real life

'My first boyfriend died in the most brutal way. 3 years on, I'm finally learning to love again.'

When I was 19, I met my first boyfriend at a local café. His striking blue eyes and sense of humour drew me in straight away. Jake and I exchanged numbers and started dating not long after. We were together for a year and a half before tragedy struck.

Days before Christmas of 2013, Jake was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was 24 years old. 

For the next three years, Jake threw everything he had at this disease. He underwent two craniotomies, numerous chemotherapies, many radiation sessions, and oncology appointments; but the tumours just wouldn't stop growing back.

Jake was then forced to experience a very brutal and inhumane way of dying. Over the course of a few months, the use of a walking frame was needed, then a wheelchair, then a bed as he faced almost complete paralysation from his neck down.

In late October of 2016, Jake passed away at 27 years old. We were together for just under five years. 

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Death anniversaries are difficult, but they’ll never stop coming. At 12:20am this morning, marks two years since Jake passed away. I remember so clearly squeezing his lifeless hand just hours before he left. Promising him that I would continue to live the rest of my life for the both of us and that it was okay for him to go now. Promising him that his suffering and death would never be for nothing. I would do whatever I could to make sure nobody else felt the agonising pain of brain cancer and loss. Despite the absolute hell and pain we both went through, I regret nothing. I was so lucky to know him, be loved by him and be with him until the very end. People often tell me how lucky he was to have me, but in all honestly - I was the lucky one. You will always hold on, but never hold me back.💓

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With brain cancer, it's basically like watching someone die twice. First his mind went, along with his personality and character. Followed sometime later by his physical body. I will never have the words to explain how unbearable it is to see someone you love to go through something like that.

Dealing with the grief that followed, while also having vivid flashbacks of his dying experience, is something that you can never prepare yourself for. 

I certainly was not prepared for the brain fog and forgetfulness. The inability to concentrate on anything. The memories that were burned into my brain with no off switch. Feeling okay one day then taking five steps back the next. 

The insomnia that stole my sleep for the better part of two years. Losing weight because my appetite disappeared. How you start questioning if you are actually losing your mind. Just some of the things that don’t tell you about grief. 

But I got through it and healed with the help of my family, close friends and my dog. 

I also channeled my grief into something positive, to try and make a difference in the brain cancer space. I set up an Etsy store and an Instagram page called Pearl Meets Crystal, which features handmade Swarovski pearl and crystal bracelets, and profits from each bracelet go directly to help fund vital brain cancer research.


But there's one thing I decided months before Jake passed, and that was that I would never get into a relationship again.

I had experienced every single aspect of being in a relationship; the good, the great and the heartbreak. I decided at 24 years old that I never wanted to be in one again.  

When you lose someone, there's a feeling of being under a microscope. Your every move examined by family, friends, co-workers, and connections on social media. 

Whether people are actually judging or not, it feels like it to people who are mourning.

It didn’t take more than a few months for people to ask me about dating again. I often found myself thinking; how could I possibly put myself out there ever again? What if the same thing happened again? How could I ever find someone who would understand?


Others seemed confused about my attitude of never wanting a relationship again. It was hard to make them understand I was more than content working on myself, my goals, and my business. 

It was around two and a half years later when the universe decided it was time to cancel my plans.

I met someone at an Italian restaurant. He had big brown eyes, a warm smile and a great sense of humour. I felt drawn to him, just like before. 

And suddenly I found myself changing my mind about relationships, with a whole whirlwind of emotions: fear, anxiety, guilt, panic, excitement. I knew feeling like this was normal as much as I knew that if I didn’t get ahold of this, the chance would pass me by. 

I confided in my family and two close friends about what I was feeling. Each of them told me to do what felt right.  

Absolutely terrified, I went on a date to the movies. Driving home that night, I felt proud of myself. It wasn’t as scary as I imagined it to be, and I knew it was time to open my heart again. 

After our third date, I decided to tell him about my past. Because when is it ever the right time to tell someone about the worst thing that ever happened to you?  

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Learning to date again after loss, if only there was a book on that topic! After Jake, I accepted the loss and it was never a priority or need to date again. What was important to me was working on my goals and bettering myself. But the universe of course had other plans for me, like it always does! . Along came @richard.c.cook. From the very early moments of meeting him at a lovely little Italian restaurant, I soon changed my mind. With his big brown eyes, warm smile and sense of humour; it didn’t take long at all. I didn’t go looking for this wonderful person or love, it found me all on its own. That’s what makes it so special. . I am so grateful to have found someone so loving and supportive to have by myside. He slides right into my life and family like he has been there all along. Elzee also loves him as well, just look at her smile in the last picture. #8monthstogether

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The universe knew that dating for me would be very emotionally difficult, so they made sure they sent me someone who was patient, understanding, and supportive. I didn’t go looking for this wonderful person or love, it found me all on its own. I am so glad it did.

Richard and I have now been together for one year. And it’s beyond a relief not having to share my relationship with brain cancer.

Losing a loved one teaches you many things… things you would rather have learned another way. Life moves forward, you are not alone, and love does live on. 

I have also learnt if the time is right and the person is right, you will know. Just as you knew before. 

If you would like to support Danielle, you can find her on Etsy, Instagram or Facebook.

Feature Image: Supplied.