Monday, September 19, 2011

Another What If.


This past week I was experiencing some health problems. Of course it was an emotional week, as most of you are now aware of, so I was already feeling emotionally vulnerable. Like any time we are not feeling well, or are experiencing changes in our health without explanation, we begin to worry.

Like any other man, I kept telling myself that it will all blow over, and I'll be just fine. Yet, as each day passed, and the problems persisted, I began to worry. It's always a matter of either wait and see, or make an appointment to see the doctor. Being that I am new to my job, I don't have many sick hours on the books. Any that I do have need to be used when I take any of my kids to their doctor appointments.

As each day came to an end, and the symptoms persisted, and no movement to get help, I began to worry. Yet, here was the problem. Who do I share this with? I didn't want to worry the kids for no reason, and I didn't want to call anyone out of the blue. It's a difficult position that we are all in. For most of us, we no longer have another adult in the home. We no longer have that other person around to share our worries, whether they are great or small. And, by the end of the week, I of course, began to diagnose myself.

Cancer. Of course that's what I thought it was. Isn't everything related to cancer these days? Every time we turn on the news, or go in the Internet, or talk to others, there is always a concern about something leading to cancer, or something being a sign or symptom of cancer. Now, of course I didn't have cancer, but that's where my mind went.

I began to wonder how would I manage if I did have something that serious? Which also had me thinking about how I would respond if ever given a diagnosis of cancer. I have been down that road already, right? Not my own cancer, but his. I realized that in the past I would have been very scared, and would have feared death itself. Yet, in these past few days, as my imagination would take control late into the night, I realized how peaceful I was feeling about such a possibility.

Now, I don't have a death wish, but I also don't fear it. I began wondering what really happened after death. I have all the beliefs planted in my mind that I was taught growing up. I have all the images that I read in preparation for Michael's death. I had the expectation that a guide would appear to take me to the other side. I had the words that others have shared with me often, how Michael would be there waiting for me when my time came. Yet, in these few days, I began to really worry, not about death, but about the prospect that all those stories and beliefs were wrong.

What if he isn't there waiting for me? Will I be angry and disappointed? Hell yeah.

I suppose I have plenty of time to settle this internal debate, as I'm perfectly healthy. Well, healthy after filling a prescription the doctor recommended. And, feeling a bit silly, for waiting so long, and worrying so long, before seeing a doctor. Yet it all has me wondering, do I want to continue to be single, and have to get through real health scares in the future alone? I think not. Will I get through such times if I am alone? No. I will have to ask for help. Will he be there waiting for me when my time comes? That remains to be seen.


  1. Oh, Dan .... so many of us could have written this post, but I'm glad you did it .... and did it so well.
    I had to have major surgery a year after Jim died (I thought it would be minor, it wasn't and it did turn out to be cancer, but a very rare, non-deadly tumor if found and removed). Of course the whole experience & the months that followed were horrible, but to not have Jim here to take care of me, to share my worries and pain, was beyond horrific.
    I used to fear death, too .... "before". Not the "after" of death, but just the act of it.
    That fear evaporated the second Jim died, as did most, if not all, of any other fears I once had.
    Thankfully my cancer required no treatment, just frequent MRIs for a year. I say "thankfully" because, at only one year out, I would not have wanted to treat it. I would have wanted it to take my life so that: 1. the pain of existing could end, and: 2. I could be with Jim.
    Now, three years later, I am no longer just existing and that pain is gone. Not the grief, but that horrific, paralyzing pain.
    I still want to be with Jim, but after the month I've had with a certain teenager, I want to see him so that I can kick his butt for leaving me here to deal with this crap all by myself!
    I'm keeping a list now ..... and one day that man is going to get an earful from me.
    RIght before I give him a huge, long hug.

  2. Dan- You said it so perfectly. I feel exactly the same way about each issue; that of being alone with a serious illness, that of "who will be there for me?" and that of no longer fearing death. Even that death may be preferential with something like cancer. And Janine, I loved your comment. You both help me more than you will ever know. You both verbalize my feelings and fears. Thanks, Janine for saying that the pain has subsided, that gives me some hope. When I told my kids (maybe I shouldn't have) that I no longer fear death and when I told my sisters that if I was diagnosed with cancer that I wasn't sure that i would accept treatment they were understandably upset. My sisters even thought that maybe I was thinking of suicide! Ha! How easy that would be. But, no, I have responsibilities here- my family- and I know when push comes to shove I'll probably do what's right for them. Thanks so much to you both.
    p.s. I'm right with you Janine about that list for my husband. When I see him again he's going to get it from me!

  3. Dan, this was amazing timing as I've been wrestling with this so much right now, too. I think of how I'm now without a spouse to care for me if I get sick. I think of how I have no guarantee I'll see him again when I die. So much I don't have answers for. And my brain fights to find answers to the questions that can't be answered yet. Everything remains to be seen and this is scary stuff. At least I know I can come here and be reminded that I'm not alone.

  4. I have been thinking about this recently too, the "who is going to be there in my last days to hold my hand, and give me meds and help me to go peacefully on my way?" Doug, my husband, died at home, with my care...and now it is just me at home, our kids have even moved out, which is as it should be (they are in their mid 20's).

    I, too, no longer have that fear of death, I am certain I will be reunited in some way with him. I just have that faith that he is in that next harbor , waiting for me to sail away with him. In the meantime, I am sailing these waters alone. The only thing holding me here is my elderly Dad (my Mom died a year to the day that my husband did) and my children, who I would like to see happily settled with spouses soon.

    Thank you all for verbalizing where you are at in this journey, like you, it is nice to know that I am not alone.

  5. Yea, what if? As everyone has commented above, we can't help wondering what will happen. I too have little fear of death. I worry more about being disabled by an accident or some illness. Having been primary caregiver for both my dad and Don through terminal cancer, I already know beyond any doubt, that I would refuse treatment as I am alone with no one to care for me in the way I cared for them - and that is okay. My worst fear is that I would not have the choice of ending things as I wish.

  6. Thank you to everyone who has posted.
    I feel much the same. I am not afraid of dying, for I do hope that my husband is there waiting for me. However, I am afraid of dying in a hospital, or having no one to love and care for me as I did for him during the year and a half of his illness.
    He died of cancer.
    I fell down the stairs on Saturday night. Thank fully just some bruises and a sprained finger. But afterwards as I lay at the bottom of the stairs I thought if I broke my leg, or worse had become unconscious - who would know? My kids are all out of the house.
    That question - who will take care of me is the thing that pains me most. My husband took such good care of me, i have never known anything else.
    Now I am on my own, I realize how vulnerable I really am.
    For "bev" above. Draft a power of attorney for health. Name someone who will be in charge and tell them what you want done. It will have to be done by law. That is how it works in Canada/ Not sure of the US or elsewhere.
    Thanks Dan for prompting the thoughts.

  7. Hello, I am so glad I found this blog today. I was finally cleaning my late husband's clothes after Four months of looking at them and wondering if I could donate them somewhere . It was a hard thing to do because it means he is not coming back. He died waiting for a heart transplant and was really suffering in pain. I did not have to choose to take him off life support because he was brain dead. My son and I spent many hours at the Hospital trying not to be scared and trying to cheer him up. It was very sad watching him drifting away. He died in may of this year my son and I stayed overnight in his room because the Doctor's were telling us what was happening to his other organs . It is good to know I can come here and vent and no one can see me crying all the time I tried the group meetings but I don't like people watching me when I get all upset. I can just write down what I am feeling even though it takes a few hours to put into words Thank You for listening.

  8. Hi Cheryl.

    I'm so sorry for your recent loss. Those intial months are very difficult to get through, and I'm glad that you have an understanding about what it is you need. I'm pleased that you did take the time to write down your thoughts, as it does help so much to express yourself, in whatever venue works best for you.

    By visiting here regularly you will find reflections of your own journey, which helps to not feel so alone.

    Peace to you.


  9. Dan, as always, you write so clearly for yourself and for so many others. Illness is one of the scariest things to have to deal with alone on top of all of life's other problems such as Janine is experiencing now. I had a surprise problem with my eye diagnosed 5 months after my Tim died and had to have emergency surgery or I could have been blind. All I could say to the doctor was, "Did this happen because I have cried a million tears?" The shock was horrific but friends and family rallied (Tim and I lost several babies so I had no children to turn to for comfort)and took turns caring for me. I am about to go see an orthopedic surgeon for a second opinion about ongoing chronic neck and back pain as a result of a car accident and previous surgery and I feel the same can I possibly take care of myself if more surgery is needed? It is a lonely place but I trust people will rally. That said, NOTHING makes up for my Tim by my side. Death? I agree, not worried anymore. Illness and disability...THAT is really frightening! I am glad I have so many others who at least understand.

  10. Excellent post, as always. In reading it, as well as the responses, I wanted to add this. Even if you are married, there is no guarantee your spouse would be willing to take care of you if you were sick. Having worked in the medical profession, as well as knowing people this has happened to, many a spouse hits the road because they cannot handle illness of any kind. Many people, even after a long marriage, take off or have affairs when their spouse is ill. It's more common than you think. I did not do that, nor did the responders, but it's very common, unfortunately. The most important thing is to have a health care surrogate in place in the event you cannot make decisions for yourself, and have your wishes on paper, be it that you want to be kept alive no matter what or you don't. That is what will matter in the final analysis, and it is such a gift to your health care surrogate, to not have to go crazy wondering what you would have wanted. It will also save you from suffering, being hooked up to a vent and/or feeding tube, etc. when there is no hope, because your physician, by law, has to sustain your life. Same with a "Do not resusitate" order. Get everything in writing, and have long term care insurance in case you need rehab/nursing home care, it's extremely expensive to pay out of pocket, and Medicare does not cover nursing home care.

  11. Cheryl, I am one widow that moved very quickly to donate most of my husbands clothes to our local Vetrans home but did keep a couple special flanel shirts that a friend helped me make into a teddy bear to hold when things hit me hard. Just something to consider, maybe a pillow or quilt would work if you have more sewing talent than I do.

  12. Cheryl,
    I, too, am sorry for your recent loss. We understand, we have been there.
    Don't feel you have to do anything with your husbands things too quickly, I am still sorting after 1 1/2 years. Yes, it is hard to still see his things in the closet, but I think it would be harder to not see them.

    I am just contemplating group meetings, so again, don't be too hard on yourself, give yourself time to do what feels best for you. I think I read every post at Widows Voice, and was amazed at the feelings and emotions expressed by others that I, too, was experiencing.

  13. Thank You all for the kind words. I have been thinking of moving. My son and I are not happy here. It's been 5 months do you think it's too soon to make a move? Cheryl