If you are reading this book, I assume your spouse/partner or someone dear to you has passed away. If so, let me first say I’m very sorry for your loss. I wrote this book because I know how hard it is to lose someone you love. I also wrote it because I want to show you you’re not alone and your emotions and feelings are normal. When you lose a spouse/partner, you join a club that no one wants to join. I’m sorry you’re now part of this club.
Maybe you’re a friend or family member close to someone who has lost a spouse. If so, kudos to you for reading this book and trying to understand the feelings and experiences your friend/family member may be having. I hope by reading about my experiences, you’ll have more understanding and possibly compassion.
So, what’s my story? I lost my husband and best friend, Reg, after a grueling journey with cancer that began two and a half years before his death. This cancer journey started with a lump on his thyroid. When it appeared, our doctor suggested a biopsy. The biopsy showed lots of fluid but no cancer. The person who performed the biopsy drained the lump, and the doctor said we should consider having the thyroid removed. I was insistent we shouldn’t have his thyroid removed if there was no cancer. After all, our bodies have a thyroid for a reason. A few months later, the lump returned, and a biopsy again showed only fluid and no cancer. Once again, the lump was drained; once again, the doctor told us to consider removing the thyroid just as a precaution. A few months later, the lump returned yet again. So, my husband had surgery to remove the lump and part of the thyroid. Unfortunately, the surgeon discovered cancer and had to remove the entire thyroid. It was an extremely rare, aggressive form of cancer. I was 39 years old; Reg was 45.
I wasn’t concerned when I found out Reg had cancer. After all, thyroid cancer is almost always curable. It never, ever occurred to me it would kill him.
He immediately started weekly chemotherapy and daily radiation for six weeks. The radiation temporarily made him unable to swallow, so he had to get a feeding tube. He also couldn’t talk for a few months, though he could whisper. But no more tumors showed up, and we hoped we were in the clear. Periodic PET scans showed no tumors, and we felt on top of the world. We figured many months without tumors meant victory! Woohoo! Life had never been better!
But roughly ten months later, his oncologist became worried about a spot on his lung. So Reg had part of his lung removed, which showed the same cancer had returned. He once again started brutal chemotherapy, including one nicknamed the Red Devil. His cancer was so rare that there were no protocols. In some ways, he was an experiment. His oncologist discussed his case with doctors across the country who also specialized in head and neck cancers.
Unfortunately, by the following spring—six months after his lung surgery—tumors showed up on his spine. He had the tumors and multiple vertebrae removed from his spine, and the surgeon inserted a cage to replace the vertebrae. We hoped that was it. Unfortunately, he then got blood clots in both legs and had three more surgeries to fix those. In all, he had six surgeries in six weeks (a total of nine surgeries throughout the whole cancer experience). But it wasn’t enough. A few weeks later, a tumor once again returned to his spine. It pressed on a nerve that paralyzed him. So my husband, who previously spent his spare time hiking, snowboarding, walking, and riding 70-mile bike rides, was confined to a wheelchair. Once again, we started yet another aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.
But, as time went by, Reg continued to lose weight, and three months later we entered home hospice. I wasn’t afraid to enter hospice, as I still thought he would recover. His hospice doctor and I agreed that if we continued with natural treatments, such as intravenous vitamin C treatments and cancer-fighting supplements, while taking away the burden on his body from chemotherapy, he stood a good chance of surviving. So, I felt relieved to enter hospice.
I was in denial. Despite the extensive research I had done on surviving cancer and implementing many of the treatments, a month later, my beloved husband and best friend left this world. I held his hand, stroked his forehead, and told him our deceased animals were waiting for him on the other side. He stared into my eyes without blinking until he closed his eyes for the last time and took his final breath. And at that point, my life changed. I shrieked in pain, like nothing I even knew was possible.
Days before he died, I told him it was okay to let go; I would be okay. But when I told him that, I had no idea how difficult his death would be. I had no idea how much it would shatter my world. My sister died when she was 38 years old, and I was 31. Her death had been challenging, but I had survived. I thought I knew what death would do to me and how it felt. I never anticipated the excruciating pain—sometimes unbearable—that would come from losing my husband.
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