I am a 27-year-old widow. I lost my husband last year to Stage IV Colon Cancer. We were 7-months pregnant when he was diagnosed. We fought it with despair, pain and anger. What frustrates me the most is the pictures of cancer the media never portrays. The shattered lives of those left behind, step-mom's who lost their husband and their step-daughter all in the same moment. Mom's raising their sons who are physical replicas of their dads, answering questions of when daddy is coming back, the daily fight of convincing yourself you have to get out of bed, make a difference, continue to live...yet with guilt, sorrow, and unbelievable sadness.
It should have been one of the happiest times, expecting our first baby, yet it wasn't at all. Joe and I were fighting for our lives as we had known them to be up to this point. After an initial 13-day hospital stay to have the entire colon removed, we were supposed to have a month off before we began chemotherapy treatments to kill the rest of cancer. In the midst of this planning, our son would be born, at what we thought was the most inopportune time possible. Little did we know, he would be the biggest joy, the greatest amount of hope, and the perfect medicine to see us through our gloomiest and sickest days ahead.
Before our two months were up, Joe had another CT scan that confirmed the cancer had already spread to his liver, now classifying our cancer as Stage IV Colon Cancer. Any treatment from this point forward, would only prolong life. That was according to doctors; we never gave up hope that the cancer would be gone forever, and we would return to our beautiful life.
August 2013 came, and our beautiful son was born. Sick from chemotherapy, Joe was by my side, and helped deliver our son into this world, when I feared many nights he would not even be here for that. That little boy was the miracle we were praying for, even though the miracle we thought we were praying for was a cure for cancer. Our son was the cure for many, many, distraught, hopeless, pain filled days and nights. He still is.
We endured 16-months of raging hell of chemotherapy treatments that lasted for three straight days, every other week. In addition, multiple surgeries, medical bills that about took us under, prayers---so many, we could never know that went up or by whom. There were so many hospital camp outs that our infant son and I never missed being by Joe’s side, day and night, a child that was raised in hospital floors and doctor's offices, and so much love no one could ever imagine.
We were the pictures of cancer--the frail, sick, malnutritioned bodies that cannot eat, and vomiting whatever he even thought of eating, because of the chemotherapy that is trying to save their lives. The loss of hair. The scars that prove there was something inside of them that tried to kill them, before it was discovered. We are the family that struggled to pay their bills, relied on friends, family and strangers to give their hard earned money because they loved us deeply and refused to let us fight alone. We were the family that leaned on each other, never gave up, and fought hand-in-hand knowing we were in this together--we won at everything, we always did!
Joe’s cancer hell ended when he won his wings to be the angel that he was here on earth, only even more perfect with our Father above. Our cancer hell still exists.
WE had cancer. WE still do.
No I did not have cancer in my body. But cancer has destroyed my life. It took my best friend, my husband, the father of my children. Cancer robbed me of my future--my son’s future of having his dad teach him to ride his bike, take him to his first day of Kindergarten, the dad that was supposed to teach him to drive his first car, be the role model he needs. Cancer robbed us of watching my devoted husband beam with pride as he could have walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding, waiting up for her on her first date, cheering for her in volleyball.
My husband and I never spoke of him dying--it simply was not an option. He hinted, on a few occasions, at some things, but neither of us could ever even accept he would not be here for everything I needed him for, everything our children needed him for. He did make me promise I would always take care of our son, and to finish my master’s degree. I never broke a promise to him before. I refuse to start.
I am broken. I am hopeless without him. Yet, I look at the children he left behind and beam knowing he chose me to care for, nurture and love the two babies he loved more than this life. I work daily to make him proud. I finished my master’s degree in May, 2016, and strive daily to continue to make him proud of what cancer has left behind. Our family began a scholarship fund in his memory for children who have lost a parent before they graduate from high school, hoping they continue to strive for greatness even without their parents here.
There are pictures of cancer most do not see. Mothers who do not sleep at night because the aching of their hearts are too much. Wives who beg God for the mercy they need to get through the holidays, anniversaries, first milestones, and the raising of their children. Baby boys who talk to their daddy in pictures because that’s all of their dad they have left. Home videos that are watched on repeat, over and over, because the sound of your husband’s voice soothes your soul--and makes your baby remember his Daddy. Little girls who stay busy with everything this world has to offer to pre-occupy the longing of their Daddy’s hugs. Cancer doesn’t end on the day this awful disease is beat--either in Heaven or on Earth-it just keeps going and devastating lives beyond any fathomable thought.
I miss my husband, my best friend, the beautiful soul that loves his children and his wife more than he loved anything in this world. I grieve my future more than I grieve my past. I miss my family.
I've cried many tears of anger and guilt at God, cursed him even. Yet my heart is always full of guilt, as I know He is my only hope, the answer to the many prayers spoken, that mere strangers prayed for us. I also know He has, and had, greater plans for this journey we walked. To touch others, love others, empathize/sympathize for others.
I am a very changed person. Stuff does not matter. Brands, things, do not matter. In so many ways, my heart is so much more tender towards others, strangers, their experiences. In other ways, my heart is harder because not everyone can see that love, kindness, joy is what everyone needs, wants and the things that truly matters...that's people, relationships, love.
Even in this dark storm of pain, I would never change my heart's vision. I would never wish our experience on anyone, but I would wish my perspective of life on everyone in this world!