My life was happier than I ever thought possible. I was an accountant by profession. It was a good fit for my nature. I relied on fact and logic and was most comfortable with structure and control. I took a more cerebral approach to life in general, except when it came to my husband, Wayne, whom I adored.
Then, in November of 2013, my world started to crumble. Following what we thought was a bad headache, and then a seizure, my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer. It was surreal. He was diagnosed as ‘terminal? and given a timeline of 13 months.
I honestly had no idea how my life would change. I was used to a job of 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, where I was in charge. Now cancer was in charge 24/7. I cooked, cleaned, tracked and administered drugs, took him to all his appointments, and took care of his personal needs all while consoling and encouraging him.
During this time, Wayne and I began attending Hospice Calgary’s Living With Cancer program. Every Wednesday, we spent 4 hours with people who were also dealing with a terminal cancer diagnosis. We quickly realized this was our place ? these people understood us and what we were going through ? no pretense, no apologies for cancer symptoms or medication side effects, no walking on eggshells, no explanation for tears or sadness ? everyone knew and accepted our reality.
For those few hours each week, we could be ourselves. It was such a welcome break from the routine of our everyday, cancer focused lives.
When Wayne died on a cool rainy day in the spring of 2015, I held him and told him how much I loved him. After 28 years with this wonderful man, I was alone; my life, as I knew it, was gone. Nothing in life really prepares you for the death of someone you love.
Shortly before Wayne died, he told me to find a way to be happy again. I could never really deny that man anything, and it was his last request that got me into counselling. Counselling and later a grief support group helped me accept Wayne’s death. The members of the group became each other’s biggest cheerleaders. In fact, one became much more than just a cheerleader; Brad Edwards became my husband in October 2019.
Hospice Calgary and the Living With Cancer program were very dear to me for the role they played in helping Wayne and I during our struggle. In 2016, I decided to return to the Living With Cancer program, this time as a volunteer.
To this day, I continue to volunteer with the program. It is an incomparable privilege to work with the staff, fellow volunteers and of course, the participants and their families. There is more honesty, love and compassion in that room than most people ever have the opportunity to experience. I will never get over Wayne’s death, but I can say that I have fulfilled his last wish for me ? I have found a way to be happy again.