Kristie G: He went into the hospital to have surgery to remove cancer and he never came home

April 26, 2021








The short version is my husband passed away just a little over a year ago. He was diagnosed with stage 4 oral cancer.

He went into the hospital to have surgery to remove cancer and he never came home. He was at the hospital for about 6-months. It was an incredibly rough road.

At the time when everything happened Mike was 57 and I was 50.

I did not realize he was not coming home for a really long time. He was aware of his situation. He was awake, he was alert and from all accounts, we were told that he would likely be able to come home so that was the plan all along.

At the same time, he was in rehab for the stroke he also had to start radiation for cancer so we were never just dealing with one thing. The cancer treatment was just horrible. Looking back on things, I think the six weeks of daily radiation really affected hsi stroke rehab and may have been the tipping point of not allowing him to recover from the stroke. We’ll never really know. It was awful. It was truly an awful experience to go through with him.

As time went on it became apparent the stroke had done more damage to his brain than we could see.

I had friends, I had family, all of our family is local to us. We were very lucky to have people around us, but when you get to that point there’s only so much other people can do. Everybody means well and they want to help but sometimes they just can’t.

I had to accept that my life was never going back to the way that it was before. All the time that there was hope that he was coming home there was that little bit of hope that some of our life would return. As soon as they told me he couldn’t come home without 24-hour care all that hope was gone. No one can help you with that, as much as they want to.

In some aspects his death was almost a little bit of a relief in that I knew that he didn’t have to suffer anymore. He didn’t have to live this life that he absolutely hated. One of the things the stroke did was take away his ability to speak. He had such severe apraxia and aphasia from the stroke he couldn’t get the words out. It was really really difficult knowing he was trapped inside his head.

At 51 this is not the life I thought I was going to have. I thought we would still be married and doing our things and traveling and spending time together and just living our life. This was not part of the plan. This was not something that you ever even consider and then all of a sudden you’re put in this situation that you’re not remotely equipped to handle and you have to figure it out.

On the surface, it probably looks like my life isn’t very much different than it was before. I live in the same place, I have the same job, but there’s that piece that’s missing. We bought this house together, we built this life together and now I’m the only one that’s living it.

I feel like my grief sort of recycled once I started working from home. I didn’t have those same social outlets. Therapy and grief therapy have definitely helped me a ton.

Mike was in hospice for probably the last 2-months of his life. Part of the hospice program was grief therapy for survivors for 13-months after Mike’s death so I took advantage of that as well. The targeted grief therapy has really helped. It has been a lifesaver.

I’ve learned a few things. I’m somebody who likes to have control over my situation. It makes me feel better, it lessens my anxiety, and I really struggled with losing control during this situation. I wanted so badly to control the outcome. To dictate how things were going to go. To make sure that he had the best of everything to get back to where we were before. The harder I tried to have control the less control I actually had. At some point, I realized that I couldn’t control everything and let certain things fall by the wayside and hope that they would be okay and know that I was doing the best that I possibly could. Once I finally grasped that concept of letting go of control things got a little easier.

It’s so difficult. You have to get to this point where you’re not always going to have every answer when you want it. You’re not always going to have every outcome that you want when you want it. Sometimes that has to be okay. It was such a hard concept for me to wrap my brain around because I naively thought I could control everything. In a situation like this, you just can’t.

I always thought that if I had control I would feel so much better but it was actually the opposite of that.

Grief has its own timeline and you don’t always get to dictate what that timeline looks like. Grief deserves a lot of respect and it’s something as a society we could do a much better job of. It’s just one of those things that will come into your life when you’re not expecting it and it will take over. It will make you do and say things you never thought would happen and that’s okay. You’ll be alright.

I would encourage them to seek out whatever support they can, even when it seems like you can’t possibly do that. Asking for help is so important. Ask questions, press for answers. It’s okay to do so.

Just be kind to yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers right now. You don’t have to have total control. You will get through it. It might not feel like it, but you will. It will take time but you can do it. If I can do it anybody can do it. I never thought that I was a particularly strong person and as I was in the middle of it I looked back on everything I had gone through and thought, you know what? I am pretty strong. I survived all of it and I’m still here. You can do it. You can.

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