A glowing butterfly flying through a thunderstorm

The First Time

The first time you hear the words “You have blood cancer,” your world changes forever. The former “happy-go-lucky” person that was YOU just moments ago is now gone -- your old self no longer exists. You stand there in stunned silence. Every aspect of who and what you were before has been stopped. You can never go back.

The world changes in an instant

In May of this 2022, I came home after a short walk with the dog only to hear my wife of 50+ years say to me “I cannot stand up.” In less than a minute my world changed forever as she slumped over in my arms and died. The world I had known just seconds before was now gone. The EMTs tried for over an hour - there was no going back.  As CPR continued and drugs coursed through her veins, I knew deep down she had passed in those first few moments when I held her.

The shock of a cancer diagnosis

In many ways dealing with cancer and the death of a loved one are very similar. At first, your entire system is in a state of shock. You do not know what hit you. It takes a few hours and then, reality slowly settles in.   

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You are unable to think and any attempt to do even the simplest thing is a challenge. The uncontrolled tears begin to flow, and your entire body is reacting to the event that just occurred.

Your world moves in slow motion. If you are surrounded by friends and family at the time, no one can feel what you feel in the depths of your soul. Words like I am so sorry to hear you have cancer or I am so sorry your wife passed have no real meaning. As the  hours and days pass you realize everyone one in their own way says the same thing. At some point you simply nod, say thank you and remain numb .

Letting the professionals guide you

As with a blood cancer diagnosis, you now begin meeting the professional MDs who take it all in stride as they have faced this many times. To your MD your blood cancer is just how life is. He remains calm as he explains the next steps ,what you can expect and what costs may be involved. When a spouse passes you meet with a different set of professionals at the funeral home.

You hear the words again “ so sorry to ….etc.”  Then it hits you, this crisis that you are experiencing is somehow normal.

Going alone

Finally, if you are a cancer patient the day comes when you undergo treatment  friends and family gather and wish you well and offer words of encouragement. And off you go on your own to be treated. By chance if you like me and are attending a funeral service, the same group of family and friends gather and support you. After some time passes you go home and in the silence of reality hits --- really hard .

Mourning the life that was

You mourn the life that was - it is now over. As the days and weeks pass you notice the tears become less and less the. Deep down you begin to realize that mourning the past becomes less frequent. Slowly you begin to find fleeing minutes then in time hours that are not filled with grief.

Days gradually become normal

As your life continues on some unmarked path you find there are days that are somewhat normal; in time you face the fact that life goes on. A new awareness slowly begins to surround you and you begin to see things in a new way - not every day but on some days.

You begin to realize that living and dying and getting cancer or any other another life changing event is all part of life. Some how we discover that we all have it within ourselves to get through the many challenges life presents.

Living by not denying the hope of the future

As was said by Nightbird when she was facing cancer or in my case the death of my wife “Don’t deny the pain of today and don’t deny the hope of the future. You live life to the fullest when you live a balanced life - you do yourself no favors by being afraid of being happy"

Her words are seared into my brain and that my fellow blood cancer brothers and sisters are words we can and should live by every day.

Connect in the Forum: How did you react to your diagnosis?

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