I squeezed her hand. 'I loved you too.' And I had. But not the way she had loved me. 'I'm sorry,' I said. And I was."

Loeppky also describes being torn between her need to spend time with Kaysoe and her need to attend to the farm. Neighbours help sell the farm's cattle and llamas, but Loeppky is devastated when two stray dogs kill chickens and a goat. She sees their life quickly disappearing as Kaysoe's body is yielding to cancer.

"I hadn't told Cec about the black dogs, or the dead chickens... I wanted her to remember the farm intact."

Loeppky doesn't steer away from the harsh reality of cancer's physical and mental toll. It comes as a relief when Kaysoe dies, although Loeppky continues to feel guilt over being the one who loved less in their relationship.

Ultimately, a marriage or long-term relationship ends when one partner dies and, as Loeppky comes to realize, who was right or wrong ceases to matter.


Andrea Geary is a reporter with Canstar Community News.

Read more reviewed by Andrea Geary.


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