It’s June, 2011, I walk out of the emergency room where the doctor just finished telling us that my husband’s brain had numerous hemorrhaging tumors, a tumor on his spine causing the paralysis, and tumors throughout his body not to mention the more than 100 tumors in his leg. At the time I’m sitting there beside my husband trying to process everything we heard and not look like someone just slammed me upside the head with a ball bat. I could not allow him to see me crumbling; I had to be strong for him. One of my friends, Juanita who was an ER nurse at the time, looked at me and said lets go out here for a moment. I round the corner in the ER hall and I can’t keep it inside anymore. I broke down like I have never broke down before in my life. I slid down the wall to my feet. Juanita and my friend Trish were with me holding me trying to comfort me. It was at that moment I knew that there would be no more research for treatments, no more hope for a cure… For the past two and a half years I clung on to the hope that there would always be another clinical trial he could try and we would find a cure, I just knew it. I never allowed myself to think anything else other than he would beat this terrible cancer. I take my husband home and full-time hospice care from our home was initiated. I will tell you that from this moment on the ONLY thing that kept me going was the fact that he was still alive and with us. I prepared for his passing by compiling photos for a memorial video; I spoke with my sister about preparations; I spoke with my husband about his wishes, but never once did I really comprehend what that meant. I detached myself from the reality that my husband was dying.
For the next 30 days I’m by his side watching as he declines. The paralysis moving from his waist to his chest. I saw him slowly lose his breathing capacity, his kidneys slow down function, his tumors getting bigger then busting open, and then the gangrene. As I watch all this happen, I somehow take comfort that he is still with me. He worries will I be okay, I assure him I will be fine. I had to be strong for him… It’s the night of August 2, 2011 and my husband has been in and out of consciousness all day but now he’s not talking to me anymore and he’s not awake. As the evening progresses it starts, oh my god, no not the “death rattle” they told me about. Oh my god, it was awful. I climbed up in the hospital bed with him, I held him and laid next to him for what seemed like hours. As I held him, I whispered in his ear and I cried because I didn’t want him to suffer anymore. God, please take him, don’t let him suffer. Then at 12:12 am August 3, 2011 Eric took his last breath and I said goodbye. That was the worst night of my life. That is when my worst fear became my reality. A reality I had to face now.
The first year after Eric’s passing was hell. I did everything I could not to face my reality. I traveled as much as I could and I went out with friends as much as I could, but deep inside of me I was living an unimaginable hell. I began to have feelings for a long-time friend and we started dating. I became ill and ended up hospitalized for 5 days with Acute Renal Failure and I had major surgery for multiple tumors in my uterus. My health would never be the same as it was, it took a huge blow. To cope I had to bury my feelings deep inside me. I could not truly deal with all that had happened. Yes, there would be times when it would surface but I buried it as soon as I could. To an outsider I probably looked happy. I could feel and heard judgment about my assumed happiness and new relationship. I did everything I could to get through that first year and I will tell you that there are only THREE reasons I am still alive today and those three reasons are my daughters, Samantha & Madison and my boyfriend at the time, Rufus. My girls suffered greatly because they didn’t have a mom that could be there for them like I should have been. I can’t tell you how many ledges Rufus talked me down. He literally carried me that year. It was an awful year of despair and running from my reality.
I tried counseling but I left feeling worse because it dug up everything that I had worked so hard to bury. I tried a grief support group but I was significantly younger than anyone else so I couldn’t really relate to them. Nothing seemed to help but burying my feelings. It was my way of surviving. I couldn’t take prescription medication for depression because I was having side effects from them all so this was just something I was going to have to get through on my own. I couldn’t turn to God. I was so angry at God. I questioned everything about God. If He didn’t heal Eric of all people then why would He even care about me? Eric’s faith was so strong yet he didn’t receive a miracle healing. My faith had been shattered to the core. I felt I was on my own to figure this all out.
The second year things got a bit easier. I still continued to keep the grief buried. That became more difficult as I developed triggers. There were events, conversations or even pictures that would trigger my grief and when it surfaced it was like a flood of rushing waters. It was difficult for me to control. It could be as simple as someone talking about getting a miracle for a loved one. Oh, that really dug it up for me. Not that I would be angry if someone got a miracle, but why didn’t we get a miracle? Why do some receive them and others don’t? I was questioning a lot of my beliefs. My friends and family had to question why little things would upset me so much because I was moving on with my life and I seemed to be doing okay, but the internal hell that was brewing inside of me was still there. All my emotions about my loss and life over the last three years before his death were like a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
I knew that I couldn’t go on like this and at some point I was going to have to deal with it all, but I just didn’t know how I was going to do it. I needed someone to help me, someone who had experience with helping someone who had been through a trauma. That might sound ridiculous to some people; that my grief was a trauma but you have to realize that for nearly three years I watched Melanoma attack my husband. I bandaged his massive tumors and watched him bleed out from those tumors profusely. All that time I wasn’t truly taking in what was going on; I was merely doing what I had to do to keep my husband alive. It’s like being alongside someone that is in battle in a war and you are caring for them. I suffered from flashbacks and I relived his death over and over in my nightmares. I knew that it was going to take someone special to help me and I was blessed to come upon a counselor that specializes in PTSD and trauma. She was hope for dealing with my grief.
My first session of therapy was intense. I knew it would be. I wasn’t going to hold back because I needed to deal with everything completely. I felt a connection to my counselor like I’ve never felt before and I left my session that day with swollen eyes and feeling exhausted but not feeling depressed. This time was different than my counseling sessions in the first year of his passing. I have had many sessions over the months and I can’t begin to tell you the healing that has taken place with me. During my sessions I continue to dig deep and deal with the issues that lay inside of me and it is very emotional, but when I leave I feel that it has helped. My counselor doesn’t just sit there and listen to me and ask how I feel, she is guiding me and giving me techniques to deal with my pain and grief. I never thought there would be hope for me to be free of this pain and I have found it. I thought that this was just how my new life would be. When Eric died that day a part of me died with him, my days were darkened. It was as if I lived with sunglasses on every day because everything seemed a little darker than before his illness. Now I feel like I’m seeing things much brighter. I look up and I see the beautiful blue sky behind the cotton clouds and I hear the birds chirp and children playing. You don’t understand if you have never been where I’ve been that I never thought it would be like this again.
I have finally found peace from that pain and it feels good to live life again. My journey through his illness and my loss has been long and difficult, but it did not defeat me. I am finally free.