After Everybody Goes Home

I was my husband’s primary caretaker for almost three years in his losing battle with cancer.  During that time, I learned more about hospitals, treatments, the medical profession and cancer than I ever wanted to know.  I was on a treadmill to keep up with little or no time for myself.  Not that I cared about me.  I just wanted him well. I wanted our life back.

He died unexpectedly one night.  There were no death watches, no friends or family gathering for his last moments.  He went quickly and I hope painlessly in the hospital.

Even though I knew he was eventually going to die, I never found the time to reflect on my life without him.  We never talked about it partially because admitting it was like giving up.  We were fighters until the end. In retrospect, I am not sure what we could have done or said to ease my transition from wife to widow.  It was and still is surreal.

At first, there was the flurry of activity that accompanies a death.  Then, in a week it was over.  Everyone went home.  I was left at home to ramble between rooms with my ailing standard poodle for companionship.

I was lost, lonely and vulnerable.  I needed a reason to get out of bed, to eat, to live. I argued  every morning with myself about getting out of bed.  I knew that I should get up but I could not.  When I did get up, I would eat a bowl of cereal on the living room couch (definitely not allowed in my previous life!).  The empty cereal bowls piled up on my coffee table.  Eventually, I stacked them on the kitchen counter above the dishwasher.  I did not have the energy to open the dishwasher and put them away.  The entire time I was watching myself and chiding myself for my lethargy.

I eventually stumbled onto a routine that worked for me.

Every morning, I walked the circular path in the park near my house.  My goal was to put one foot in front of the and walk around and around until I was exhausted.  There were no decisions about going left or right it was just straight ahead.  After a shower, it was a late lunch with a friend or whoever I had corralled for the day.  This socializing and getting dressed up was a crucial part of my day.  I did not leave this to chance.  I kept my “dance card” full so that I would always have a luncheon partner.  On the few occasions that someone cancelled, I was panicked.

With luck, I could drag lunch out most of the afternoon. I liked this because late afternoon and early evening, “l’heure bleue”, was tough.  There was no one coming home.  I stumbled upon movies to fill this time. I did not have the energy to go to movies, so I rented a DVD every night. Picking it out and returning it the next morning became a ritual.

Then, it was bed and start the cycle all over.  I had made it another day.  Simple things, but all that I could handle during the first 90 days.

10 thoughts on “After Everybody Goes Home

  1. I remember my mom after my dad died of cancer. She was so lost. And then when my husband Charley was diagnosed,, I really began to understand what she went through during my dad’s years of treatments. Ah, but after they’re gone….I don’t think anyone can say they understand the shock of the loneliness that takes over every second of every day. You’re a survivor well worth listening to and I’m glad time is helping to numb a bit of your grief.

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    1. It was not the life I chose but I had no choice. My Mother was a widow so she understood my pain. However, we all have to deal with it in our own way. I am sorry for your loss also. I feel as though we could be extras in a Greek play! Thank you for listening…that is the best support! Lori

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      1. Lori, My dad died and it was a terrible loss. I think every day that I could have done more. And then my mom died. Another loss. And more of the “I could, should have done more.” When Charley was diagnosed with prostate cancer, it was like deja vu and I went into shock. But then I got really angry and began to fight back, researching clinical trials and kicking his butt to fight, too. So far we are winning, but I am well-aware of how lucky we are to be given the gift of extra time.

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      2. Do you ever feel as though you have had enough of cancer? I know I do and it makes me angry. Glad Charley has you in his corner helping him fight the fight. I hope you are taking care of yourself too. Thanks for sharing about Charley. I am glad you are winning. Enjoy each other!

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      3. I’ve written a few posts about it. I have chronic lyme which was left undiagnosed in the beginning, so it made it so much worse. Both diseases have things in common; in particular, the aggressive cells that keep coming back no matter what you do. I saw this connection many years ago and believed that the cure for cancer was in using the body’s own immune system. Immunology was not a popular course of action at that time. Now, it is believed that the immune system and our DNA hold the path to a cure. And I believe that. I always have. I promised his doctor, when he was given a few years to live, that Charley would be the first man ever cured of advanced prostate cancer – if they would put him into the best clinical studies available. That happened and he is now in remission. Not cured, yet, but he will be. And the work he is doing with the doctors at Johns Hopkins will lead to a cure for other cancers, too. It has left us with a positive outlook for each day. “What a gift!” I also know that there will be a part 2 in your life when you are ready for it and the right person walks in. Because that is what will happen. You have so much to share.

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      4. First, thank you for sharing this information. I am so glad for both of you. I understand chronic illness.
        Second, your kindness and empathy brought tears to my eyes. Thank you are being so open and caring. Lori

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