Journey of a Terminal Man
Well as promised I said I would start a blog. It’s April 2, 2016, the 3rd month since our marriage. We celebrate our anniversary every month rather than every year, but I am getting a head of myself. I guess the smart thing to do like all journeys is to start at the beginning.
My story or I should say our story is a love story. Like most love stories, our story has its ups and downs. It was back in 2013 when my first wife of 41 years had died. Like all who go thorough this, whether you expect it to happen or not, you will go thorough the grieving process. Some say it takes anywhere from 3-5 years to get thorough the grief stage, however grief is an individual matter. I was ready to turn the page and get on with my life after 18 months.
I am a devoted Christian, but don’t worry I am not going to get preachy on you. I was ready to look for more than companionship. The church I belonged to at the time was comprised of mostly 30-50 year old married couples. I was the only widow there, so for a while I went to various other churches hoping to meet someone. After close to a year in September 2015,God seem to direct me back to my original church. I walked in to this church at the time that the worship team was practicing. I saw her, she was playing her trumpet, and I thought I have to meet this woman. The trouble was I am kind of rusty at dating; after all I had been married for 41 years.
When you are creeping up to 68 years old, you have some doubts about ones self, at least I did. To get a little info on the lady in question I ask a longtime friend of mine about her. He told me her name was Barbara and also that her husband had died a year earlier. She was a woman of good reputation, very active in the church and is still working full time. She is not ready for retirement yet. I knew from speaking to my friend that Barbara was still going thorough the grieving process. She was at a vulnerable time in her life so I was careful, I did not want either of us to be caught up in something in the spur of the moment. Truth be told, I might have been vulnerable too.
For the next few months we exchanged pleasantries. The following summer I worked driving buses, doing long distance charters. I took some long distant charters out West to do some serious thinking about this woman. Do I want to pursue the relationship or not, I figured time away would help me make a more clear decision. Perhaps, a little trip would do me some good a little vacation. A trip out to an old friends ranch would give me a much more clearer picture about pursuing this relationship with Barbara without work clouding my thoughts. I stayed for a week, then restless, couldn’t sleep, thinking about this wonderful woman. I got up about 430 am. saddled up and went for a ride up in the foothills of Alberta, talked to God, prayed, as the sun came over the hills I knew, that I knew she is the one. I told my friend I am going home and pursuing this relationship. I got the first available flight back. Sunday, I was at church, after church there was a potluck dinner, when I went downstairs there she was. I knew as soon as our eyes met we had begun something special. We sat and had dinner together; no one else in the room was noticed by us.
September 2015 was the beginning of a new chapter in my life as well as Barbara’s. Barbara was really beginning to wonder if I was really interested, little did she know it but I was working a lot, driving buses. I think she thought I was trying to avoid her. Her daughter believed I wasn’t interested in her, however that was just the opposite. My heart was pounding whenever I saw her. My mind was totally scrambled thinking of this woman. I never felt this way before.
One Sunday after church, I got enough nerve to ask her out lunch, so I waited in the foyer for her. Little did I know she was not going to wait any longer for this slow moving guy to do something. She came out and asked me if I would like to go to the Swiss Chalet for lunch with a few of her friends. Of course I said yes.
We saw each other every night for a whole week, then we announced to family and friends we were getting married. It was a shocker to many. There were others who knew about our on going romance. On January 2nd we were married in our little church. We both had to get back to work on the 4th, but we have been on our honeymoon ever since. Our love for one another is very special. I will attempt to put this context. When I was first married the first five years was what I considered at the time good, however reflecting back it was more one sided. I am a romantic by nature. My first wife had a very difficult time responding to my advances, such as simple as kissing. She was not one to kiss back or even spontaneously give a kiss or even a hug. The next thirty-one years I was a caregiver for her due to her deteriorating health, so the relationship became a purely a platonic one. It was more of being a friend rather than a husband. Even though I was married it was a very lonely time, of course I did still love her. When you are a caregiver and the one you are looking after passes on, there is a sense of guilt. I question myself did I do enough for her? My friends and family who were close to me assured me I did all I could, which gave me some peace.
I was in need of something more, something more tangible. After her death, I was even lonelier; I believe that is why I was ready after eighteen months ready to turn the page in my life. I hated living alone. There were many nights I cried.
This love for Barbara is totally different; it’s a love of a kind I had never experienced before. I only was involved with one woman before I met Barbara, and that was my first wife.
The next month was a joyous month, until a big bomb dropped. It was so out of left field, I did not see this coming. Like most of us at my age, I have been through lots of heartache, a lot of pain and a lot of hurt, but this was devastating. On the weekend of the 29th of January I became very sick, coughing up blood and so forth. I went to the doctor thinking I have a bleeding ulcer. He examined me and he sent me right away to the hospital. The doctor there did some investigations and told me I had esophageal cancer at an advanced stage, inoperable. It was a shock. My wife is a nurse and no matter how you try tell it, she knew. Like she says she knows too much and sometimes wishes she didn’t. This was one of those times.
So what do I do? -Have pity party. No! I asked the doctor, “What’s next”? I would stay overnight at the hospital and have further investigations the next morning, a CT scan plus various other tests.
When something like this happens to you, you have two choices, rollover and die or get on living with what life you have. Sure there is a sense of loss such as plans for the future, summer plans and traveling plans. We were also concerned about how our families were going to receive this. We had processed the news and had started to come to some acceptance. This may seem strange to you but relatives and friends took this harder than we did.
Barbara and I after some reflection decided we are going to look at what we do have rather than what is lost.
Well what was next? Doctors at the Cancer Centre said, “Radiation treatment is next. After many Ct Scans, x-rays, tests and blood work, I had found out that I also have cancer in my lymph nodes both upper and lower part of the body, plus bone cancer in my left hip.
Radiation treatment for me consisted of radiation everyday for ten days on the esophageal tumor and five treatments on the bone cancer. How did it go? Actually it went very good. I didn’t experience the nausea and upset stomach like others sometimes do. There was some pain at the beginning, but with pain medication this was controlled at a good level. During my assessment, I found out just to complicate matters that I have COPD, which is “Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease”. This disease is mainly caused by smoking, even if you haven’t smoked for twenty years, which I haven’t it can still effect you. It just sits there, some are affected, and some are not, this no picnic. You take all kinds of puffers.
I was looking forward actually, to get on to my Chemo treatment. I admit there was some anxiety, but I knew according to the Dr. that this would give some more time for Barbara and me. On April 4th another bomb drops. My oxygen levels were low when I went for my pre Chemo visit. The Dr took one look at me and had me rushed to emergency. Needless to say Chemo was cancelled until I am strong enough and my oxygen levels are appropriate to under go Chemo treatment. I spent a week in hospital and had more tests, x-rays and so forth trying to find the cause of this other than COPD. They are still puzzled.
I was released from hospital on April 11th with lots of prescriptions. I have to stay on oxygen, so oxygen equipment was brought into house and all the rest of the supplies that goes with it and it’s a lot. Talk about changing lifestyle, this will do it. Fortunately, I am very blessed. My sister is a retired Personal Support Worker and real good one at that. The simplest thing such as dressing is a real chore I needed her to help me. It’s difficult for a man who is used to taking charge of his life (I managed heavy equipment, I operated large vehicles, I was a soldier and outdoorsman) to all of sudden feel so helpless. However, I am not going to roll in self-pity. I have the help and I am thankful for it. I am not bitter. Our father taught us when we were children that there are no guarantees in life. Death is inevitable, you just don’t know when.
Well we have to work out a plan, how are we going to handle this situation and still allow Barbara to work. I insist that she does not only for financial reasons, but also as a buffer, in regards to this illness. Her mind cannot be on this all the time. Either can mine. I have given myself lots of projects to do, such as building my model planes and ship building, writing this blog and preparing sermons for the church. I have been asked to preach, as long as my health is ok. Right now the minor inconvenience is the oxygen saturation levels impacting on my daily activities, but that can be worked about. A home care nurse and personal support worker will come to help support the care my wife and sister can provide me with. There are many at the church besides my family, who will phone or text me to check up on me.
So, how do Barbara and I deal with this on a personal level? Relatively simple! What you do is look at what you have. I have beautiful wife who love me and tells me so every day. I have today. I am breathing. I can still swallow soft food, not yet on pureed. I can live a near normal life, but with some precautions. My needs are being met. I have a beautiful home and a nice garden. I am waiting for it to bloom. I have a wonderful family who is there for me when I need them. We are a tight family. We have a great church family who prays and supports our endeavors. These are10 things to be thankful for and I am sure there are many more. The main thing is to keep the positive in the foreground and the negative in the background. It’s like looking at a garden right in front of you. It’s so beautiful with its colors and life abundance, however behind it is a garbage dump. Which one are you focusing on? We know the problem is there, however we are not going to allow that to steal the small bits of joy that we have. A friend of ours commented on the sense of hopefulness and playfulness that we have in spite of the challenges we are facing. We are creating for ourselves, a sense of joy in how we are choosing to respond to the obstacles that litter our pathway to happiness. We have two mason jars, one filled with 30 marbles and one large white marble and one empty jar. We started marking our days with moving one marble from the full jar to the empty jar to count a month of time together. The large white marble will mark the 2nd of every month, our Wedding anniversary.
In the next few weeks maybe on a daily weekly basis depending on the events that transpire, I will keep you posted and tell how I and Barbara feel physically, as well as emotionally. My goal is maybe help someone out there who is going though a similar process to grab a hold of the good things and not dwell on the negatives. Till then cheers!