This is a love story - interrupted.
Andy and I met when we were both seniors in high school. I had a part time job at a little store that sold candy and gum. It was next to an ice cream shop, and it wasn't unusual for many classmates to come into my store after they had gotten an ice cream.
One day while I was behind the counter, I saw him standing outside the store. He must have just gotten an ice cream, I thought. Will he come in and buy some candy? As he stood there by the door, it occurred to me that despite going to the same school, we had never actually met. I wondered what he was like.
He finally entered the store and walked up to the candy counter. "What flavor Lifesavers do you recommend?" he asked. I said, "I like the fruity kind - you know, pineapple, orange, lemon." He said, "Well I like the minty kind - peppermint, spearmint." We launched into a discussion about which were the better flavors. As we spoke, I noticed the twinkle in his eye, and the grin on his face. I felt so comfortable in his presence, like we had known each other forever.
Andy came into the store frequently after that, and we became fast friends. After graduation, friendship turned into dating. Our summer was magical. We went off to different colleges but kept in touch.
A year or two after graduating college, he called me. We hadn't seen each other in some time. He was moving down to D.C., he told me. We got caught up. I don't think either of us thought that would be the last conversation we'd have for almost three decades.
Eventually I got married, had kids, got divorced. I thought about Andy over the years. I looked for him at every high school reunion, but he never attended. About six years after my divorce, he was on my mind a lot. I couldn't stop thinking about him. I felt compelled to find him.
Shortly after that, I ran into an old friend from high school. As we were reminiscing about the old days, I asked him if he knew anything about Andy Porter. He said yes! Andy was now living in NYC and came home every so often to visit family still in the area. He invited me to come out with them next time Andy was home. "Oh, probably not," I said. "I don't think his wife would like that." He said Andy had never gotten married. I said, "Well he must have a girlfriend!" Nope - they had just broken up, he said. We looked at each other, and I just knew. This was it. We were going to be together.
Andy's first text to me was "Hey stranger, it's Drew!!!" In high school I had insisted that a better nickname for Andrew was Drew. He humored me by allowing me (and only me) to call him that. I was flattered that he had remembered.
A couple of months later, Andy came to visit. I took one look at him and melted. How was it possible he looked even better than he did in high school? We talked and laughed all night. It wasn't long before we were in a relationship.
He mostly came to visit me, as I was still in Massachusetts. After awhile I started going to see him in NYC, a city I had always wanted to live in. We went everywhere together. Bonus - the man of my dreams, in the city of my dreams. I couldn't believe my good fortune. He would proudly introduce me to his friends as his "high school sweetheart." I was never so happy in my life. We had both finally found true love. It was our own personal Camelot.
Until it wasn't. I got a text from Andy one morning, saying he had been in the ER all night in excruciating pain, and that they think it's cancer. What?! No, that's impossible. But it was true. He had a massive tumor in his colon. He had surgery to remove it, but it had already spread to his lymph nodes.
Andy went through six months of chemo, and we were hopeful. A year later, his scan showed that the cancer had spread to his liver and lungs. During surgery to remove the liver tumor, it was discovered that it had metastasized to the peritoneal area, which is difficult to treat. A different chemo this time, with terrible side effects. In and out of the hospital. It was becoming difficult to eat. He had lost a lot of weight. I took a leave of absence from work and moved in with him to take care of him. Things were not looking good.
Two years and two months after Andy's diagnosis, he went into the hospital for the last time. I was still hoping for a miracle. Instead, two weeks later, he was moved to hospice. And four days after that, he passed away, on May 30th, 2018. Andy died hearing me tell him, over and over again, how much I loved him. It was hours before I could let go of his hand. My world was shattered. A love story - interrupted.
Andy was one of the most charismatic people I have ever met. No matter how you knew him, people would describe him the same way - extremely intelligent, a master story teller, with a sharp wit that never let up. Down to earth, kind, and generous. High brow and low brow at the same time. Such a good listener. He drew you in and made you feel comfortable. He was one of a kind.
He was also a big advocate of people getting their colonoscopies. Andy was 52 when he was diagnosed. He died 11 days shy of his 55th birthday. If he had gotten his colonoscopy at age 50, which was then the recommended age (it's now 45), who knows - he might have lived. The cancer might not have spread. This is a horrible disease which strikes younger and younger people. Andy was a fan of the Colorectal Cancer Alliance which does so much to educate and support patients and their families.
Many of you may have been on the receiving end of Andy's fundraising requests for various causes in the past. As you know, he was relentless and very competitive. It's now MY request that we honor him by donating to this wonderful organization, Colorectal Cancer Alliance.
However you knew Andy, whether from childhood, college, grad school, work colleagues, neighbors, or casual acquaintances, and whatever name you called him - Andy, Andrew, Ports, Porter, Mister P, P-Man, or Drew - please, let's do this for him. Let's be competitive for him. Let's put him over the top. Let's raise as much money as we possibly can.
He brought so much joy to so many people. Let's repay him by bringing joy to others - so that no one else's love story is interrupted.
Thank-you, from the bottom of my heart.