- A Breast Cancer Patient
This chapter may be shared freely, but must remain attributed to the author and retain all copyright information.Author's Note
Though I am listed as the "author" of this writing, it is actually the woman who I interviewed as a soul who's life this belongs to.
I am grateful for the opportunity to share it with you so that whether you or someone you know or love is battling breast cancer or have lost someone to breast cancer (or any kind of cancer for that matter), can find comfort and knowledge in the information this soul has passed along here. If you know someone who may be touched by this, please share it with them. I will post more at my website soon. www.collettesinclaire.com
Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you,
they're supposed to help you discover who you are.
-Bernice Johnson Reagon
The word that probably marked the beginning of the end of my life. I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo chemotherapy to combat the illness. Nothing was the same after that. I lost my hair, my appetite, my looks and my will to live. I thought I was already experiencing the worst, but that was nothing compared to losing my husband.
Joe was my husband for 39 years. He died of a heart attack while I was fighting my battle against breast cancer. I’m not really sure if the stress of my diagnosis and chemotherapy contributed to his demise, but it seemed like it to me. I could be wrong. I suppose it could have been his years of smoking, drinking and overeating that cut his life short. Joe used to kid that he was going to live to be a hundred and five. He said he was such a happy man that he was sure it would increase his lifespan.
Joe didn’t live to be a hundred and five. Not even close to a hundred. But the way he had lived his life, I would argue that he lived way past a hundred and five. He was my best friend, my companion, my lover, and my husband - the perfect man. Everything a girl could ever ask for in a man. I loved him with all my heart. When he died, part of me died with him.
I used to think that when something like a death of loved one is about to happen, you’d get warning signs, kind of like a foreboding or a premonition, preparing you for things to come. I never experienced any of that. Not even an intuition the day Joe died. All I got was phone call with the person on the other end saying, “Kathy, get down to the hospital right now.” I got in my car and drove as fast as I could. I don’t remember the drive to the hospital, all I know is that I got there as fast as I could and I got there in one piece. One shaking, nervous, and disastrously stressed out one piece.
My husband had passed away even before I got there. I was furious! I was so angry with Joe that he left without saying goodbye, for not waiting for me to get there. I had so many things I wanted to say to him, that I needed to say to him before we'd never see each other again. I wanted him to know that all those things that we used to bicker about like not mowing the lawn, not doing the laundry and all those stupid little things were not important, that they didn’t really matter. I wanted to thank him for being him, for being my best friend, my lover and for being the best husband in the entire world. I wanted to tell him that I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in life. I wish I could have been there during his final moment so I could have held his hand and watched him walk with the angels towards the light. But I missed my chance. I was too late.
The doctors had tried to bring him back but he was just simply gone. I wanted to scream and cry. I felt so angry with God! I wanted to see Him and scream at Him and ask Him, “Haven’t I been through enough?” Is my cancer not enough for You? Is my suffering from chemo not enough? And now, after three years of cancer and chemo, still not cured, You decided to make my life more miserable by taking my husband away from me!” It was harder than anything I could ever have imagined. He was gone just like that. I held him tight though I knew he was no longer there. I kissed his forehead and let my tears run over him, hoping that somehow, like in the movies, it would bring him back.
Everyone was patient and understanding and kind enough to let me spend some time with Joe. I wanted to honor the life we spent and built together. I just wanted to be with him. I just needed to feel him one last time. I wanted him to know that I would always be with him and that he would always be in my heart. I had been with him for hours but to me it only seemed like minutes. I wished I could just stay with him forever but the doctors had to make final preparations and I had to leave in order for them to do that.
The doctors told me to go home and get some sleep. I didn't know where to go or what to do after that. Friends and neighbors came to the hospital to give support and comfort me. They all tried to talk to me but I couldn't speak. I was lost for words. I had so many questions left unanswered. It’s like my mind didn’t understand what was happening and then it all came crashing down like a giant wave. It was too much! I needed to let it out. I needed to get out! I needed to leave.
I got in my car and just drove away. I drove away far and fast. I had no destination. I just drove. Then I stopped. I stopped to talk to Joe. I told him how much I loved him. I told him that I was going to miss him every day for the rest of my mortal life. I told him I was angry at him for leaving me. I needed him and he just left me. This went on for hours, driving and talking to Joe, until late into the night. I dreaded the drive home. I wasn’t sure how I would be able to stay in the same house without my Joe. The house that Joe and I filled with dreams, dreams that would no longer be reality. I kept asking, “Why? Why? Why?” I never wanted to stay in that house again. I just wanted to keep on driving. But I had to go back. I had to take care of things.
I missed him so much. It was so hard being in that house without him. Everything reminded me of Joe. Even just looking at the front door reminded me that I would never again see him come through it when he gets home from work. It was hard to know that I would never again see his smile. When we finally set him in his resting place, I felt as if a piece of me was buried with him. I hugged the coffin and even thought of never letting go. I wanted him to be there. I wanted him to feel my love.
At that point, I didn’t care about myself anymore. I was big and puffy from the treatments and all my hair was falling out, my eyesight was failing and my health was deteriorating. I didn’t care. But I’d take all of the suffering and even more if I could just have him back. I wanted to feel his warm embrace once more, even for just a second. But what I wanted was no longer possible.
When I got home that night, I made myself a cup of coffee. I sat at the kitchen table but not in my usual spot. Instead, I sat in Joe's. I mustered all the energy left in me and imagined Joe was there with me. I asked him over and over, “Joe, why did you leave me?” I don't know how many times I asked the question but eventually I did receive an answer. I remember looking up, my sight blurred from the tears, and I saw someone. Not Joe, but a lady I had never seen before but yet she seemed so familiar. She looked at me and said, “He is sleeping now. Joe is at peace. You won’t see him here, but you will soon see him again. He wants you to know that he loves you and that it was just his time.” And with that, the lady simply smiled at me and disappeared.
I realized that an angel had appeared before me. She had a glowing presence and a calming power, and I felt so peaceful after that brief encounter. I bowed my head down and started to cry once more. I cried myself to sleep on the kitchen table. I woke up the next morning with a stiff neck but with a peaceful heart. I got up from the kitchen table, wiped my face clean and got dressed for the day.
I decided that today would be my first day without him. This would be the day that I would truly let go. That day, I let go of Joe, but I always have him with me in my heart. As I went through my days I often thought of Joe. I still had conversations with him on my car rides. But now, instead of the grieving for him, I chose to celebrate his life. I fought my battle with cancer for another two years. During those two years, I felt the love and comfort of friends that I never thought I had.
I met so many wonderful people and found a great sense of support. I reached out at a time of great need and received overwhelming support. I felt myself truly embraced by the world and I allowed it to take me in. And then I felt that my time had come. I knew it was time for me to go. Now I understood why Joe had to go first.
With Joe gone, I learned how to reach out, how to trust others and nurture myself. If Joe had stayed with me, I never would have learned any of that. I was too dependent on him. He was my world and I held on to him like a safety blanket. He was always the one doing things for me. With him gone, I learned to do things for myself, to take care of myself. Joe did not abandon me in my time of need. Instead, he had given me a gift. Joe gave me the ability to love myself. And even though I missed him every single day, I'm so thankful for what he did. This was truly an experience of a lifetime.
His passing was so untimely, it left me alone and depressed for a while. Joe was no longer there to comfort me. This taught me to let go and allowed me to open up. I began to reach out to others. I learned how to love myself by paying attention to my needs and attending to them. Though I learned to do things for myself, I also knew that I could not do everything on my own. I knew I still need others to complete the picture of my life. I learned how to allow others into my life and accepted the love and support they offered.
I must admit, I suffered many lonely hours and they sure didn’t measure up to all those hours filled with love, joy and laughter. Yet even in the most difficult times, I had friends who would hug and love me. I had friends who would fill me with love and support. I found love and support in so many unusual places that I never knew I had, places I would never think to look or simply recognize before.
Even the deli counter at the grocery store became a new place of love and support. They would often ask how my weekly checkup went. It was a very special time in my life. I embraced the hardships of my situation as it was when I found myself and the love of so many people. I wanted to thank Joe for teaching me this lesson.
The lessons I had learned in that lifetime were self-love, acceptance of the fact that bad things happen, learning to overcome obstacles thrown my way and learning how to enjoy life and laugh even when faced with great ordeals. It was a tall order, but a tall order I was happy and proud to have accomplished.
That was my last summer. Soon after my epiphany, everything started tasting funny, and I knew then that my time would soon be over. I was neither upset nor angry. I welcomed death with open arms as I knew that I would soon be with my beloved Joe.
I died peacefully in my bed surrounded by loved ones. And as left my earthly vessel, I heard the sound of an angel. It was my angel, Joe, calling for me. He had never truly left me. He was always watching over me especially in my darkest hours. Nothing happened by coincidence. All those times I was surrounded by friends and loved ones, it was because of Joe. He orchestrated everything. He gave the people around me a bit of a nudge to come my way. Joe never wanted me to be alone or even feel alone. Even in the afterlife, he still thought of me and my needs.
As I crossed over, seeing Joe, I was enveloped by the love that radiated from him. I felt at peace. And when I finally felt his arms around me and received the embrace that I had so longed for, I finally felt like I was truly home. All our memories together came rushing back. I savored every moment as I looked back at the lifetime we spent together. I felt his love wrap around me, energizing my whole being and revitalizing me. I saw everyone who became a part of my life. I saw all those connections, all of our lives intertwined and forming special bonds. Joe, for me, was my special bond.
The lifetime that just ended was just the recent lifetime we spent together. We had shared many lifetimes long before. We had been husband and wife many times over but it wasn’t always the case. We have been friends in some lifetimes and shared relationships with others. But our bond was so strong and so unique that whatever our relation with each other might be, we were always filled with love and joy.
Now, we have already ventured on another journey. Joe is no longer with me as he agreed to return to the world as a new life form. We will not be together physically this time as I have resolved to watch from the sidelines. This time, I will be the one orchestrating things for him. This time, it’s my turn to look after him and make sure he is always surrounded by loving and supportive people. I’ll make sure that he will be loved and cared for and receive attention the same way he did for me.
This time, it’s my turn to help Joe learn his life lesson. And when he is done with this life and has learned his life’s lesson, he will be ready to come home once again. And this time, I will be the one waiting for him with arms wide open waiting to envelop him with love, happiness and peace. Until then, I will be here for him, ever present, in his happy times and times of sadness. I'll watch over him, loving him with all my being. www.collettesinclaire.com
This chapter may be shared freely, but must remain attributed to the author and retain all copyright information.
© ColletteSinclaire.com/Risch Media Group LLC, excerpted from The Real Book of the Dead, all rights reservedwww.collettesinclaire.com