Chapter 35

***If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey. It’s my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. *** Update 11.26.12 Hello Everyone, It’s been a bit since I have written an update… Not sure if it’s even appropriate at this point, but because so many people still ask- How are you doing? I thought I would write a little update. (My last post was from the UP in August.) I just got home this evening from WV, visiting Hailey and Cody and Bogey Chupp- for Thanksgiving. The trip was exactly what my soul needed. A nice trip to reflect and to be thankful. My life may not be what I feel it should be… But it’s mine, and I am thankful for it. I have awesome friends and family who have loved me though this… And, I am okay. I am gently reminded on a regular basis that I really am okay. I still feel like I am in a haze… I do still cry a lot… I am working on a routine that works for me… And most importantly, I am working on feeling everything that comes up. (I will explain more later on this process.) A friend reminded me just last week when I was talking to her about not sleeping well… and overall feeling poorly- she said- Denise, you lost your husband. (Four months ago today to be exact.) Give it some time… I guess- because I am not used to everything that keeps happening or coming up… I feel out of sorts. Still. All of these “firsts”. When I talk about people asking me how I am doing, I am not suggesting that it’s a bad thing. I appreciate the concern and the ear to talk things through. I was talking to Paul’s daughter a couple weeks ago and we touched on this… People ask me daily- sometimes ten to fifteen times a day- if I am okay? Again… it’s not a bad thing… it just is. It’s a way for me to process- talk- listen and to talk about my husband. I miss him terribly. It’s hard… but anything in life that is simply that good- should be hard, I suppose. The strange thing about the conversation with Jennifer, was that nobody asks her anymore. After her dad’s memorial… people just don’t talk ask how she is doing or about her dad. A few people have asked me if going back to work has helped? Dp they mean, does keeping busy help? Help with the process or the grief? The answer is no. Nothing makes it better. Nothing makes it feel any less. It’s always there. Always. It’s something that I have to go feel my way through. When a person attends a memorial, they witness grief. They experience sadness. They may even feel bad for the family for a day or two afterward. When a family loses someone, it’s a hole. A gaping hole carved into the very fabric that held them together. It’s like a bad dream… with each new day as a reminder that it isn’t a dream. I have started my book. Most of you may remember that when Paul first got sick, there were emails that went out and I asked everyone to pray and to send love. I believe love is a universal language. It doesn’tconflict with anyones spiritual principles or religion and I feel that is where God lives. In. The. Love. I remember a particular conversation with a friend, he was so shook up when he found out about the cancer… He went to church and he prayed. He asked me what else could he do for us? He is not a religious man, he just felt like he needed to ask God to help, but didn’t know how. He asked me to help him understand. (You don’t know how much your question and your concern impacted me… thank you John Caskey.) I asked him to just send love. When someone doesn’t have a particular faith or a deep relationship with God… Praying seems foreign. We almost feel hypocritical showing up and asking for anything, or undeserving. I know it may come easy to some of us…but he- struggled, and wanted to know how he should be praying or what he should be asking for? I told him to concentrate on a beam of light from God (From heaven above or Papa daddy, as he now calls him) to Paul… and in that beam… to send Love. So… that will be the name of my book. “Just Send Love”. Thanks to Hailey and Cody for the invite to Thanksgiving. Thank you for letting me hog your dog for five days. (Bogey is my granddog, he sensed my grief and didn’t leave my side. He slept with me each night.) They surprised me with a Spa day for my birthday! It was perfect! Thank You to my friend Karen, for coming to watch Cody’s game… it’s nice to travel over 500 miles from home and have a friend in a neighboring town come to visit and hang out. I am in awe of the kindness that people have shown. Truly amazes me each and every day. People have also asked me if it’s getting harder because of the Holidays? I don’t know… it just is. This time of the year was always hard for Paul… he lost his son nine years ago in a car accident- Paul Jr., was his bestfriend. They did everything together. So in our house, every October, things got different. Hunting season brought back memories… then the accident Anniversary… then his son’s birthday… Thanksgiving… his birthday… Christmas and then New Years. So- I am sure it will all hit me soon… but right now- I just miss that… I miss the unusual feeling that had become my norm. I used to call it the “weird”. I had never met his son. But- it’s been my norm for the past few years… almost like the change of the seasons… so- I miss him- missing his son. I find a lot of strength- knowing they are together… but here in my house… I miss that. Please send me an email- and let me know if you’d like to be removed from the email list… I really won’t take it personally… I love each of you- thanks again. Peace and Love, Denise ***This is where the email updates ended. On my computer, I have a journal… along with an unposted email update. I got scared because of a response from someone to the last email… and I didn’t send it. Here it is… along with some Journaling that I did to stay connected to the healing process. Some of these are before the last email update… Some are afterward. This is what it took and the path that I traveled- to get to today. *** 1/22/13 Hello Everyone, Just wanted to share a few thoughts and to let everyone know that I did indeed- survive the Holidays… I was talking to a friend- in order to sort through some feelings. Some old hurts seem to re-surface from time to time that need to be healed…also I always try to check my motives to find out my part in any uncomfortable situation. And… there have been a few recently. Today was no different. What she helped me realize, is that when we deal with the loss of a spouse and the journey through the cancer process…that we suffer from PTSD in some aspects. How could I forget this or not know this? I was with a friend a few weeks ago who was diagnosed with cancer and spent a few hours in the Oncology ward at Spectrum Health.  Since then… anger and shortness seem to be my new friend. Anyone who knows me- knows … this is not who I want to be. This is not who I strive to be… so it’s uncomfortable. My friend had a tumor removed from her uterus the size of a head of lettuce and two smaller ones in her stomach and intestines… Just walking around the hospital gave me a sense of peace, de-ja-vu, and anxiety all at once. Watching woman walk the halls with patches of hair gone… talking about their children. Listening to the fear in their voices. Watching family members with red noses and swollen eyes walk into the elevator…. Damn it… I hate what this does to families. (This friend passed since this post… RIP Kristin C) Okay- so back to my Holiday’s… I survived. It wasn’t easy- but it was okay. It’s all okay… until someone asks me if I miss my husband? Umm… yes… like my left arm. *** That was the last update- but it was never finished- and it was never sent. I will explain why and finish some thoughts now. During the first six months after Paul’s death- I had moved back into my little house, gone back to work and started attending meetings again. I got through my birthday, the Holidays then jumped into the new year. All firsts… and anyone who knows the healing process, knows that these moments stick out. There were times when I honestly felt it was all too much. I went back to work in Sept 2012. It was overwhelming. You may remember, I was the manager of a gym with over 500 members. People would come up to me daily to see how I was doing. Dozens of times a day. People would ask me a question about Paul, about cancer, about the VA hospital, about me, about his girls… As I mentioned above, I had spoken to Paul’s daughter Jennifer, shortly after he died and realized my journey was different than hers. She had lost her dad… and a few weeks later- nobody asked her how she was. This was an uncomfortable phase with us. We avoided each other. Things got sticky. (I won’t go into details because it’s not important… just know this- it was all necessary to bring me too where I am today.) The difference between my grieving process and hers was that each and every day for many months- someone would ask me about my journey… She went through all of those firsts… and nobody asked how it felt to her. I had invited so many people into my world through the updates and being so candid with my feelings- people felt nothing was off limits. Friends would openly discuss my grief and allow me to cry and not interrupt. It was so magical. It was surreal. A friend of mine was upset with me because I wasn’t available to her during a time of need. She responded back to my November update with some painful words. It made me realize when I started the Jan update… that I seemed sort of needy. Or at least that is what I was feeling at the time. Attention seeking? Important? Not sure…. I say these words to not diminish the process or to place blame on anyone. I am merely explaining why I never sent or finished my last update. I am not someone who enjoys the spotlight. I am open and try to be transparent- but by continuing to do the email updates… meant that I felt that I had something to say- and that people would want to hear it? Again… the voice in my head said- Stop it Denise… it’s time to move on. And… that’s what I did. I stopped writing the updates. They were supposed to be about Paul. They were started to update everyone on his condition. They turned into a journal of my feelings and my healing. They were intended for one thing- and ended up being another. It’s okay… I look back at it all now and know it’s all as it should be. So here are a few of the things that stuck out in the process over the next few years… Remember, they jump around with dates. I didn’t update this information publicly. *** Saturday Sept 1,2012 I spent all day yesterday with my mom at Munson Hospital… boy did that bring back some painful memories. Good- yet painful. My heart aches with the loss… as it is healing. I have decided to continue to write as the time allows or the thoughts come forward…hoping to heal. My biggest fear is fear. The thought of being trapped, without options… fear can be so overwhelming. It is the one thing that I am learning more about as I go along. My husband taught me about strength. He taught me thru his illness how to be strong. He taught me with his Marine blood- how to push on and not to get trapped. I love, that he showed me how to be strong. I love that he showed me how to love. I had a massage the other day in Traverse City. When I showed up at the massage office, I asked her to limit the conversation.  I told her that I really just wanted to enjoy the massage and sort of meditate. (Insert smirk here…) I wanted-something different. I wanted an escape. It was funny… AND- not at all what I had anticipated. Not at all- what I thought- I wanted… But exactly what I needed. She was very kind and talented therapist. She did trigger point therapy and Asian body work. She was also a Reiki Practitioner, who had learned from the same teacher that I did. We had an immediate connection. I told her why I wanted what I wanted. She knew I was a massage therapist and that I had lost my husband. She began asking me questions about pressure… then the conversation started rolling about our Reiki Master Teacher- and the blessings of knowing spiritual healing and spiritual people. I told her about how Paul and I had met. I told her about his illness and how I was processing as I went along. She asked about the things I needed to heal. I told her it was anger and my fear. I told her about my book- the reasons I didn’t feel I could write right now… and that I had gotten advice and words of wisdom showing me that if I write my truth- Not wanting to deliberately be harmful-  if someone took offense- then it was their problem and insecurities not mine. If my intent was Not to cause harm… and it did- because of what the other person was working on… then it was their issue- not mine. It was the longest massage I have ever had… our conversation flowed. (Remember that I initially told her I didn’t want conversation… lol) She asked me what I had learned from Paul. She asked me what I had taught Paul. I had to dig deep into painful memories and I cried. I told her that Paul had taught me how to be strong when I didn’t want to be. He was a Marine… he taught me the real meaning of loyalty and showed me the rewards of standing up for what you want. I taught him how to relax. He was a work-a-holic who didn’t know how to separate his work from who he was. I taught him how to enjoy a slug day, and we both taught each other how to love again. During the massage, I learned to accept what God wanted me to have- as he wanted me to have it… not as I felt, that I- needed it. I learned that God will give me what I need, as long as I am open to receive it. She also told me this- and I will never forget it. She said, “Denise, I can’t promise you when it will happen… But I promise you that it will… You are like a buoy floating in the middle of the ocean, just bobbing around without any sense of direction. You don’t know why or what you are doing- but the universe and the people who love you- are supporting you and holding you together in prayer and in love. I don’t know when it will happen… but it will- Anytime someone experiences this level of grief, there will be a huge growth spurt. Huge. At some point, you will be catapulted forward at such a rate of speed… you won’t know what hit you. It’s a gift.”  (This sounded familiar to me… I knew it to be true… but didn’t know why.) Thank You Amy Yee… Namaste. Now- back to my mom’s surgery. My mom had total ankle-replacement surgery and I spent the morning and day with my step dad and early evening with my sisters and nieces. I went to the hospital at 7:00 am and didn’t leave until late. Here’s how it played out…Phil (my step dad) and I were there together. After the surgery- my mom’s Surgeon came out and took us into a room to go over the details. He was directing his conversation to Phil (this is the first time I had met him…) He was going over what to expect, as far as pain. Immediately, I felt myself go into “caregiver mode”. I interrupted and asked him if he knew of my mom’s intolerance to a certain pain medication? He said- Yes… they had discussed it. He continued his conversation and at one point- he said something like- “As we discussed earlier, about her therapy and her healing…” I interrupted again. I said- “Excuse me, but could you please repeat that previous conversation? I was not privy to it- and would like to know what the outcome will look like…” I swear to God – he rolled his eyes at me. He did answer my question and then proceeded with his conversation- to Phil. Okay- here’s the magic… In that instant- right at that very moment… I knew what it was like to be the daughter. During Paul’s illness- I kept a tablet with me at all times. I knew all of the details of every procedure and at times even got the Doctors on the right page. I had all the details, and if you needed to know something- just ask me- not the Dr.’s.  In that instant… I knew what it felt like to be Jennifer and Mellissa. (Paul’s daughters.) They had every right to ask who ever and whatever they wanted. That was their dad. They had every right to act or do whatever they needed to do… to be okay. In my controlling frame of mind… I thought I knew what was best. I thought I knew how they should behave or act and when they should be there… They had every right to be whoever they wanted to be. That was their dad. Just like I had every right to-ask those questions to that surgeon. That was MY mom. Here is the beauty of this…Because I want to heal the anger- God gives me these types of awareness’s. That night as we were all sitting in my mom’s hopsital room… talking and going over the details of her surgery… it all hit me again. You see- I was hurt. I was angry. This was about two months after his death and I was talking to my sisters about my feelings. I was talking about Paul’s daughters- how I felt abandoned- but wasn’t willing to reach out to them. Here’s the real deal… I am going to be honest about this. My communication with his daughter’s had pretty much stopped after the memorial. We had a few emails and a few struggles with “stuff” but it wasn’t at all what I thought it should or would be like. We held Paul’s hand on his death bed and promised to look out for each other. And then… I didn’t see them.  I was throwing myself a pity party about the hospital journey and about why they weren’t helping me. I was sad because I felt like I was doing it all alone… I felt like his family just left it all up to me. I had told them how I wanted it… even went as far as to-say- this is how it’s going to be… then I was pissed that they let me do it. I was hurt. I was angry. I was feeling a lot of things… and they were not pretty. All necessary but not pretty. As I discussed these things with my sisters, I realized this was one of those times- when I could either rally people into my corner and allow them to decorate that pity party with me- or I could see what God- was really wanting to show me. My family is wonderful. They were willing to co-sign anything that I threw out there… after all- I was hurting. I was a mess. They love me. They validated me and made me feel justified in my anger. They did what I needed them to do. Stand with me in my corner. Stand beside me. I no longer felt alone. But I also- didn’t feel good. What the hell? Really? I finally got to play it all out and got everyone to see why I was so mad and hurt… and… I didn’t like it. The next day- I sat down and wrote an email and apologized to Paul’s girls. I wrote an email that said I was sorry for being so controlling and judgmental and until that very moment wasn’t able- or willing, to see what I was doing. Here’s another thing I know because of being in recovery…  Making amends isn’t to ask for forgiveness. It’s to apologize for your behavior and to cleanup where you have wronged. As soon as I was willing to see this- the anger started to subside. I saw that I had a part in all of it. I had set the pace and even dictated the outcome… I apologized and I set the wheels in motion to heal. Today is 01.06.13 I am settled into my house and work is getting better. I survived Christmas and realized that this is going to take a long time to heal. I didn’t understand completely or maybe I just couldn’t comprehend it in that moment…  I wasn’t prepared to lose my husband. I look back now with the help of these emails at my actions… I had completely immersed myself into the process and the fight. I have done some healing and have had lots of help. I see an Acupuncturist, a Spiritual Healer, a Chiropractor and a Massage Therapist. I won’t go into detail about what those appointments entail… let’s just say- I have to learn how to release Paul and his energy back to him and to God. And now from Neale… On this day of your life, Denise, I believe God wants you to know… …that how bad things may look right now means nothing. It’s how good you know they can look with God’s help that counts. Life has a habit of changing itself completely around in 24 hours. Heck, in 24 minutes sometimes. Don’t you dare give up on Tomorrow because of the way things look Today. Don’t even think about it… Love, Your Friend…. Neale Goodmorning- today is 2.24.13 It’s been a few months since I have written. Not sure why- I just know that I was not supposed to open up to the emotions until now. Sometimes, I can just feel things. Sometimes I just know when I am headed into a dark time and when I need to process stuff. I have had a time of that recently. The Holidays were rougher than I let on… It didn’t hit me until Christmas day when my step dad mentioned those we had lost and the loved ones left behind at the blessing before our meal. I couldn’t stop crying. It hit hard and I felt weak. Thought I was going to hyper-ventilate. I cried until I shook. I spent time with Hailey and Cody and my family. Paul’s girls didn’t come up- so I didn’t get to see them. I am going to talk about some painful things in this post-and it’s not meant to be a jab at anyone- they are just my feelings and the things that have come up. I have been feeling very angry and short with people. I have had an extreme sadness and jumped right into the “victim mode”. (As I look back now… I realize I was in a depressed state. I had tools, but I still felt very alone and sad.) I had a few things that popped up recently and immediately I took offense. How dare this person? Why wouldn’t they be thinking of my feelings? This is what I know about me… I have come too far to play the victim card. I am not saying that I am immune to it… I am just saying that I don’t like how I feel when I do it. Today I recognize those feelings and I don’t stay there. I also remember thinking shortly after his death, “DON’T THESE PEOPLE KNOW WHAT I AM GOING THROUGH?” I would walk into a store or a meeting and people would be laughing… I didn’t like it. Today when I am faced with feelings that I don’t like… in other people and in myself. It’s an opportunity to work on me. I am not always willing to see it like this- but I think God will keep bringing it back around until I do take a look at my behavior. Because at the end of the day- I can-only change me. Not other people. Sometimes it means I have to “own my own power”and stand up for what I feel is right. Other times- it’s to gently let go of painful stuff and just know it’s not my garbage. It’s extremely tough to know what is mine- and what is other people’s junk sometimes. This is why I am grateful for a program of recovery and loving friends who don’t validate my BS- but point out my defects and help me, to be a better person. Recently I had a situation that hurt deeply. I really felt like I was giving my all. It was five months after Paul’s death and I had resumed my work and was falling into habits. I started feeling overwhelmed. Almost toxic. I asked to have some relief from work. It wouldn’t have cost anyone money- but me. I was willing to pay for someone to relieve me. I asked my bosses at the gym if I could have my friend who covered during Paul’s illness come in to help. They said no. As a matter of fact, they infomred my that my job was about to change. They told me that the entire format would soon change and that I was going to be expected to do more. (They lived in another state- I ran the gym. I. Did. Everything.) I found myself quite emotional, I wasn’t being heard. I cried. I walked away from the conversation and stepped away to compose myself. About fifteen minutes later, my boss came into the kitchen and said- “I just asked (Husband), how long this stuff takes?” Really? How long “this stuff” takes? She didn’t understand grief, but her husband did. He had lost his first wife. She went into the back room and asked him, “How long does this stuff take?” Like, there is a formula for grief… insert this time, this tool or this emotion and you will be done. WRONG. The lesson came weeks later- when I realized that I didn’t need permission to do what was necessary to keep balance in my life. I was unhappy with the words that were exchanged and had given my power to people. I was relying on them for financial and emotional security. Hmm…. Step back. As I was explaining (okay… complaining) to a friend about the scenario… the answer came to me. I control my destiny, my income and my happiness. If I am looking to-other people for these things- I am giving my power to them. In that instant… I made a shift in my perception and took a new path. I also had an opportunity to look at what makes my heart happy. For a very long time I have been stuck. Probably since Paul’s illness began in 2011. I abandoned the Spiritual Healing Certification program and took-on a new role. I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. I am just saying that I am now realizing how completely immersed in this whole thing I have become. It had become my identity. Part of the problem recently has been that I felt my job was to grieve. I went right from caregiver to grieving widow…Who decides when it’s enough? Who decides when you can move on? Nobody can tell me the answer to these questions. Nobody can tell me that it’s time to move on. That answer has to be an individual one. It comes when I am ready. It comes when the time is right. If you’ve lost someone- then it will come when you’re ready too. Don’t rush it… don’t let other people push their reality on to you. It’s your life. Live it like you want. For me, it has come in as hope. I didn’t feel a lot of hope in the beginning. I haven’t felt many new feelings- until recently. This is what it feels like… It feels like old crumpled up and squished down, wrinkly, old wet sweater. Heavy, smelly, old wool sweater. It seems as if I have been weeding through bags and bags of old clothes. Realizing what fits and what I need to get rid of… the problem is- if I never look for new clothes… I am stuck with all of the old stuff. The heavy smelly old stuff. These new feelings have come in like fresh cotton sheets dtraight off the clothes line. They feel crisp and new. They feel like hope. I feel like I have hope. Maybe this is the beginning of that “catapult” the massage therapist spoke of? Hmmm….. Namaste everyone- until there is more… I sign off. Denise

Chapter 34

***If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey. It’s my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. ***

Update from the UP 8.17.12-8.21.12

Hello Everyone… this is going to be an ongoing journal of my weekend… I am in the Upper Peninsula… I have decided it was time to do some soul searching.

Sat 8.18.12

The past few weeks have flown by… but it seems I am standing still. I am still so sad… break out in tears with the mention of my love. I was at the dealership getting an oil change yesterday before I left and one of the sales people asked- “Hey Denise, how you doing?” I said… all-right. He frowned and said- “Are you okay? You don’t seem like yourself…”  I started crying. He didn’t know Paul had passed… and said- damn- I am so sorry. Then he hugged me and the tears rolled… ugh…

I am trying to feel each and every feeling- embracing the sadness- but also trying to not wallow in it. I just miss my friend. He was there every day… I find myself wanting to check in with him… find myself wanting to ask him questions. I feel like I am lost…it’s going to be a long road.

I brought Paul’s ashes up with me…and it was horrible to look inside the box. Oh my God- why did I do that? It made it so real… even more than my heart tells me that it is.

I keep thinking back to the days of his treatments… when he spent days and nights in the hospital. I love that I got to spend most of those nights with him… I slept in fold out chairs- next to him- in recliners and in waiting rooms. I can’t imagine not being there… and I am so thankful that he wasn’t alone. There were so many long talks… so many moments to cherish. I guess I am glad that I didn’t know his time was so short…I would’ve been a mess… I was really counting on him beating the disease. I was counting on at least 18 months… really- was that too much to ask?

I hate that he had to go. I am mad. I am sad. I am lonely. I can’t find the words…but all I have are words.

I am sad about one thing the most though…when I called Hospice the last time. It was a Monday morning… he was still talking and walking and could communicate. The nurse gave him a dose of meds…then another… and he was resting. I hopped in the shower… not knowing that would be the last time I could communicate with him. When I got out of the shower- she medicated him a third time… and he never came too- again. He needed the rest… his body was tired… and he was in pain. I am thankful that he didn’t suffer months or years… but I am super sad that I didn’t get to talk to him again. I am sure that I would’ve wanted more… I guess- we always do.

I have read a couple of books…and have been disappointed in them both. I wanted a story that showed me what to do… something I could relate too… one that explained the process. One that gave me a road map on grieving. I guess there isn’t one. I want some help… but know that it is a personal journey. This is so new- so foreign to anything I have ever felt… I don’t know what normal is. I don’t know… I just don’t know.

I read a blog last night… Thanks Meg. I finally found something that made sense… It was a story of a woman who was grieving the loss of her marriage. Although it’s not the same… grief is grief. It said that when a person is faced with such sadness… and can embrace it without being it… kind of- in the third person… they will be so much stronger. They will grow. Holy Holy… I am going to grow. Here’s another part that really touched me:

“Rinpoche, if everything is impermanent, and will die or pass away, why love it?” I wondered aloud. “Because that is the privilege of being a human being,” he answered.”You get the opportunity to love at a capacity that breaks your heart open. It is a gift, indeed. In addition, you get free-will, and the opportunity for choice,” he continued. “A broken heart is a contrite spirit. If you utilize this gift of the broken heart, it can advance your internal progress greatly. You see it as an annoyance. Something that hurts so badly you want it to go away. If you can hold fast, in the fires of its purification, you will be molded like a blacksmith’s sword in fire,” he whispered.

Here’s the link if anyone cares to readit in it’s entirety… http://alminewellness.blogspot.com/2012/06/art-of-grieving.html

I am going to sign off for now…Hoping the rain stops soon so I can go to Picture Rocks…

Okay- so I did some meditation- chakra balancing- took a nap- and it stopped raining! I wiped all my tears- redid myface… and collected myself.

I was laying on the bed-listening to my iPad and decided to download a Bob Seger album… totally worth the $12.99- there are 26 songs. I love love it. I plugged my iPad into my car… and headed out for a ride. I knew I wanted to see a sunset over the water… but didn’t know where I wanted to go. I drove down on M28 and spotted a scenic turnout. I stopped and snapped a few pics. Not what I was looking for…

I drove a bit further and found a nice roadside beach area… perfect. I waited for a VW Bus to move… and was secretly jealous… okay- being real here… I was envious. I want one. Then I strolled down the beach area. It was a really nice night. It was 63 degrees… and the sun was just beginning to fade. I love the colors it produces… the clouds were just right. As a few people left… I made my way back to the car and scooped up some of Paul’s ashes into a bowl. I grabbed my peace bag… threw it over my shoulder- like I had a purpose… and went back to the water’s edge.

I honestly felt like I was doing something wrong- I kept looking over my shoulder waiting for someone to ask me about my intention.

No-one was in sight… so I slipped the lid off the bowl and scattered the ashes onto the shore. Then I waited for the waves to come and wash him out to sea. I took a few pictures of the waves washing over them… just as a memory.

Then I just stood there – quiet- waiting for the sun to set. (I said good bye again… told him I loved him very much and that I missed him terribly… and I was happy that he was free…)

I snapped a few more pictures… hopped back into my car and Roll Me Away- was playing… I drove back towards town.

Like I said- today is Sunday… I am moving to a new motel today… and going to head to Marquette for an NA meeting tonight. Headed to the shower and maybe a little yoga before?

Oh… big news for me. I stopped wearing my wedding band today. It was actually a good/sad feeling all in one. Almost like I could release something in me by setting it free… and I replaced it with a new ring… so it’s not a gaping bald spot on my hand.

Peace out for now…

Monday afternoon… I am bored. I decided to do some more writing and make myself stay another night.

HAPPY Birthday Mom! 🙂

I think this trip gave me the peace of mind I needed to get through another month… I guess all I have is today…I’ll cross the next bridge when I need too. I am not looking forward to the end of the month… our Anniversary would’ve been August 29th… three years. We didn’t quite make it three years. Breaks my heart…

I took the noon tour of the Pictured Rocks- it was amazing…

I was thinking the other day… and I can’t remember who I was talking too- but the thought occurred to me. I am glad that it’s me grieving this loss- and not the other way around. It made me so sad to think of what Paul would be going through right now if the tables were turned.

I know he experienced a lot of grief with the loss of his son. I am not sure if he could have handled more… I know how strong he is… was… but I am really glad- that it’s me, in this position and not him. I guess that is progress- right? I guess that’s something to be grateful for- right? I can see a lot of things today- that I wasn’t willing to see a few days ago… I can see how much more sincere I am. I can feel growth in many ways… just not in all. I am a work in progress… and I thank you for the love- to help me thru.

I understand grief a little better today than I did before I lost my husband… I have learned that grief includes anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. I read recently that these emotions are felt in no special order and are sometimes skipped over… Other than the bargaining… I think I have felt them all.

Tuesday morning…

I made myself stay another night… I guess when I start something- I hate to bail. If I start a book.. even if it’s bad.. I usually finish it. Only once- have I ended a movie and not watched the whole thing because it was a disaster. I guess that’s just who I am.

I have showered and it’s not even 8:00am… thinking of heading out soon. Going to take my time- and just see what I see.

This is what I have realized on this trip. I am okay. I am exactly where I need to be. I am further along than what I thought I was… but still have a lot of work to do.

I have opened my own eyes- and have appreciated the little things even more. I have learned that I won’t absolutely die… by going into a restaurant by myself. I think that was the hardest thing… who knew?

I have looked at my life and my love for Paul… and have decided to still cherish it close to my heart and feel it all… I am not willing to set it aside yet.

I think there will come a time- when it will just be a sad fact about who I am… not my identity. Today.. it’s still my identity. I am the woman… who just lost her husband. It’s okay… That’s how I know I have more work to do… I have pealed back a few more layers of the onion… and healed some holes within.

I am still going to write a book. I need to pray and decide more about the format. My biggest fears- are making people mad with my truth. Making people upset… so that is something I need to settle within. My friend Kitty calls it owning my own power. Owning your own power is being strong enough to say what you need to say… without hurting someone else. Or if you do- then know that it’s okay- because your needs are important too. I don’t give myself permission to outright hurt people. That’s not who I am. I try hard to be respectful and to allow others their truth… so here I sit.

Tomorrow is a new day… but I still have today to finish!!

Peace and Love-

Denise

Chapter 31

***If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey. It’s my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. ***

Paul update 6.26.12

This morning at 3:50 am, my Marine went to be with his son, Paul Jr. I can’t even imagine the party they are having right now in Heaven.

He was sleeping peacefully when the Angels took him home. In his hand, clutched to his chest… he held the cross necklace that Mellissa had given him for Father’s day. 

As my heart aches… I am relieved to know he is not suffering. He was surrounded by loved ones for the past few days. We all got to say goodbye and urged him to go be with his son, his parents, his brother…

We will be having a memorial service at my mom’s house in Lake City- the place where Paul and I were married… Where we started the journey as husband and wife… we will say our final goodbye.

I will send an update when we decide on the date and time.

Please blanket the family in love as we mourn. He is a great man… and we won’t soon forget his strength and his love.

Thank you- Peace and Love to you all,

Denise

Memorial Service forPaul 6.27.12

A Memorial Service is planned for Paul Franklin Henry on June 29th at 2:00. Location is XXXXXXXX S XXXXXXXXX, Lake City MI  49651

Parking will be available along the road, across the street and up the driveway- a shuttle will be running.

Please join us to celebrate my husband’s wonderful life and to honor the man that we all loved so much. A luncheon will follow this casual event… just the way he would have wanted it.

A Military Service- with a heartfelt song of praise for the Marine, that touched so many.

*** Side note

I remember the very first morning that I woke up after he was gone, I showered and went to grab my jewelry.

I looked at my daughter with tears in my eyes. I was so lost.

I asked- “At what point, do I stop wearing my wedding ring?”

I didn’t have a clue. I needed to know – what was right? Is there a rule? What’s appropriate?

This. Is. The. Day. My. Healing. Truly. Began.

Alone. Sad. Alone. Grief is so powerful. What was my job now? Who had my answers? Who could help me?

It’s all a blur… I can’t begin to tell you how many people it took to keep me “okay”. It was a lot. Many prayers, many people sending love…

***

Chapter 23

1/20/12 Present Day.

Please stay tuned to the Blog for some major changes. I am committed to finishing this story- the one about my journey with Paul- and when I am done, I promise it will go fast… I am committing to something new. It’s time.

Thanks to everyone for your patience and for supporting my growth.

***If you are just joining the blog, you may want to read a few of the previous posts to catch up,  this is a healing journey. Its my story, as I walked along side of my husband Paul during his battle with cancer. We began this journey in 2011- these are the emails that I used to keep all of our friends and family in the loop. ***

Mother’s Day 2012 Paul Update

Sun, May 13, 2012 at 9:35 PM

Hello Everyone- and Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mom’s~

We are on the third day of Paul’s new supplements and also introducing a few changes… Going to go slow… I can’t see taking everything away all at once. It’s not fair… he deserves some chocolate milk if he wants at this stage… in a few weeks- hopefully that will not be in our house.

A new eating plan and a plan to starve out the cancer. For those who don’t know… Cancer loves sugar. Loves it… so that will be the first thing that goes… sugar! Next will be processed foods, then we will be on a whole food diet. Paul has been taking a concoction of Flax oil and cottage cheese too- I know… cottage cheese is not “a clean food”… but the book I am reading says that mixed with the flax oil… it changes the makeup, and it doesn’t have any “dairy” left in it. I blend 1/3 C of Barlean’s flax oil with 2/3 C of cottage cheese. I also add about 4 plump strawberries and a handful of blueberries and three packets of Stevia. I have been blending the mixture and he eats that for lunch each day. It’s not bad tasting… it’s thick- like a yogurt would be but it’s filling- and lots of protein too. He still needs a few other supplements- but they didn’t have them in Cadillac- so my friend will pick them up from Oryana in TC.

He is happier since we have started these changes and it’s not poison! It’s a natural approach.

We also just ordered a new water purification system for the counter top… cancer cannot live in alkaline- and the new system will dispense water with that is ph balanced and alkaline between 8-10%.

Anyone who wants to know specifically what supplements… and more about the book- I’d be happy to share. I know there are skeptics… but at this point- what do we have to lose? He has decided against the chemo- and we have to try something to keep him alive. We have to become our own advocates. We must learn how to strengthen his immune system and help him fight.

This morning- he had some blood in his urine… it scared me… I asked him if he had any pain? “Nope.”

I asked him if anything hurt anywhere. “Nope.”

I also made sure he didn’t have a fever… and nothing else was happening… so- this is what I believe. It’s the ugly disease leaving his body. He has been drinking lots of water and is staying hydrated- he says he feels good. If it continues- he said he would call his Dr., but for now- he said he is okay.

If it’s the cancer tearing him up… he is happy- he is home… and we are good. But… like I said- we are believing it’s leaving. (It was just pink.. not bright… it’s a concern… but they would only run tests and say… hey- you have Cancer… duh… )

Well- I was in total denial about Paul losing all of his hair… right up until the moment that I shaved it off for him. It kept coming out in patches. He would leave chunks of hair everywhere… and it looked pretty bad all over his collar. The doctor said the radiation may make some of his hair fall out… and it did.

This morning before I left to spend a few hours with my family for Mother’s day… I buzzed him. When I got home- I shaved it and smoothed it all out! Then I treated him to a head massage… he said- “Man… I’ve got it pretty good- don’t I?” I just smiled. I wish that I had done it a few days ago… besides, he looks cute bald!

Tomorrow I am back to work… I am looking forward to it, but also, a bit scared and sad to leave his side. It has been a few weeks that we have spent each and every second together. This will be new. We must get back to our lives and routine. Paul has decided to retire, and his focus will be on getting better.

I went to the Social Security office on Friday and filed for disability for him. They were super. The gal behind the counter asked me to wait a few minutes… she came back and asked if I could bring a few papers and come back at 2:30? I said sure. Her supervisor wanted to get started on it right away- and sent the claim in that very day.

He said “I see your husband was in the military- can I ask what branch?” I replied- “He is a Marine.” He smiled… and told me that he liked how I answered the question… not- He was in the Marines.. or that he was a Marine.. but- He is a Marine! He is also a Marine, he told me to tell my husband that a Marine was handling this for him, and would see it through.

The good news is that he will get approved. The bad news is that it takes five months. They have a mandatory wait of five months. The date of the claim is the first day of his hospitalization… so In October- he should get his back pay… and begin to receive a monthly check.

Things will be okay.

We have an auctioneer coming on Thursday to sort thru Paul’s things. He wants to lighten the load. There is something healing, something “freeing” about getting rid of stuff. Stuff weighs you down… so we will unload some stuff- and prepare for the worse… but live each day to the fullest.
We are not naive about the prognosis… but we also aren’t going to just sit back and let the disease win… he will fight… and I will be right by his side helping in any way that I can. It’s not going to be easy… but we pledged forever- and we meant it.

Thanks to everyone for the love- please continue to lift him up in prayer and send him love… it is so necessary to beat this. Thanks too for the nice gestures, comments and emails… I am so blessed to have such good friends. I may not get a chance to always write back… but I do read and share each of them with Paul.

Until the next time…


Peace and Love,

Denise

Chapter 5

3.8.11

 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011 8:59 PM

 

Hello everyone,

We met with the Oncologist this morning and got a lot of our questions answered. She is an amazing Dr. and has a great assistant, together they will overlook the entire procedure. They let us look at the Pet Scan and they assured us that there was no other cancer- other than in his neck. It’s localized in his left gland and his left tonsil. (The Pet Scan is where they use that sugary like substance that adheres to the cancer and take pictures like a cat scan.)

It is squamous cell cancer- it is treatable and curable.

They recommend radiation and chemotherapy as treatment- but there are many things they need to do first. The treatment is 7 weeks long and will begin March 29th- barring no unforeseen circumstances. The radiation is once a day 5 times a week- for 7 weeks. They will do 3 or four chemo treatments too- about three weeks apart. The radiation will get stronger as they go through the sessions- and they said it will get tougher. The first few weeks- he may not notice any differences.

He meets with the Dentist on Thursday- they have to pull about nine teeth. He still has his wisdom teeth – along with five others that need to go. The reason is because the radiation may weaken the bone- the teeth or the tissue- causing an infection… if an infection were to set in- he may not even realize it until it was too late… he could lose his entire jaw bone. So- the teeth must go. (Besides we know some really nice Dentists here…. that’s the least of our concerns!)

They will have to fit him for a mask. The mask is for the radiation- to guide the dosages and to keep him immobile on the table during the treatments. He has to have the dental part done first- then on March 15th he will meet with the oncologists again to design a mask. The mask will protect the other parts of his face and neck from the radiation- it will have little holes in it- and the radiation is IMRT- which is top of the line technology. They are able to guide the radiation in stronger dosages to the tumor and less in other areas. They will treat both sides.

Once that part is done before treatment- he will need a feeding tube installed. When they do the radiation- he will lose his taste for food- his mouth may be sore- his throat may also be raw or uncomfortable. They can’t afford for him to lose any weight- and be weak during the procedures. (Because the mask won’t fit him if he loses weight…)

This is just a precautionary measure- they hope they never have to use it- but will install it just in case… Once they start the radiation and chemo- they wouldn’t be able to do the surgery then to install it- so they do it up front.

The treatments will all take place at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor. He will also be staying there during the treatment. They have rooms they have converted from hospital rooms- to hotel rooms- they call it the “Hoptel”- and it’s all covered through the VA. They will give him meal vouchers- they have a library- and he will have freedom to roam as he chooses around Ann Arbor. He plans to come home each weekend- and maybe few trips home during the first few weeks.

The issue would be travel expense… time… and if he feels up to making the trip. We will make the best of it- but if anyone knows of a car to rent for a few months- or a cheap descent car to purchase… we may be in the market! We can do anything for 7 weeks… it’s only 7 weeks…

I guess the scariest stuff is out in the open. We have a plan. It’s not the journey we would have chosen- who would? But we are ready. It’s not going to break us… we really are going to be okay. It’s tough at times… it just sort of hits you… the littlest things move you- or jolt you to reality… then as fast as it came… the tears stop and you again know- you are okay. It comes in waves.

So in the meantime- we need to pray- send love- positive energy and know that your prayers are being answered. It’s amazing that it’s not anywhere else in his body- and there is a plan. A reminder to everyone to please do not post on his or my facebook- you can email me back with questions… but he is not willing to live his life on facebook- he doesn’t care who knows now… it’s just a matter of privacy for him- and I respect that. Add him to the prayer chain- and let’s all lift the whole situation to the healing energy of love… that’s where I think the healing begins- in God’s love.

Thanks my family and my friends- we love the encouraging words and prayers- I share your responses with Paul… he feels the love.

Love to all,

Denise

 

** Here is a side note to what was happening and what I was writing about… We were scared… but we tried to be strong. I remember sitting in the Radiation Oncology Dept and he didn’t agree with many things- he almost refused two things… The teeth and the feeding tube were things he said he wouldn’t do.

The Dr. convinced him that both things were necessary… but you should have seen him bargaining with her. He said- I have no problem with eating… I will do what it takes. I will force myself to eat. I don’t need the tube. She said everyone feels like this- but because it wouldn’t be possible to do it later- it was necessary to do it now. She also said- hopefully you don’t ever need it… and that was the clincher… The teeth were more of a vanity thing than anything else. He knew he had some issues with his teeth… a few small cavities… but he didn’t want to have a bunch of teeth pulled. Dang… who would? He just didn’t know they’d do it all at once… with him sitting in a chair. Yikes. Ten teeth… gone. Yanked out with local topical anesthetic…

***

Chapter 4

 

(No subject)

February 24, 2011 11:51:36 AM
Just wanted everyone to know that the talk with the surgeon Tuesday, went well. It was not a biopsy. He needs to see what was going on first and now has the biopsy scheduled for Tuesday at 6:00am.

He is the head surgeon at the U of M hospital as well as the VA hospital and he has been specializing in this field for over 16 years. He deals only in ear, nose and throat issues.

He said Paul’s primary Dr., did the right thing by ordering the tests and he was happy that he didn’t try to treat him with antibiotics etc… He will not know exactly what he is facing- until he sees the results from the biopsy. They take a small scope and put it into his throat and take small tissue samples. He did say, that if we wanted his opinion as to what it may be- he would say it is cancer.

Squamous cell cancer.

His left tonsil and the gland on that side of his neck are enlarged. He showed us the CAT scan and the reason for the concern. He was a great guy, he made him feel very secure about what he is facing.

He said it is treatable and curable.

This type of cancer is usually not spread in the whole body, it’s usually isolated. For precautionary reasons, they are doing a scan of his chest today. The surgeon liked that they had already ordered it.

Again- they are not completely sure- until they do the biopsy.

Continued prayers and love are all appreciated… we can feel it- thanks in advance!

Be Blessed,

Denise

 

(This is the email from Paul to me)

Monday, March 7, 2011 11:41 AM

They just called me back and said it is cancer of the tonsil, and needs to be treated with radiation, and chemo. He said my appt tomorrow with oncology dept is to go over the pet scan, and to talk about the treatment. Damm!!

 

 

3.07.11

Monday, March 7, 2011 3:09 PM

Hello everyone,

Paul spoke to the surgeon today, and the pathology report came back as cancerous. Not sure any more details at this point- but I am sure we will know more tomorrow.

We meet with the Oncologist tomorrow morning to discuss the treatment options and the results of the Pet CT. The Pet CT Scan- is the test they ran on Thursday. The best way to describe this test is they inject a mild radioactive substance into the system- they described it as sugary- it will adhere to cancer and illuminate it. They then take a series of scans or pictures of the entire body- from the top of his head to about the knee area. The Oncologist will read the scan and determine where the cancer is located, if it has spread- and a best way to treat it.

There are still many questions and at this point- we don’t know anymore… sometimes that helpless feeling is more than you think you can handle… but again- that’s where a person’s faith comes in. My God is at his strongest- when I am at my weakest.

The Doctor he spoke to is the primary surgeon that we spoke to on day one in Ann Arbor. He said the treatment will be radiation and chemotherapy. (That is what he told Paul today… sometimes it’s because of where the cancer is located- and the main reason for opting for this is probably because of reconstruction with it being in his neck/throat)

He also said that he would want to do the treatments in Ann Arbor. I told Paul that we will cross that bridge when we get there. It’s hard to imagine what… where… and how to make it all fit. We had hoped that they would be able to treat him in Reed City- and maybe they still will… so for now- we’ll just keep praying and everything will work out as it should. If we need to make it happen there… then it will happen there… it really is out of our hands anyway- when you think about it.

So my friends- I continue to ask for your prayers, your love and your good thoughts for healing and safe travels.

I’ll talk to you all soon.

Denise

Chapter 3

Prayers are working

 

Monday, February 21, 2011 1:45 PM

Hello Everyone,

I just want to say thank you for all of your love, support, prayers, emails and general concern. Something is happening- and although we can’t explain it- it feels good. I guess that is what faith truly is… the walking “as if” and knowing that you’re going to be okay.

A few days ago- Paul and I both started to feel things shift. We both sensed that something was different. When we were told that “It could be cancer”… a feeling of sadness, anger, dread and confusion set in. It was like someone deflated us. Our faith tells us- no matter what… we’re going to be okay… people have prayed with me and have said things like- when you’re at your lowest- that’s when God is at his strongest. I can honestly say, it doesn’t make me feel any better when I buy into the fear.

Paul and I spoke at length over the past week- searching, digging… trying to make sense of stuff. It dawned on me what a control freak I really am. The not knowing was driving me nuts. That is faith in the opposite form- right? As long as life is going my way… I am okay. What about when we’re faced with a challenge? All that went right out the window. In an instant- my faith was rocked. My sense of knowing who I am… disappeared. I am a person who likes rules and boundaries… it’s weird- I find security there. I am not the fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal. Nope… I can play by the rules- as long as I know what they are.

All I have wanted, was for someone to point me in a direction. I didn’t even care if it was the wrong direction… I just wanted someone to tell me what to do.

A few days ago, we both surrendered to the fight within. We didn’t even realize that we were doing it… it was just happening. After all of the talking and processing, we realized that we already had our answer.

That was the key! As soon as we both “knew” we would be okay… the peace and calm came back.

The fear left, just as quickly as it came. There is no reason to fear. Paul is a strong man… I have never met a more determined person in my life! I am writing to you all- my friends and family to ask this… Please- let’s all focus on who he is- who he is to each of us… the beautiful soul that we all know and love… do not give any energy to the fear.

Tomorrow we go for the biopsy- and whatever the results… we know- we are going to be okay. Paul just left my office- I read him what I wrote- and he thanked me. Please don’t post on mine or his Facebook… we don’t want to live it out in public. He is very private, as you all know… so keep doing what you’re doing- and we’ll let you know what’s what in a few days.

 

Thanks everyone- and God Bless,

Denise

 

Namaste~

I honor the place in you

in which the entire Universe dwells,

I honor the place in you

which is of Love, of Light and of Peace,

When you are in that place in you,

and I am in that place in me,

we are One.