Husband with MS dances in wheelchair with wife to celebrate 40th anniversary
VICTORIA – Janice will never forget the night Peter picked her up for their blind-date in a black town car wearing his own tuxedo.
"That impressed me more than the car," she laughs. "The car turned out to be a rental, [but] the suit wasn't!"
Peter was a banker. Although Janice worked for an accounting firm, she had the spirit of a dancer. "She enjoys ballet and plays and such," Peter says. "I tolerate them."
But despite their differences, Janice remembers feeling a flutter in her stomach. "I went, 'No! You don't feel that way about this guy!'" But she did. And so did he.
"I had the good fortune of falling in love with the right person," Peter says.
43-years later, Peter no longer travels by town-car. But he still picks Janice up and takes her out. I find him riding in his wheelchair with Janice sitting on his lap. They regularly go for romantic rides around the city.
The first time Peter turned into the bike lane, Janice was concerned. "I said, 'I think we'll get in trouble'. Coming the other way were two cops," she recalls, before they both smiled and gestured okay. "We got the blessing from the law!"
Peter says – when he was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis – his neurologist told him M.S. should stand for 'missing spouse', because of the way the disease can cause distance between a couple. Peter refused to allow that to happen between him and Janice, despite her new role as care-giver.
"I've learned to always be very thankful and appreciative of what she's putting in to help me," Peter explains. "It's important I recognize that and support her."
So Peter considered the biggest difference between him and his wife over four-decades, and suggested that Janice join the ballroom dance society. "I tell you, I didn't realize how much I missed it," Janice says. She shows me a video of her dancing with a professional in front of an appreciative audience.
"I try to blend in with her crowd," Peter says. But blending in with an audience is challenging when they’re all watching you on stage.
The video continues with Janice dancing with Peter in his wheel-chair. They flow effortlessly together connected by a large piece of red fabric. It is dynamic one moment, then intimate the next. The crowd goes wild.
The couple performed the original choreography to celebrate their 40th anniversary.
"From my perspective, it was pretty damn good," Peter says. And from the perspective of the love of his life? "Amazing. It was so special," Janice says quietly. I ask if she felt loved in that moment. She fights back tears: "I always feel loved. He's a very special person."
Peter and Janice ride in his wheelchair down to the waterfront, she leans her head against his and cuddles in close. The light from the sun dances across the waves. They are already planning on what to perform for their next anniversary. Although no choreographer is needed for their hearts to move even closer together until then.