Live Forever

Mandi, you will live forever through me and all the people you have touched and inspired in your life. This is not the end, only the beginning of another chapter. I will never be the same without you, and will forever be the love of your life. You were my best friend, and I shared the most precious memories I will ever have in my life with you.

Sleep in peace now my love, there is no more pain.

I could write several books about my life with Mandi, but figured I would give a brief overview before explaining the last days I had with my wonderful wife. Mandi insisted that when she died, I needed to blog about what happened, so to make it easier to write, I figured I would write about our life together first. It’s not easy for me as emotional as I am right now, so I apologize if the first post I make is not the best.

I have some big shoes to fill. She was incredibly talented at everything she did. Me, I am just a computer nerd. I can make things work and keep sites running. But I’ll do my best, so here it goes…

Eleven years ago I met the most amazing person in my life, a brilliant marketing guru with a personality that would win anyone over in the world. Mandi was beautiful, intelligent, and for some reason she seemed interested in talking to me. Yes I know, crazy right? Neither of us were looking for a relationship, but a friend insisted on us meeting each other.

I remember not having much money at the time and only being able to take her out for drinks at a bar. It wasn’t the nicest bar in town either, but she didn’t mind. Mandi didn’t even mind the fancy dinner of Arby’s at the end of the night. You could tell she was giggling about it, but never brought it up.

Within minutes of us talking, I knew there was something special about her. Something that drew me towards her, something powerful. From that day I spent almost every day with Mandi and her with me. We were side by side, regardless.

Mandi was already very accomplished when I met her. She had purchased her own house, had a career that was going places, and a drive that was infectious. I have always been very shy, but when I was with her I was open about everything. It was the best feeling I ever had in my life. I could be myself and she accepted me no matter what flaws I had.

After a few months, I asked Mandi to marry me. I was so nervous mainly because we had only been together for a short amount of time. But she was the one, and she was going to be mine. I cannot explain the feeling I had that day, just that my heart was telling me not to let this one get away. As I fumbled over getting the words out, she smiled and said yes. I was on cloud nine all day that day, calling everyone I knew. I wanted everyone to meet this amazing person, the girl that stole my heart. It was like a big part was missing from my life and I had found it.

I won the lottery of the universe and her name was Mandi.

We got married in August the following year, and proceeded to start traveling that day. If you knew Mandi, she loved to travel. Which is funny because I never was much for traveling due to my anxiety but she made me feel safe. As long as I was with her, I could go anywhere and that is exactly what we did. She was very well organized with her life, everything carefully thought out and planned to ensure we always had the best time with the resources available.

She took care of everything so I didn’t have to worry, and this extended to every aspect of my life. Anything that would cause me stress Mandi would fix it. She continued to do this for the rest of her life even when she was dealing with the most difficult things in hers.

After years of traveling, building our careers, and just enjoying our lives together we were hit by a shockwave of bad news. On the day of Mandi’s birthday she was diagnosed with breast cancer, stage IIB ductal carcinoma to be exact. We both cried the whole day and it was hard to focus for weeks.

But Mandi was strong and a real fighter. She hit it head on with a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, and then radiation. The strength she had was super human and she was not going to let this affect our lives together. I don’t know how she did it. I would be in bed crying over a cold or flu. Mandi would joke about me having a “Man Cold” on a regular basis. If you haven’t watched that video, do so, it will give you a nice chuckle. She always had a knack for making me smile when I was down. She would do little things like putting her stuffed animals on my pillow or watching shows she hated just so I was comfortable.

She will always be my super hero in life.

After our initial challenge with cancer, Mandi wanted to start blogging about her experiences. She wanted to bring awareness about the disease while sharing the details she was looking for when she was diagnosed. At the time there weren’t many blogs out there with the information Mandi was looking for, and being who she is, she was going to fix that.

Shortly after, Darn Good Lemonade was born and it quickly gained a lot of followers. Mandi was amazing at internet marketing, but she was also an great writer so it was no surprise her blog did very well. For a while after her mastectomy, she was mainly blogging about life after going through cancer, and ways to look forward in life. She even started several other blogs in her spare time, all while working a full time job.

One of these projects was a cooking blog, another thing Mandi was amazing at. She loved good food, and she enjoyed figuring out how to cook fancy dishes herself. The Mandi List includes a few food items she still wanted to figure out how to do on her own. I can smoke meat and grill, but that’s about it. Luckily for me she loved BBQ and smoked meat, so it was a win-win.

After a couple years of traveling and moving on with our life, we were struck again by some more devastating news. The cancer had metastasized and was spreading throughout her body. It went everywhere, her bones, lungs, brain, liver, kidneys, it just would not stop. Again, Mandi was not going to let this keep her from doing the things she wanted in life so she decided to hit it with everything they had. Rounds of chemo, radiation, you name it, we did it.

Despite having cancer back in our lives we pushed forward and started to plan vacations. One of Mandi’s dreams was to go to Europe and see Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Mandi was able to retire so we could focus on her being comfortable and doing the things she wanted to do without the stress of work. As a result we went all over. Whenever we could fit it in, we were traveling. It was the best decision Mandi made dealing with cancer, and I recommend to anyone going through the same thing to consider it. Focus on your dreams, live everyday like it is your last day on earth and I guarantee you will have a good time.

Mandi also loved to camp. In fact, the first week we met she was already planning a trip to Moab with some friends. However, camping in a tent just wasn’t feasible after all she has been through. But Mandi was not going to stop camping. Hell, no. Instead, we bought an RV to make camping easy again, and she loved it. She even gave it a name- “Fifi”. I will admit I was not a fan of the name, but it was hers and it was home. And because of that RV I have some amazing memories with her.

Mandi was also very good at cataloging our trips. I have so many pictures and videos that I will forever cherish and I am so happy she insisted on doing so. If there is one thing I recommend, take pictures. If anything happens in life, you will be so grateful you have them.

After a few more years of dealing with brain mets, fluid in her lungs, and pain everywhere, Mandi decided we needed to go on another trip and it had to be a beach with an ocean view. We initially were going to try and go to the Dominican Republic where we visited on our honeymoon. However, we decided to stay in the US with her current condition. I was draining her lung every three days for months, and she was struggling with energy and issues with her memory. We were able to get the drain removed before our trip so she could swim in the ocean, and that meant a lot to her. She picked a nice town house in Marathon, Florida that was facing the beach. It was a beautiful place and the weather was perfect, and most importantly she got to swim. She loved being in the ocean, so much that we even owned a salt water aquarium for many years. They are beautiful, but a ton of work.

On the day we were planning on coming home Mandi slipped and fell. She insisted she was ok despite me wanting to take her to the hospital. She can be stubborn about where she gets medical attention and I think she just wanted to go home, so we started our journey back. We drove three hours to the airport only stopping to get gas. She was in good spirits the entire time and even bought me some candy in the Miami airport. We boarded the plane first class and watched movies until we got to Atlanta.

When we landed something seemed off, she was having a hard time talking and hugging me so hard, I knew something was not right. After exiting the aircraft it was obvious she needed medical attention right away. I managed to get an EMT alerted and her in an ambulance and we were off to the Atlanta Wellness Center, the closest hospital to the airport. This was the last I spoke with Mandi.

When we arrived she was given an assortment of medication to reduce her pain and to help her sleep. I told them about her fall so they proceeded to give her a CT scan. The CT scan showed massive swelling in the center of her brain around one of her tumors, which the fall caused it to bleed. At this point they informed me there was nothing they could do as surgery in her condition would most likely kill her.

They put us in to a room where I continued to hold her hand and lay in bed with her. I held on to her so tight, so afraid of what was going to happen. Even though we knew this day would come, nothing will ever prepare you. After about fourteen hours of crying and telling her it was ok, her family arrived to say their goodbyes, then shortly after Mandi passed away. It was the hardest thing I have ever had to go through in my entire life. She was my everything, and my life will never be the same without her.

She took care of me, she loved me, she inspired me to be the man I am today.

Hold your loved ones close, don’t sweat the little things, and take lots of pictures. You never know when your last day on earth will be, so why not live your life to the fullest. Mandi did just that, she lived her life despite facing some of the most challenging things one could ever deal with. She will live forever in our memories, and she will always be the love of my life.

I love you Mandi, always and forever.

Author: Michael Hudson

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