When I first met CT on MTV's Real World, he seemed like a lughead. In fact, I hated him. There was no way I was going to let his piercing blue eyes do a number on me. He was a liar and didn't seem all that respectful to women.
My perception of him totally changed as I got to know him through his relationship with Diem Brown on various seasons of The Challenge. Diem was drop-dead gorgeous, feisty and nobody's fool. When I learned she was a cancer survivor, I had the utmost respect for her journey. So why was she dating this thickheaded, blue-collar meathead, CT?
CT seemed like he was in love with Diem. I remember a scene where the two were in a pool together. She was wearing a wig because her own hair had fallen out from chemo. He told her she was beautiful with or without hair and said she didn't need to hide under a wig. Through tears, she took it off because she trusted him. This changed my mind about CT. Somehow, he reached into Diem's heart and gave her confidence in herself.
It's rare to see a young man, particularly one on a reality show, look past exteriors and see a woman for who she truly is. I feel like CT loved Diem's soul more than her body and was humbled by his dedication to her.
CT and Diem's relationship was on-again, off-again, and I'm not sure why. She often seemed guarded. And there were cameras all over. Perhaps she knew she wouldn't be around too long and didn't want CT to get too attached. If that was her strategy, it didn't work. Clearly, he stuck by her to the end.
Perhaps he had trouble committing to her off-camera — it's typical of a man his age. I remember thinking, 'Gosh! Diem may live a short life, can't you both just love each other while she's here?' But issues of the heart, as well as cancer, are complex.
What I do know is that Diem inspired a whole generation of girls, many of who will be affected by cancer in some way, either personally or through a loved one. Diem was a fighter. Diem was a lover. Most of all, she was a brave soul. Diem Brown, rest in peace.
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