Christmas-Time Without The Love of My Life

by Karen
(Atlanta, Ga)

It has been 3 1/2 months since the death of my love. Lee was diagnosed on May 19, 2010 and on that day I felt my heart literally drop. We were both told that Lee could possibly have cancer of his colon, as the colonoscopy instrument could not be passed through his colon area. Later that afternoon, it was confirmed that he did indeed have colon cancer and would need to have surgery (if he desired) as soon as possible to remove the tumor. On that day, it seem Lee was more hopeful and faithful to God than I was at the time.

As a 15 year R.N., who had once worked in an Oncology Unit at a Private Hospital, I knew this diagnosis could mean that I could lose the one person who had been so dear to me. A few days later, after Lee was admitted to the hospital, we found that he had stage 4 Colon Cancer (meaning that his cancer had already spread to his liver). Again, as a nurse, I knew that anytime cancer spread to the liver, the end results could be deadly.

For several months as I assist Lee with his meals, going back and forth to the doctor's office, chemo, blood work, trying to get him to eat more, assisting him in walking and trying to keep him upbeat to avoid depression, I found myself going deeper and deeper into a pit that was so very unfamiliar to me. As I watched Lee transform from what I saw as a healthy, independent, and good-looking man to a weak, fragile, "old in appearance" (due to failing health and weight loss) ill man, I was extremely hopeless and questioning what I missed in picking up on his illness during the first part of our relationship.

Lee was a strong vibrant man who tended to his yard, clean his own home, shopped, cooked, fished, exercised, visited the sick, actively involved in his church, attended adult learning classes, worked out at the gym, etc.. There was no fore-warning or signs that his body had been invaded by that terrible disease called "cancer." I could not understand and nor did I want to accept what had been placed before us to deal with. However, our conversations remained on God and a full recovery.

Lee praised God before this storm, through this storm and the night in which he was ushered into the kingdom of God. Since all of the chemo, medications, doctor's appointments, get well cards, praying at the alter, talking to relatives and friends about his diagnosis, assisting him with his medications and deep breathing slowly to lessen his back/side pain, encouraging him to remain strong and not to give up, and after the hope for a full recovery, I am left with only memories of the individual I loved so dearly. I am blessed for the time I had with Lee, I just wish it was longer and the end of his life would not have been so tragic for "us."

It is Christmas Eve and I know if Lee had lived, we would be together right now enjoying the season. Lee is gone and I miss him. I wish that we were together either here on earth or together in our heavenly home. I am not ready to say good-bye and nor have I visited his gravesite because I truly feel his love in my heart and that he is walking beside me daily. He has comforted me in so many ways since his death by first lingering in spirit a few days before his death and two weeks after his death and now from time to time throughout the day. I just wish I can hug, kiss, and tell him how much I love him one more time, as I can vividly remember doing so often in my memories. It seems like I should be able to reach through my daydreams of Lee and do these things easily once again. Sometimes, I feel Lee being taken away from me is just not fair and other times I feel I am not being fair by not wanting to release him (before his death and even now) to another dimension of life where he is now cancer and pain free forever.

Lee was so wonderful, slow to anger, compassionate, and well-respected/loved. I will truly miss the love of my life who came into my world, positively impacted my life and who left me far too soon. On this day (Christmas Eve), I want to honor Lee with my love and through my thoughts and memories of how he touched my life and cared for me in such a special way.

Merry Christmas Lee! Thank you for not only telling me how much you loved me but actually showing me how much you cared. I hope you are thinking of me just as much and as often as I think of you!

With love,


Comments for Christmas-Time Without The Love of My Life

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Dec 25, 2010
How much our stories are the same
by: Lyn Ann

Dear Karen - how closely your story resembles mine, although I had a couple more months with my Jim. Jim was an incredibly healthy, happy and active man. Non smoker, minimal drinking, he biked, swam, and loved walking 18 holes of golf carrying his clubs. He was older than I and retired early to be the main caregiver to our son, who is now 17. Last summer he began having some occasional difficulty swallowing which was diagnosed as achalasia. Nothing to worry about, they told us.

Then, in May of this year, he finally got in for an endoscopy. They found esophageal cancer- a tumour about 15 cm long. Then came the flurry of tests - bone scans and PET scans and a bronchoscopy... each taking a small piece of our soul. All tests were clear. The only test he didn't have was a CAT scan, since he had one in January.

we decided against treatment (very limited options for this type of cancer) and opted for a stent when he was no longer able to swallow. By mid-summer we were back in good spirits and figured that he might still be around in 5 years.

But on October 1st Jim had a TIA-type of episode, and a CAT scan revealed that the cancer had spread to his brain. He went straight into whole brain radiation treatment which really hit him hard, and he never recovered from that. I looked after him at home - an exhausting 24/7 job - as he became more frustrated. He steadily deteriorated mentally - something he realized and hated - and on November 20th he died in hospital of complications related to fluid on his lungs.

Jim was a quiet churchgoer who did not care to discuss his feelings, but my faith has given me strength to deal with this day to day.

This site is a godsend - please keep coming back and sharing your stories. We are all walking the same path, and as difficult as it is, it is so reassuring to know that we don't walk it alone.

God bless on this Christmas day.

Dec 24, 2010
We Nurses
by: Pat J

Hi Karen,
I am also a nurse. Sometimes I think we are at a disadvantage since we've been through it all and know and understand things that lay people wouldn't. I lost my husband three weeks ago and I miss him so much. When he was initially diagnosed with CHF, I was at Walgreens buying him OTC cold medications because he was so congested. After his dx I thought, "Where has my brain been the past month? I work for an Internist who treats 20 patients a day with congestive heart failure." I guess I just never dreamed this would attack my young and vital husband.

Over 8 years the medications seemed to work very well. Then the horrific trips to the ER in the middle of the night as his chest filled up with fluid and he was basically drowning, took it's toll on both of us. He was diagnosed with stage 4 CHF. He was placed on the UNOS list in May 2010 and underwent LVAD surgery in August. He returned to the OR in September to drain fluid from his lungs ~ in the hospital for 10 weeks altogether.

Finally discharged at the end of October we had 5 weeks together at home before he passed away. I took him to the University of Chicago 5 days before his death and the doctors said they were pleased with the progress he was making. They kept assuring me that the surgeries he had required a very lengthy recovery period, progress was slow and everything was going well. The daily IV changes (Milrinone) and sterile dressing changes around his LVAD drain were difficult for me. The doctor's all said, "You're a nurse. You won't have any problems with that." When it's your own husband it's very different. My hands actually shook when I pulled the old drain sponges away, afraid I would hurt him (the site was so delicate). I lived in constant fear that he would get an infection and it would be my fault.

So I celebrate Christmas without my husband and love of my life. You are not alone in this. There is a hole in my heart but I also know there is something to rejoice in.

I wish you joy, happiness and peace this holiday season.

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