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Couple planning wedding, life despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

Published: Sunday, Nov. 25 2012 10:20 p.m. MST

She had a colonoscopy on Sept. 11 and it showed a mass. She was told immediately it was most likely cancer. Further tests confirmed this.

"I think it was just a shock," she said. "I'm a really healthy person. I'm active, I eat healthy, I'm fairly happy so it was a huge surprise and a huge shock. It wasn't something I ever anticipated. Cancer doesn't run in my family, so it was a little bit surreal."

Dorais was also blindsided. As a medical resident at University Hospital, he wondered how he hadn't piece it together.

"(It was) not what you expect in a young, healthy girl and … she'd  been complaining about these things for the last eight months, six months, so part of it was, 'Why didn't I pay attention and think about this earlier?'" he said. "Cancer is something I see a fair amount at work and it's just like, 'Why couldn't I put that together with someone that I'm so close to?'"

She had an operation to remove part of her colon, her appendix and part of her small bowel. Dorais' medical experience was invaluable in helping her deal with that and ongoing chemotherapy and radiation.

"To me, it was this huge ordeal and something I really struggled with and seeing Jason not make a big deal about it, crack jokes about it … I mean there was a time where he had come over twice a day and change my wound because I just couldn't do it myself," she said. "I couldn't bring myself to pack this open gaping wound, but for him it's what he's been trained to do. I think that's really helped me accept it. Now it's like, fine, no big deal, who cares? I have a poop bag on my waist. No big deal."

Catano said there is still "a little bit of disbelief" about all of it. For the most part, though, she thinks she's doing well.

"I haven't been angry or really asking, 'Why is this happening to me?' so much as it's just kind of what life has dealt me," she said. "I'm trying to just kind of roll with it and do the best I can, I guess."

Remaining upbeat has been key for Catano and she believes her attitude has been an antidote. It was what helped her fiancé most after her diagnosis.

"It was kind of hard, but she's stayed positive and I think that helps a lot — seeing someone stay happy and move forward and that's been the plan so far to just kind of keep going, right?" he said.

"Yes," she affirmed.

"She stays positive and that makes it easier," he said. "It's not great watching it, but that is the silver lining — seeing her happy and seeing her get a little better."

Dorais has always been dependable and reliable and he has continued to be someone she can count on. But all of this has shown her a more sensitive side of him. She jokes that it's been the first time she's seen that he has emotions.

"Sometimes situations like this bring out different sides to people, a great side, but a bad side, too, but I feel like maybe this brought out the best in both of us," she said.

In the past month, Dorais said whatever uncertainty he felt about getting married before has disappeared. She said the same. He asked her friends to help him pick out a ring. Catano has had difficulties walking and doesn't often leave her home, so he wondered how to surprise her.

One Saturday, just after a nap, they started talking about the future that they wanted.

"I just put the ring on and asked her and she was like, 'What? What are you doing? What is going on? This doesn't make sense,'" he recalled.  

"I was like, 'What?!' You know, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes," she added.

"It's something I knew that I wanted to do," he explained. "It's something that she saw happening and I want to be able to do that. Again, time may or may not be limited, but if it's something we've always thought about, something we've always seen ourselves doing and it's an easy decision, then why would cancer change that?"

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