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 33

***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. ***

7.29.12

Hello Everyone,

Thank you so very much for the love and support during this difficult time… this is much harder than I had imagined it would be. (But truthfully, what did I have to compare it too?)

Four days after the memorial, I took a friend and went to MRCNA. (Michigan Regional Convention of Narcotics Anonymous) Each year we have a convention and this year our area hosted the event. I knew I didn’t want to be alone. With several thousand people in attendance- I was not alone.

My friend Keri was in a bad spot in life. She called me from the park the day before, she had nowhere to go. She had burned all of her bridges. She was thinking of going to the homeless shelter. I told her to stay put, I would be right there. I picked her up an hour later and she didn’t leave my side for the next 45 days. She was a Godsend. She allowed me to cry. She didn’t try to fix me.

Here is the think about grief… it comes in waves and it makes everyone else really uncomfortable. I just needed to talk, I needed to process stuff, I needed to cry. I didn’t need people to say anything… I just needed to feel what I was going through. As ugly as it was for other people… it needed to be done.

She let me cry. She helped me clean. She helped me paint. She helped me move. She helped me piece it all together… She helped me heal. Thank you dear friend… I owe you big time.

Part of the healing was to reflect back and to see what and how I got to this place. How Paul and I, got to be- Mr and Mrs Henry.

I remember the decision I made years ago, and how I agreed to do whatever it took to feel this deeply. I agreed to feel Love. I agreed to cherish it too. It is worth it… but, at this particular moment- I question my sanity. Seriously, who would sign up for this? Some of you may not know the story of Paul and I…

About 7.5 years ago- I met Paul Henry. I was originating mortgages and he was doing appraisals. I was still involved in a dead end relationship when he asked me out. I declined his offer for a date. He did some more work for me and delivered the appraisal to my office a few weeks later. He sat down at my desk and I explained why I had declined his offer. He explained he had the same thing with someone… and was ready to move on.

We talked and got to know each other a little better… then he told me about his son. (His son Paul Jr had died in an automobile accident two years before.)

I realized that I knew his daughter! I asked him if he had a daughter-named Jennifer? He said- yes- how do you know Jennifer?? She lives in Kalamazoo.

I met his daughter at the coffee shop, that I had co-owned with my friend. I said- oh my gosh… I love Jennifer! It was so right at so many levels. That is where we began…

It was the first time in many years… at least 20- that I went into a relationship and didn’t hold anything back. I had always kept people at arms length. It felt safer. This was the first time that I didn’t do that. I didn’t play it safe.

I fell so head over heels in love with this man. He was so complex- and I-didn’t care. I was going to love him thru it all… (Insert picture of little girl here… skipping around with daisies in her hair dancing… )

We would be driving down the road and I would look over at him and just smile…I got butterflies by just looking at him. I loved him and damn- it felt good.

Then, just as suddenly as we fell for each other- he pulled it all back.

I was devastated. It rocked my world upside down. I hurt like I had never hurt in my life.

It was my fault. I sent him an email and asked him if he was really interested in having a relationship.

I asked him if he was ready to let go of his past. I suggested that maybe he needed to do some soul searching to find out if he really did want this. I asked him to take a few days.

Well, he did. He took a few days. He took a few weeks… He took a few months. I. Was. So. Lost.

He wouldn’t return my calls- wouldn’t return my emails… and he didn’t come back. As a matter of fact- I found out months later, he had gone back to his old relationship. The one that was comfortable, the one that didn’t demand anything from him.

During this time- my sponsor-shed some light on my behavior. Because really- it wasn’t about him… it was about me.

She pointed out that what I was offering was pretty selfish. Selfish?? I wanted to help him. I wanted to help heal his heart.

Paul wasn’t emotionally available. He hadn’t healed from losing his son.

I was a mess.

He wasn’t ready to be vulnerable again. Actually, he told me later that he wasn’t sure he could ever love at that level again.

Here is where it gets messed up. I thought if I could love him enough- he wouldn’t have to hurt. I thought that if he loved me enough… that he wouldn’t have to hurt.

This is why I need a sponsor in my life. Recovery has taught me how to ask questions and to get help when I need it.

My sponsor told me- “Denise, strip away the-big pink bow- the lipstick and the perfume… and what you’re offering is-really pretty selfish. It’s all about you- and how he can make you happy. How he can fulfill your needs. If you want a relationship with this man, you need-to stop trying to change him.”

In my ignorance… and with my “help” – I had pushed him away. My help, was pretty selfish...

She also said that if I ever got back together with him… that it would be with him and his son.

She told me that I couldn’t change that fact… I sent him an email and apologized. Not for what I had said to him… but for my selfish motives. I asked him to give me another chance…but he couldn’t. He didn’t trust me- and didn’t trust his ability to love me again…

I cried for weeks. My sponsor told me that my only job was to feel. My only job- was to feel?

UGH… She said that when I got to the other side of those feelings- that I would have an answer. That God, would show me what he wanted me to know…. so I cried and I cried.

After about three months.. I saw the sadness in my eyes start to fade. (Someone pointed out to me a long time ago-that you can see sadness in people’s eyes… and boy did I see it…)

At six months.. it was gone. I finally felt okay. And… drum roll… God did show me what he wanted me-to see. I did learn what I needed to know.

I learned that LOVE was worth it! As much as I hated those feelings… as much as I hated going through all of that… I realized that I would do it all over again- in order to experience what we had in that short time. I was so thankful that I knew how to love again… and that I wanted to love again.

I felt that whatever the cost… I wanted that again.

Love- does make everything better.

Everything.

Fast forward in time- a year later… we got together at Christmas and had New Year’s together… things didn’t work out. (We did the same concert for three years- on New Year’s Eve… but nobody knew we were dating on and off…)

 We got together again the following year… but things didn’t change until July of 2008.

He kept sending emails… kept sending text messages. He even scheduled a massage!

I had given him many massages- but this was different, he called, scheduled and paid for it!

Anyway- on the intake form- I ask a question- “Why are you here today” And his answer was “Flirting”. 😳

We got together for a friendly date in the park for Lake City’s greatest fourth in the North. We watched the Battle-of-the-Bands.

I honestly felt there was too much water under the bridge. I didn’t think we could have a real relationship again.

I didn’t trust him, now.

He would break dates with an email… or a text message… or he just wouldn’t show up.

I told him that I couldn’t keep doing this. I told him i wasn’t a yo-yo. He promised it would be different and he would show up.

I said okay and thought we’d just be friends and hang out. He walked me home and when he left, he kissed me good night.

I-told him it was very nice seeing him again- and his reply was- “I hope to-see much more of you”… hmm….

The following week- my niece asked -what’s up with Paul? I told her I wasn’t sure.. She said- He was awfully affectionate at the park the other night! Wow- we didn’t see that coming now did we?? And we didn’t… that was our new beginning… July3, 2008.

We married on August 29th, 2009.

Our life together was brief… but man was it intense.

I am processing all sorts of feelings with his loss.

It’s so big. I am working through it all day by day. I hate having to learn how-to deal with these things. They are sticky. They are murky. They are consuming.

I am not really good at surrender. I only surrender- when it hurts bad enough. I am at that point with the grief.

I had no time to process it while I was in it. I just moved from appointment to appointment, we all did the best we could.

Now he’s gone… I am forced to deal with all of those feelings that I had stuffed.

I realize how much I was in denial about the possibility of losing him.

I never made peace with the possibility… I felt that I would’ve been giving up the hope. I needed hope, to get through each day.

I also had to censor information. I tried to not give the disease energy. I also had to protect everyone’s feelings. I tried really hard to protect his privacy. In reality, I was writing behind a veil of fear.

A fresh thought popped into my head yesterday when I was reading a book… it brought me back to when Paul was in the hospital in Detroit- and we were talking to the surgeons about his upcoming bladder surgery. We were talking about the possibility of puncturing his bladder- about what would happen. They talked about the percentages and how he would have to live without the use of his bladder inside his body- I look back at that particular conversation now… I realize that I was not planning on him going anywhere. I was still planning on him living. I didn’t accept the terminal diagnosis.

Today I am dealing with anger. It’s hard for me to admit that out loud… but I must be honest.

I have had all sorts of anger surface recently… things that I had stuffed. I am processing why I pushed things aside.

Why I gave away my power to other people.

Why I let people push me?

I am learning that I can only heal the things within me, not others. But first, I must acknowledge them… then I can dig. By digging, I usually uncover layers of other stuff. I usually find the real source of the anger.

I am still doing acupuncture- to help with the emotional part of this and the stress.

I feel toxic at times… it’s as if everything I held in for months has surfaced.

My Acupuncturist is amazing… she touched some of the anger stuff the other day… and I feel better already.

I know with all of my being, that when I get to the other side of this… I will be a changed person.

I am thankful for the opportunity to grow- even though it doesn’t feel good. I know that if I surrender to the process, move with the process and acknowledge each step… I will be okay.

I get cards daily- it’s overwhelming to even look at the Thank You notes that are still sitting on my kitchen table.

Please know that I appreciate all of you very much. I am so Blessed to have such loving people willing to give so selfishly.

I am so blessed to have friends and family who are still willing to let me cry.

I have yet to get through a-day without tears.

It will take time… and I am okay with that. I face each day without expectations… A friend asked me about the next chapter of my Life? About what I see next? My answer was that I can’t even see beyond tomorrow. That’s all I have at the moment. I have nothing else to give…nothing else to offer.

Thanks for the offers for lunch dates- I am just dong the basics today. Not ready to face that yet… when I am ready, I will let you all know.

I ask for your prayers, good thoughts, energy and the Love…

Peace and Love~

Denise

Chapter 32

***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 7.1.12

 I don’t know where to begin… Life as I once knew… will never be the same.

I find myself bumping into old thoughts- sitting quietly with new ones… spinning around and around…sometimes I make sense- other times – not. Sometimes I want to be alone… other times I can’t believe- I am alone.

On Friday June 29th at 1:45- my friend Kearney started strumming his guitar… he played some easy listening music…he picked… and sang… everyone found a place to either sit or stand. Over 200 people signed the guest book…

We were gathered among the beautiful plants and flowers that lined along my parents patio- overlooking the Clam River. The day was beautiful.

The sky was blue and just when you thought it was just any other day…there was a breeze to remind you of the present peace. Of his, presence and peace.

My nephew Marc Hicks began with Paul’s obituary… the rest of the order is a blur. There was a bagpiper- he played Amazing Grace. The song brought everyone to tears… and then faded off into the distance as he played.

Father Joe Fix said some memorable words and my brother in law Don played a few songs. People shared stories and memories- and then Marc finished with some kind words and an email from one of Paul’s nurse’s in Saginaw.

Mikailu aka Mike, wrote to us a few weeks ago and told us how we had touched him with our journey… It was a testament to our journey… it needed to be shared.

The Honor Guard presented me with a flag and a wooden display case. They played taps and gave my Marine a 21 gun salute down by the river.

The breeze blew lightly… and everyone reveled in the words from Father Joe about Paul’s love for Nature… and Marc’s words about the Angels rejoicing in heaven.

My mom’s best friend and a few others made a luncheon and everyone ate. The food was superb… but it always is… I am eternally grateful to those ladies, my mom and step dad, Pastor Hicks, Father Joe, the Honor Guard, the bagpiper- my friend Kearney… Shawna for the montage and my brother in law Don. It was the most moving service I have ever attended… and many people have said the same thing. It showed every aspect of who he was… and who he is- in each of us.

On behalf of the family- I thank each of you. I know these emails have been forwarded- passed along- read to neighbors and friends… I am not sure how many people I reach with my words… but you all, played a part in the journey. Each of you has a piece of my story. Each of you has helped carry my burden.

What happens next? Well… my renters are gone from the Lake City house and we will begin with that project.. then I will move my things from the Dighton house… and begin anew. It’s hard to say when that will happen… it’s simply one day a time right now… and I will cross the next bridge when I see it.

Once I get settled… I am going to take a trip. I need some time to heal. I am thinking seriously about going by myself… to heal and to write. I am going to write my story… and someday I will publish a book.

I want to thank everyone for the kind words- the tolerance of my grammar… and for encouraging me to write this journey down for others to heal along with me. I can honestly say that I don’t feel worthy. I feel my story is plain. It’s my story… I hold it dear to my heart… but because so many of you, urged me forward- I will try.

I am tired… I am sad. I have never felt this much sadness… I don’t know if my heart could handle a single ounce more… it’s overwhelming. It’s consuming and it’s heavy. Sometimes it floods over me like a heavy wet blanket… and I want to curl up and cry for days. Then there are moments when I feel okay.

Okay has always been a good place for me to be… I think I will just try to get through each day…and do the best I can.

One thing- before I close… remember this please- I am broken- but not unrepairable. I may be a mess- but it’s temporary. You can’t fix me… this is mine to heal… my sister Kim, said it best last week when she showed up each day and just sat at the edge of the couch…. “I am here behind the scenes… just in case Denise needs a hug. I sit quietly… out of sight.. just in case she needs anything….”

Thank you so very much to my family for helping me – to not fall.

Thank you so much for not leaving my side and for helping with the auction and the memorial.

I am the blessed one… I got what most people will never, ever have… even if it was for a short time… I still got it.

Thank you Jesus.

Peace and Love,


Denise

*** Side Note:

This is the email that was read fromPaul’s nurse at the VA Hospital:

FWD: Update 6.21.12

Hello Paul & Denise,

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading all your narratives on your husband. It has certainly been a great pleasure to meet and work with your family. In my 18 years of being a Registered Nurse, I have never met anyone in my clinical practice as courageous as Paul! I am so inspired by the support and fortitude shown among your family; and your love for God … the almighty!

I would just like to seize this opportunity to say how I feel so blessed that I got the chance to meet you all

And for coming into my life …

Believe me I would ask you to do it again!

I have only known you and your family through this face of immense trial

But because of you Paul, I have gained a deeper meaning of courage and love …

And friendship means a whole lot more to me!

You have also shown me what America can be…What for years we stress in liberty…

And yet, there is more, much more to see.

Paul and Denise, you have turned it all around.

You, through your genuine Hearts and Souls,

Have shown Love – the Love that is only blessed from above!

You have shown me what a friendship should be…

It is Compassion, Love, and Caring for all!

Thank you for what you have taught me …That friends, true friends surpasses all –

Politics, greed, distrust, the hollow shell of loneliness, and fear –

You have turned them around

And now, I hear friendship and freedom’s true sound.

Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Henry for what you have done…

You have created a new life under the Sun

I appreciate your Love and Friendship too!

Love,

Mikailu

***

*** That message touched my heart more than once. Each time I read it- I read more into it. Wow… what a great man- to take the time to encourage us and write such beautiful words. I am grateful too Mikailu… Namaste.

***

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 26


***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. ***

Paul Update 5.23.12

May 23,2012 10:14 PM

Hello Everyone,

I am just home from Saginaw and Paul is still there. He probably won’t be coming home for a few more days… I hope… but there isn’t much change. In fact- things are different- but not better. There have been better test results… but then other things appear.

I have noticed he has been having more unclear moments, he has repeated himself, insists he is telling you what he “knows” is the situation and then in a few moments later… will say- “Wow… I don’t know what I am talking about.” Those moments are rare… most of the time he insists he knows.

He is also popping up with some off the wall stuff that isn’t a reality. It’s hard to know if he understands what’s happening… or if he is in denial. He will tell the Dr.’s what he thinks- they want to hear.

The Urologist came by today to specifically look at his urine. Because he was telling the nurse that it was normal… and it’s not. There is still blood. The Dr. came and said it now appears to be old blood… but it’s not been clear since he has been there.

The changes are this: He no longer has a catheter, and he had another blood transfusion- two more pints. His hemoglobin levels are back and forth… but are currently above 8. His platelets were normal- but have dropped again. He is still taking pain meds… and is still not urinating without difficulty. Here’s one of those situations where reality and his “knowing” don’t match… You can hear him in the bathroom trying to go… he is straining. He also has to jump up in a hurry and go to the restroom- because the urge comes on strong. Then he has just a small output. When they ask him- He says- It’s okay… and answers “Yes” he is going. (No mention of the straining… no mention of the little output or the instant urge and constant urge.) I am thinking he will need another catheter by tomorrow.

The other change is he no longer on the steroid… they weaned him off that gradually- and his last dose was late last week. Here’s my other concern… is there now brain swelling again? Because his behavior suggests there may be. I let his nurse know what I suspected- they also noticed a few times of him being confused- so they ordered a cat scan. The results weren’t in when I left tonight.

I spoke to a Nurse Practitioner, who was updating me for the Urologists… Her feeling is that there isn’t much more that can be done at this point. I am sorry… but I would like them to try something to find out something… the guessing game is enough to drive me nuts.

She said they have spoken to Ann Arbor- and basically they are of the same opinion…. UGH!! I am so frustrated. I am going to email Dr. XXXX, once I am done with this update… I need them to know where things stand. I told the lady that I felt that they weren’t trying enough… that if they could get this under control… he may have a few more years…  this doesn’t have to be his demise.

It seems that they feel that he is terminal,so they aren’t doing everything to get things back on track. I understand that it’s not wise to do certain procedures… I get that… but let’s try something. The irrigation didn’t work. And honestly- I think he is still bleeding. I don’t think it’s just old blood. If it were old blood- then it would have eventually stopped with the irrigation- right?? He would’ve eventually had a clear catheter bag.

Okay… so- all of that being said. I finally hit a wall. It was rough. His mood has been swinging and his fuse is short. Some days are just tougher than others. I got there late on Monday… and he was miffed. It didn’t get better. He insisted he knew the answers to what was going on and was insulted that I didn’t believe him.

His sister and brother in law came… and he started in again… I had to take a time out. I let them visit for a bit… came back- and it hadn’t changed. I guess when I left- he started in on Laura. I left early… I also had a mighty good cry on the way home and decided to not go back on Tuesday. I needed a break and to be refueled. I was exhausted. I can’t be everything to everyone… this just isn’t working.

I had lunch with a great friend- she helped me to redefine my role.

She helped me to set some new boundaries and be safe again. She is amazing… I am forever grateful. I hope everyone has a friend like this… someone who believes in you- unconditionally. Someone who will listen to you cry… whine… snot and mascara… and tell you how beautiful you are.

Sometimes Grace and Peace aren’t ushered in on the wings of a dove… sometimes it skips in over coffee with a few f-bombs. I love you Kitty.

Someday I want to be that friend to someone else in need… She is a great listener. When I doubt if I am able to do the next right thing- she gives me permission to do the best I can. When I doubt if I am capable of making sound choices… she told me I have good character and she believes in me. When I want to be mad… she says it’s okay.

When it was all said and done… I was okay again. I didn’t feel as fragmented… not as pulled. I was able to get re-grounded and re-centered and was ready to go back today.

She reminded me of some important things- Pray and hope for the best… prepare for the worse… and to lose my expectations for each day. Basically- keep living in the day… face it as it comes- and know that I will have what it takes to get thru it.

Jennifer, the babies and Nancy came today- This brightened his mood… then Hailey and Cody visited… and brought me dinner! The stinkin cafeteria closes at 3:30 and the grill closes at 3:00… that’s twice now that I have missed it! (Since I had popcorn for lunch… I didn’t think it was a good idea to have Frito’s for dinner.)

I want to thank you all again for your love and support- the cards- the prayers- the hugs… even the sweaty ones at the gym… the money- gas cards- for mowing the lawn, handling personal paperwork… covering his business, working for me… and the emails ofencouragement. Again- I am not sure if you all realize there are more than100 of you… and just one of me. So- please don’t ask questions or ask me torespond… I just can’t. I may not update as often as you’d like… but it’sthe best I can do… and my friend Kitty says that’s okay! 🙂

Love and Peace,

Denise

Paul update 5.25.12

May 25,2012

Hello Everyone,

Well I finally felt like we got some answers yesterday at the Saginaw VA. The original lead Urologist had been gone-to a conference since the second day Paul was admitted last week. He was the one who said he didn’t want him discharged before the catheter was running clear. He said if someone tried to release him… that he was supposed to threaten to call his Congressman. He returned yesterday and saw Paul and gotthe ball back rolling.

Late in the afternoon- he met with Dr XXX and he called the Urology department in Ann Arbor and told a few people of Paul’s case. He also said several times- I need help. He ordered an MRI to be done in Ann Arbor- STAT. They are waiting to transport him to Ann Arbor to do the MRI on his bladder/pelvic area. He will also be admitted there- as soon as they have a bed available.

YEAH!! I cannot begin to tell you how much relief this is… We had a rough morning yesterday. When I got there- there was a Dr. and the Nurse Practitioner, that he doesn’t really like- having a conversation about his status and his care. This is what it felt like to me… they were trying to release him… or convince him of something. Not sure what that was… because- I immediately stopped the conversation and led it back to his present condition and the blood in his urine. She went as far as suggesting that we take him out of Saginaw and just show up in Ann Arbor at the emergency room- and they would have to take him. She kept talking about his “stage four” status… and his adamant decision about not doing ANYMORE treatment. I told her this was not the case. He wanted treatments… just not sure about chemo and radiation.

At this point- we needed to re-visit those decisions, now that he was symptomatic. But- we needed time to process things and to make an educated decision. She kept telling me- he was adamant! I told her it was based on information two weeks ago… not today…. My gut was telling me that I didn’t like the two ladies… but I wasn’t being rude. I listened- then when they left- I cornered the one in the hall and gave her a piece of my mind.

I told her that he was MY HUSBAND- and I had a vested f’ing interest in his care. It was my job- as his wife- to make sure he got the best care. To make sure he understood all of his options and that she was not helping things by asking him questions- when he was not thinking clearly and was drugged up. She said he was very competent and that any judge would deem him competent… that wasn’t my point… but I let it go.

I made sure that he made all of his wishes clear as far as his treatment was concerned. He has also signed an Advanced Directive- stating his wishes with a social worker. He does want to live. He does want to try everything possible… even if that means chemo. When he decided no against the chemo… he had no symptoms. The Dr. kept saying- even if it makes you really really sick and your last days will be spent really sick? UGH…. I can’t begin to tell you how mad I was. Shut up… he doesn’t need you in his face telling him what he will be facing… BECAUSE YOU don’t know. Nobody does.

SO- the good news is he is getting moved to Ann Arbor as soon as they have a bed. He got the catheter back last night to give his bladder a rest… he was going- but not completely emptying it. They started the irrigation back up… and the bleeding is much much less… just pink now… not really dark… might just be old blood clearing itself out. For those who ask- then why not just send him home now? Because the bleeding could start back up at any minute- because of his condition. Once it begins… they really do need to figure out why it was bleeding and the source.

The other good news is they started him back on the steroid for brain swelling- and he seems to be talking sense and is less confused. He is now having vision problems tho.. seems to want to wear his reading glasses all the time.. said he has problems focusing…  But hey- with that cute- cue ball and a stylish pair of glasses… that is the least of my concerns.

I am heading to the gym for a few hours-to do some paperwork and let the carpet cleaners in… then I will see if he has moved yet- and head out to be with my hubby.

Keep praying- keep believing… he will get better. Just wait and see. The cancer might eventually take him… but that won’t be soon… he has time… we have time.

Bless you all- Happy Memorial Day Weekend- Thank a Veteran… I am going to go be with mine.

Peace and Love,

Denise

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.