52 People You Need to Meet: #2 Helena Curtis


My husband, Ryan, was diagnosed with a Grade IV Glioblastoma Multiforme brain tumor in 2005 at the age of 29. My once very healthy and strong husband started having headaches that he couldn’t kick, then headaches with vomiting. Then one day, after working third shift as a Deputy Sheriff, he woke up on the floor of the bathroom and did not know why. We had been married for 5 years and had two daughters…our life was never the same. In an effort to convey even a small ounce of what this journey entailed for him, our girls and for myself, I am writing my letter to him…for everyone reading this.

To My Best Friend in Heaven, I wish I had known that you were going to be angry after your brain surgery. No one prepared me for how you would feel. The fear of the unknown and uncertainty of your future came out in angry words, and you had every right to be mad as hell. If someone had told me what to expect, I would never have taken it personally. I would have been better prepared to accept your anger and help you cope with it. Now, I carry my own anger.

I wish I had known that stacks of medical books and physician’s articles would never give me the knowledge and skills I needed the most for you. Medical terms, chemo side effects, and hoards of medication pamphlets never taught me how to care for you emotionally and mentally. It took time, patience, tears, hope, pain, practice and knowing you as well as I did, to try and ease the burden you carried within you that the cancer had not touched. All the hours of reading and research, provided no fool-proof answers, like simple love did. Now, I know I gave you the best love I knew how to give.

I wish I had known how to help you get your life back once your brain cancer was stable. For years you took combinations of chemotherapy and other drugs, in a constant fight and full of hope for beating your disease. Once the active fighting was done, you tried to move forward and struggled with a new normal. I didn’t see that then like I do now. No longer a police officer, you made so many attempts to build a new career for yourself. I did not realize then, how all those toxic “live saving” chemicals changed your thinking and the way you saw things. You were no longer fighting the cancer, but fighting to live like you had before it ravaged your veins. Now, I know what it is like to lose the life you had.

I wish I had known how quickly and swiftly our lives would change. It was only September, that we were told the cancer was growing again. Late May, we proudly watched our daughter graduate. Father’s Day, I fed you your favorite meal and warmed inside to see your crooked grin. Then the medicine stopped working and we had run out of options. In a matter of weeks, you went from fully functional and independent to bedridden and reliant upon others for your total care. You tried so hard to do what you could. Now, I know what it is like to live with unwanted change.

I wish I had known how raw and painful it is to watch the father of your children, your best friend, your companion, and your other half to lose his life. Humans were not meant to endure the death of their closest loved ones; I am convinced of this now. Out of all the doctors, counselors and nurses we entrusted your life to in almost 8 years, not a one of them told me of the intense misery that I would endure while watching you take your last breaths. I still see the entire process in my mind. I carry the helplessness of the Hospice staff in my chest. I hear every struggled sound. I feel your motionless hand in mine…slipping away for eternity. Your last moments here with me replay in my soul, unwelcome, erratic and without notice of arrival. Now, I know the pain of a shattered and irreparable heart.

I wish I had known how alone life would feel once you were gone. You were part of me and I was part of you. Each morning and evening, you were here with me. And now a part of life is gone. I have no way of figuring out how to be me, without you. Now I know what lonely really is. With all this I wish I had known before you were diagnosed with brain cancer, I realize that if I had known the road we would travel…I would choose to travel it all over again just to be with you once more.

Love Always, Me

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