December 24th, 2006. Our son was only 4 months old. A normal annual physical, landed the love of my life in the ER. After a urine test and some blood drawn, he was asked to go for an MRI of the brain because for some reason his PH Levels had sky rocketed. With not an ounce of fear, he did this and before the MRI was complete, they sent him to the ER. He had no symptoms. NOT ONE.
Four hours later, after many faces of many doctors, nurses; after many “I am so sorry you are going through this”, “what a young couple”; a doctor…very tall in stature, calming, yet gracious face holds out his hands for mine, but not wanting any comfort, I put mine in my pocket.
“You have a brain tumor. Two, actually. One the size of a melon in the left frontal lobe of your brain, The other on your brain stem.”
Silence. My legs became weak. My head heavy. My heart stopped. What? “Ma’am, I am so sorry. Your husband has brain cancer.”
Basil lived graciously with brain cancer for 6 years. His first craniotomy was grade 2, his third proved to be the deadly GBM. Offered only 15 months to live, he never believed ONCE he was going to die. But he passed away only 14 months later, as I lay next to him, spooning the man I said I would grow old with. His last breath was an exhale…and as I waited for that inhale, I felt his presence leave. Forever 38. He left behind two beautiful sons. Evan was 6, and Shane just barely 2. Rest in Peace my love. 5.31.2012
“What I wish I knew before my husband was diagnosed with cancer.”
Faith. It comes and goes. I prayed and prayed. At times, as much as I prayed is as much as my faith was tested. Sometimes I would walk away from it. Sometimes I would submerge myself in it. Sometimes I would hide behind it. Faith can mean so much and so little at the same time, if you have no belief that there is a bigger and better out there. Every time I lost my “faith”, I was reminded that I had 2 little blessings I called my sons and I was grounded again.
Numb. I was numb for almost 6 years. Numb was all I could feel. It was like a blanket that held me together, one that I wish I could have seen before I lost my husband. Being numb, hardened my marriage yet broke the intimacy; it shrunk my faith and suffocated my fears. Numb also protected me and provided my life with a pre-conceived strength I thought I had during those 6 cancer filled years.
Friends. I needed them. Family. I need them more. My family was taken care of while I nursed my husband in his now infancy stage –washing him, hold his head up for food, while I sang him his favorite songs, terribly…while I brushed his teeth and cleaned his messes. Family and friends came. They provided smiles for my children, they made sure food was on the table and that homework was done. My house was clean and my dog was let out. Family and friends, see your darkness, they feel your pain and without asking know your weakness. They just showed up. I love them and owe them more than a “thank you” will ever encompass.
Lessons to pass on:
Let go. Let go of the things that weigh you down. Trust life. Sometimes answers are not what we need.
Breathe. Really breathe, though. Take a deep breath and remember that blessings surround us daily.
Smile. My husband always said. No matter what smile. Even if you aren’t happy. Smile. Smile at a stranger, a passerby, it confuses people, and it feels good.
Stop comparing. In hindsight, I would always ask, “Why me?” My friends aren’t going through this. Why me? Why? Because shit happens. Work with the time we have. Every moment is a gift. Some people aren’t even given time.
Sing in the shower, even if your kids tell you that you sound like a man.
Dance. I mean really dance. Like you think you can dance.
Have a drink. A stiff one or a favorite one, yummy one at least once a week 😉
Hold your husband’s hand. That simple gesture sparks something irreversible every time you do it. And it’s always an irreversible good spark.
Always say I LOVE YOU.
Never, ever go to bed angry.
I have been a widow for almost two years. I wish I said I love you to him more. I wish I held his hands more and remembered his scent. Nothing prepares you for cancer. Nothing. It’s a journey that takes its toll and manages to change you. My heart breaks daily for my boys who will probably forget how their dad held them, how their dad hugged them and told them how much he loved them. His legacy lives on through them…it’s a continual gift my husband has left me behind.
Finally. Be GRATEFUL and show grace. Gratitude carries you through, and grace is your guide.
Cancer. Brain Cancer. Death. “What I wish I knew before my husband was diagnosed with cancer.”—I wish I knew a cure. I will love you forever, Basil. Always and forever 38.
Editor’s note: Stacie was kind enough to share pics of Basil, and we decided to show him before brain cancer and a few weeks before he died. To me, his eyes tell a story none of us could put into words.