Surviving Life's Lessons

November 11, 2012

My awakening . . .

At times when the house is quiet I reflect on how I got to this particular day in my life. So many days seemed endlessly filled is pain and grief. Now I am beginning to let go of those emotions, realizing that Dave’s life wasn’t in my hands, he was in God’s hands all along. What is left in store for my family is unknown but knowing that when it is my time Dave will be there with open arms to welcome me Home too. For now I must embrace what is now my “new” life with my daughters and our families. You feel like a child at times, afraid of the unknown future, fear of forever being alone, fear of not being accepted.  For me, the fear that I’m raising my girls the right way, the way Dave and I discussed how we would raise them. So while I sit in this silence, pensive and weary from the past several months all I can say is please bare with me. Every day brings a new challenge that I must do on my own. Some days I don’t even want to get out of bed. This, too, shall pass I’m told. I have to hold onto my faith and what I was raised believing and do the unthinkable. I must lay all of my trust in God’s hands and say “I trust you will make the best deciions for my life”

November 5, 2012

October 27, 2012

Our lives changed forever . . .

Filed under: Cancer, Death of spouse from illness, Widowed, widows, — Tags: , , , , , — mlarocque11 @ 10:13 am

October 6, 2008

Our world was rocked by the news that you were diagnosed with Large B Cell Type Stage 4 Non-Hogdkins Lymphoma.   Although very treatable you faced 3 months of chemotherapy and hopefully you would go into full remission.  You were just 43 and neither of us could believe this was happening.  Even our oncologist was shocked by your diagnosis as he typically saw this type of cancer in elderly patients with compromised immune systems.

We both agreed to forge ahead and you began your treatments, accepting every punishment that came with them without a complaint.  Never once did you ask “Why Me?”  All you ever told me was that you couldn’t leave us and you would fight this with everything you had in you.  Your positive attitude and refusal to give up was so inspiring.  You were so brave.  You did go into remission and we were all so relieved and once again relaxed into our own utopia.  But this disease wasn’t through with you yet and you relapsed in April of 2011.

While you were back at work we both noticed a major change in you.  You were unable to gather up the strength to perform your job and when you came home you would just sleep.  It wasn’t until you were at work and you lost consciousness that I knew what was happening.  It came back.

This time when it returned it went into your bone marrow and you had to have a bone marrow transplant if you were to have any chance of getting into the ring again with this monster.  Luckily, we learned that your brother was almost a perfect match and he was more than ready to come and fight this fight with you.  You surprised us all again when we learned you again went into remission and the cancer was gone . . . for now.  We were advised that you should have stem cell replacement so your body could grow its own healthy bone marrow and since you were in remission we didn’t need a donor.

You entered the Karmanos Cancer Center in August of 2011. You were in there for 3-1/2 weeks once again facing the chemotherapy treatments like a soldier going off to war.  Those were the longest 3 ½ weeks of my life without you at my side.  Going home without you every night was torturous for us and we just wanted our family together again.  Finally, on September 12, 2011, you were given a clean bill of health but warned to be cautious about going out in crowds or public places.  We were together once again and appreciated each other more than ever.  When you face the threat of losing someone so precious you hold on tightly once you get them back for fear of losing them again.

You were doing so well and we celebrated the holidays with so much love and happiness and were so thankful that this nightmare was finally over.  After the first of the year though you started feeling bad and we were told it was only a sinus infection.  After going back and forth to the doctor trying to resolve each new symptom that developed you were sent for a chest x-ray.

February 20, 2012.

This is the day our world changed forever.  After unsuccessfully being able to read your chest x-ray and the very labored breathing you were having you were taken by ambulance to the hospital where, for the very first time, I saw the fear in your eyes.  I think at that time you know what was happening as I was thinking the same but neither of us wanted to say it.  You were admitted to the hospital and again, for three weeks enduring endless tests, scans, medications yet no one could conclusively tell us what was happening to you or your lungs.  The only way to find out was an open lung biopsy but you were too weak to have it.  By the middle of that third week after hours of discussing what would be best for you, you decided to have the biopsy.  Knowing that you only had a 50% of surviving this surgery you very affirmatively said, “I’m screwed either way so at least we may get an answer to what this is.”  I remember them getting ready to move you and was thinking that this could be the last time we may speak to each other.  My mind went blank with what was once filled with so of the many things you think about telling your beloved when know you have the time to.  I walked down the hall with you and told you you’d be great and I’ll be waiting for you to come back.  You said “K, Shell.  See you later”.  I yelled “See you later.  I love you!” and as the nurses turned the corner with you I heard you say, “I love you, too, Hon”.

Those were your last words to me.  They are so precious to me because I knew in the middle of all that you were going through, all the insecurities, fear and unknowns, the one thing you knew and you could count on was my unwavering love for you.

I remember my sisters and my brother and our girls were all waiting with me in the waiting room hoping for any hint of a positive prognosis.  You came out of the surgery on a ventilator, which we knew you would, and were told that you did very well during the surgery.  Relieved that you made it over one major hurdle we went home and got some much appreciated rest.

When I called the next morning you were running a fever which is typical after surgery and you were resting comfortably.  All we had to do now was wait for the pathology report to tell us what was happening in your lungs.  All of your doctors came in and out; their empty opinions and speculations were of no comfort to me or the rest of your family who all gathered to see you.  One by one they all came in and spent time with you, talking about things that are secrets between you.  Your mom and I were both exhausted and frustrated that no one could give us any information that was factual, not an opinion.

Then the news came.  Based on preliminary testing of your open lung biopsy your lungs were filled with engorged lymph nodes from your non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  The monster was back and this time it wasn’t going to give up easily.  After everything you had gone through for that past 3 years this disease once again reared its ugly head and was more aggressive than the other two times.

Once again our “team of doctors” all filed in, this time all at once, and explained to your mom, sisters and I what your prognosis would be.  The most encouraging prognosis came from your oncologist who said that you could go through another chemotherapy round but because the cancer was in your lungs they would not recover and you may be on a ventilator for the rest of your life, lying unconscious until your body became too weak to go on.

We all went home with this new information and for the first time I knew exactly what I had to do.  It’s odd how you don’t remember talking about these decisions until you’re faced with making them and then the conversation is as fresh in your mind as the day you talked about it.  I knew what your wishes were. I knew what you didn’t want to have happen and I had to be the one to legally fulfill those wishes for you.  I guess it was my last gift to you, eternal peace.

The next day we all met back in the waiting room and discussed my decisions and asked everyone their opinion.  Mom and everyone else told me it was up to me, that I knew what you would want and I should abide by your requests.

At 7:40 that night, March 16th, I signed the form that gave the hospital my permission to remove you from all life support.  The guilt I still carry in me is so overpowering. I basically ordered them to let you die.  I can’t get past that idea, that thought in my mind that I would have never dreamt of making this decision.  We had so many plans.  So many places we were going to go together.  Watching our daughters learn to drive, date, go to college, dance at their weddings, hold our grandchildren, hold each other until we couldn’t hold on anymore.  I thought we had at least 30 more years.

I was holding your hand and telling you how much I loved you and that I would love you forever.  I told you how proud of you I was for fighting so hard.  I told you it was okay for you to rest now, it was okay to go with your dad.   I told you it was time to go home to God.

Emily was holding your left hand while I was talking to you and she was also telling you how proud she was that you fought as hard as you did.  Sarah was sitting on a chair just outside your room.  She was coping the best she could but she insisted on being by herself.  She’s so much like you that way!

We sat quietly for what seemed like a lifetime but slowly your heart rate slowed your breathing wasn’t so labored and a peaceful look came over you.  The nurse confirmed to me that you were gone.  I got up and stood at the end of your bed, not believing that I was there at your darkest hour and suddenly I felt your familiar touch.  You had your arms wrapped around me from behind me and gave me a hug.  I felt it just as real as I am writing this with tears streaming down my face.  You gave me your last gift you could too.  Your eternal love.

I’ve read so many of these posting from this group and for many of us we are touched by these words.  They stir emotions that we thought we buried in our busy days.  Yet when we see a certain picture, hear a special song, enjoy a familiar scent, these emotions can come rushing back and you feel yourself grieve all over again.  The words written here feel like someone reached into my heart and my head and told secrets I’ve been trying to suppress.  It would be selfish and foolish to think that other people don’t know how I feel but the truth is they do.  It doesn’t make it easier that other people know wha It you’re going through; it doesn’t comfort, calm or take away your pain.

At first, when things have just happened you believe that no one in the world could possibly ever understand what is now your broken heart. No one knows what thoughts are racing through your mind.  They weren’t there watching your loved one tremble in fear upon learning their prognosis.  I know I’m not the only one who felt this pain.  I’m not the only one who sat there in a hospital room with an unconvincing smile on my face pretending that everything was fine.  I know I’m not the only one who has felt hopelessness watching endless treatments and tests just to learn that the doctors aren’t sure.

I know I’m not the only one to kiss their loved one goodnight and leave the hospital only to go home and cry yourself to sleep.  I’m not the only one to be so angry at God for doing this to my family and especially to someone so special.  I know I’m not the only one who lived in fear with them for months, weeks, days, hours wondering what they were thinking in their minds.  I know a lot of you have watched the fear in their eyes when they realized that there was no hope but you tried to convince them otherwise.  I’m not the only person who sat there holding their hand while you both discussed those things you never want to discuss.  I know I’m not the only one who calmed a terrified family, preparing them for what lay ahead while silently screaming “NO!”

At the end so many of us sat holding their hand, telling them that it was okay to let go, that you would be fine, that everything and everyone would be alright, that it was time for them to go.

How many of us realize that our last words to our loved one were a lie?

4/16/12

One month ago today I lost my partner, my soul mate, my best friend, the proud father of our two daughters and the best man I could ever know. Dave was compassionate, funny, sincere, generous in every way, a hard worker, a wonderful provider for his family. He was someone who would be the first to offer to help someone if they needed an extra hand or a push out of the snow or shoveling the neighbors walk. He was someone who figured me out and married me anyway!

I loved him more than I’ve loved any other man in my life and I thank God for letting us be together for 18 years, 15 of them married. I remember he proposed to me like 6 times and I kept teasing him about marrying a guy “like” him. I never had a doubt that I would want to spend the rest of my life with this man and when he kissed me for the first time I knew I would! I love you so much, hon and I missed you even more . . . I’ll love you forever!!♥♥♥♥

5/16/12

My love, it is two months today since you’ve been gone and my heart still breaks every day missing you. You visit me in dreams and through songs but they don’t compare to you holding me tight and telling me it’s going to be okay. I know the girls and I will continue to do things to make you proud and I’m glad you’re not sick and hurting anymore. I just miss you so much, hon. I Love You and can’t wait until one day we are together again.

9/20/12

I awoke today to the wonderful, rumbling sound of a passing thunderstorm and immediately thought of you.  Your passion of weather and particularly thunderstorms was so infectious that the girls and I became loyal followers of The Weather Channel with you.  I awoke today to this beautiful sound because I knew it was your way of telling me good morning and that you are with me today.  Today is your birthday.  The only gift I can give to you now is my unwavering love for you which gets stronger and stronger with every passing day.  I wish I could give you half the gifts you have given me during this long six months that you’re gone. Somehow, even though at times I can’t bear being without you, you always let me know that you’re here.  Happy Birthday, Hon.  Forever in my heart, forever in my life until you come to take me home.  Shell

10/25/2012

‎18 year ago you stole my heart. Sixteen years ago today I promised it to you forever, until death do us part. I never dreamed we would part so soon but God had other plans that didn’t include us together right now. I’m so blessed for these years we had together. You gave me all of yourself. Through our love and trust and our passion together we created two amazing, beautiful daughters. I feel you with me, you live in them! You are in their faces, their gestures, their personalities. I’m proud of the family we made together with our love and our daughters. You are on my mind every minute and even though I can’t tell you face to face, I am still so in love with you! If I had it to do over again, knowing how things would be, I would do it in an instant. You are the love of my life, always and forever, until we reunite again. Happy Anniversary, Hon. Love, Shell

2:00 pm

I want to thank one of my very special friends  for throwing me a lifeline today when I needed it.  She and I reminisced about the fun times Dave and I had with her family over the years. Dave and her husband were good friends and coworkers and that’s how she and I met. We were both in tears (happy tears) remembering parties, camping, barbecues, softball games and holidays that we shared together.  She surprised me with some pictures that she had come across from some of our adventures.  I wanted to share this picture of me comforting Dave after he sprained his ankle playing softball that night.  Until today I never knew she had this!30 p

11:30 pm

Today I was reminded through the compassion of very good friends and the love and patience of my two sisters that I have so many more happy memories to remember than sad ones.  Four years of watching your best friend and soul mate fight for his life and go through the pain, fear and suffering only to lose his fight takes its toll on family and friends.  Four years of being scared for him, wishing you could take away his pain, anxiety and FEAR but knowing that you’re helpless, or so you think.  I believe I did help ease some of his fears and anxiety. He knew our love for each other was strong enough to handle anything that was thrown at us, even death.

The confusion of relief, guilt, fear and my own anxiety, plus that of my family, can make you feel like you’re living a nightmare and can’t wake up.  Truthfully, you don’t wake up but become aware that it’s not necessary to feel alone with your sadness and memories of pain and loss.  You have to trust the hands that are reaching out to you. They’re not reaching out to tell you how you should feel; they’re not even reaching out to tell you that you’ll get over this.  They’re simply there for you to cry, scream, get angry, express your fears or may even join you for they’re in pain too.  It may even be the kind words of a stranger that have a comforting effect, perhaps because they’ve walked a similar path.   Mostly they are there to remind you that this experience, horrible as it seems, is only a tiny percentage of a piece of your life.

I’m not minimizing my years with Dave or the happiness and experiences we shared. He’s forever in my heart and my only true love.  Being there for Dave during those four years was a journey that changed my family’s lives forever however I now realized that it does not define me or the rest of my life.  Every experience is evidence of learning more about ourselves and each other.  While the lessons may sometimes be difficult, we have so many resources around us to get us through them, most importantly our families and friends.  I am blessed to have so many and I love them all!

10/26/2012  I never dreamt that so many wonderful people that I’ve known most of my life but lost touch over the years, would be there for me during one of the darkest times in my life.  These beautiful, caring women, many of whom I haven’t seen since high school, reached out and wrapped their arms around me and my family, setting aside precious moments in their own lives, just to comfort and reassure me that I am not alone.  These incredible unselfish angels all have their own families, their own fears and anxieties, their own experiences to navigate through, yet they paused, if even for a moment, just to let me know “I’m here for you”.   Oh, how lucky can one person be to have such a circle of support, such caring friends, that have wrapped their arms around me and made me feel safe again.  I thank God for these beautiful people and pray that their journeys continue healthy and happy.

October 26, 2012

When the Candle Goes Out. A Journey of Grief and Survival

For me it’s easier to write about my feelings than to talk about them.  All the support groups available to me have done nothing more than lower me further into the hole of sadness, grief, guilt and hopelessness.  We all start out in life with this bright candle in front of us guiding us through the paths that turn into the lessons and experiences  that make us who are.  I’ve never understood why some people have such privileged lives, born with the proverbial “silver spoon”, while the rest of us suffer an unimaginable existence.  Those of us who suffer feel, at one time or another, that their life light, their bright candle that has guided them on their journey, has gone out.   My journey isn’t unique by any means.  Most of us have had life altering events that changed us forever.  The illness or loss of a loved one, the loss of your home and possessions, your job, your self-worth, all these events started in our lives with that bright candle gently guiding us into our futures.  What happens when that candle goes out?

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