Travis Turcotte wrote his number down on a piece of paper and for a week he kept it in his pocket because he was too shy to give it to Megan Petingalo.
“I was just being a wuss about it,” he said. That was three years ago and Travis had just started working as a chef at Quattro Vinotecca where he met the lead waitress Megan for the first time.
One day Megan was doing a coffee run for the staff and even though Travis doesn’t drink coffee he asked her, “Where’s mine?”
Megan, who also secretly liked Travis, saw an opportunity and said, “Well, everyone texted me what they want and I don’t have your number so I can’t get ahold of you, can I?”
He pulled the piece of paper out of his pocket. That’s how it all started. And from that point on, the two were inseparable.
They spent their days bonding over their dogs 'Rib Eye' and 'Stitch' while alternating their nights between each other’s places.
For the first year-and-a-half they never spent a night apart.
It was one of those seemingly perfect relationships. Even though they spent so much time together, they never fought. Friends would often wonder what their secret was.
Then Travis got sick.
A shock to his life
“Initially, I just thought I had pneumonia. I went to emergency and my entire left lung was full of fluid. After some antibiotics they CAT scanned me and discovered a large mass above my left lung and it kind of wrapped around my heart a little bit. All the lymph nodes on my neck were pronounced and sore,” said Travis.
Turns out it was non-Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Only 35-years-old, a cancer diagnosis was a shock to Travis.
He doesn’t drink or smoke and he always got lots of exercise walking the dogs at Hiawatha Park or along the Waterfront Boardwalk.
Doctors started administering a chemotherapy cocktail of drugs. They were hard on his system. At that point, there was definite promise that he would fully recover.
Between October 2015 and February 2016, Travis was on a 21-day cycle of drugs that severely broke down his immune system.
It meant he had to stay inside almost all the time and stay away from anyone who was even just a little bit sick. The drugs made him nauseous and often depressed.
“I had nachos the first day after a treatment and I got super sick. Now I can’t even smell them without feeling ill. We used to eat nachos every night after work. That was like a favourite go to snack,” said Travis.
The winter was extra difficult on Travis because his favourite hobby is snowboarding. He has had a pass to Searchmont Ski Resort for almost a decade. Although he managed to get out there once over the winter, it was a pretty subdued day compared to what he was used to.
One of the things that helped motivate him through those winter months was the promise of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Due to his compromised immune system, he wasn’t able to sit in a public theatre. Galaxy Cinemas caught wind of the situation and, early one Sunday morning, he and a friend were treated to a private screening before the theatre opened to the public.
Despite the roughest winter of his life, by March Travis’ treatments were wrapped up and he was confident that he had beaten cancer.
“After the first six rounds of chemo, I was good. They CAT scanned me and basically my cancer was shrunk and gone so I was just waiting on more advanced PET scan results to get back from Toronto,” he said.
And then, about five weeks after his last round of chemotherapy, Travis was hit with a “crazy bad headache.” For three days, he laid in bed stubbornly refusing to go the hospital not wanting to admit he might be sick again.
“When I finally went in and they did some tests, the hospital told me that my cancer either moved to my brain or was already up there the whole time but just undiscoverable,” he said.
Travis had cancer-related lesions in different parts of brain — which for his type of cancer is very rare — and difficult to treat.
Doctors have told him they could not remove the lesions.
The chemotherapy cocktail he had been taking all winter didn’t have any effect on them since it was not designed to break the blood-brain barrier. Travis had to begin a new round of drugs.
The doctors called a meeting with all his family. “They basically told us that Travis wouldn’t have long to live, maybe just a week, possibly a month,” said Megan.
That was about eight weeks ago.
When that happens, what happens next?
“It’s pretty shocking really. When that happens, you just want to do things you haven’t done yet, tell people you love them. I didn’t want to have any regrets and didn’t want anyone thinking that I didn’t express myself towards them or something like that,” said Travis.
Travis wanted to pass on his skills as a Red Seal Certified Chef and he’s been coaching up-and-coming kitchen workers who want to work towards their own certification.
He also bought some new snowboard equipment — his way of pushing himself to get out on the slopes again next winter.
“I honestly don’t think I’m going anywhere anytime soon,” says a positive Travis.
Travis and Megan say they are taking life "week-by-week” despite the fact there is a real battle going on with his health.
Travis wanted to make sure one more thing was in order.
One day in June, he asked Megan to meet him at Whitefish Island for a walk even though his knees were very sore and he was just generally weak from his condition. While the two were out on the walking path looking out over the St. Mary’s river, he pulled out a ring.
“I can’t get down on my knees, so I’m just going to ask you. Will you marry me?” he said.
She replied with a “Yes”.
Rallying together to make the wedding of a lifetime
Now that they’re engaged, Megan and Travis are determined to hold their wedding, despite Travis’ condition.
While the two are busy making sure Travis is healthy, their Quattro Vinotecca co-worker Katie Irwin, who has known Megan for 16 years and is going to be her maid of honor, has been working hard to rally the community together to make the wedding a reality.
Travis and Megan took a major financial hit over the last year once Travis had to stop work. Megan also took months off to care for him.
As more people hear their story, more are coming forward to help make the wedding a reality.
They’re holding the wedding on a Sunday so that Quattro Vinotecca can close the doors of the restaurant and donate tables and chairs and so that their co-workers can all attend
ACE studios, with help from Shaylan Spurway Photography, is donating a $6,000 wedding package that includes wedding photography and video services as well as a DJ for their reception.
The Bridal Closet is giving them an amazing deal on a dress.
Several other businesses have contributed including North American Construction Store, Sportscenter Bar & Grill, Show Stoppers Event Rental and Sales Inc., National Supply Centre Ltd., Cedar Rail Ranch, Flowers Direct, and Irwin's Maple Products.
“Some of the people have actually come to tears when I tell them about Megan and Travis’ story,” said Irwin.
Travis and Megan’s wedding is expected to bring together nearly 300 people. It will be held in Thessalon on Megan’s parents’ farm on September 25.
Irwin started a GoFundMe page for those that wish to help out.
She is also collecting messages of support for the couple via the e-mail email@example.com.
“There are different ways that people can handle something like this and Travis is taking it like it’s a fight. In my heart, I think he’s going to make it," said Irwin. "I also honestly don’t know how to properly explain the type of person Megan is. She’s the most selfless amazing person I’ve met in my life, or will likely ever meet. I just want to be there for her and Travis. They deserve to have the most amazing wedding imaginable.”