15 months

My husband, Chris, died 10th October 2022 only 25 days after being diagnosed with small cell lung cancer. We were together for 28 years and he was my everything.

A month before diagnosis he had started with a cough which didn’t shift with antibiotics, and then his voice started becoming croaky and was short of breath. His GP prescribed another course of antibiotics with steroids advising he didn’t think it was anything serious as Chris was always fit and well. He was an army veteran who still ran regularly, lifted weights, and walked miles every day.

On the morning of 5th September Chris was that short of breath I went with him to A&E to get checked over. They did blood tests and an x-ray and that’s when our world started to fall apart. His white blood cell count was through the roof and the x-rays showed a shadow on his lung, but at first they thought he might have an infection and blood clot on his lung. He was given a clot busting injection and scheduled in for a CT scan the next day.

Chris had the CT scan and when he came out, he broke down in tears as he said he knew something was seriously wrong when a large group of medical staff all stood watching the scan images as they were being taken.

On the 15th of September, we were called in to see the oncologist who confirmed that Chris did have an advanced form of lung cancer, and that unfortunately there was nothing which could be done, surgery wasn’t an option and chemotherapy would only extend Chris’ life by a month at the most.

That very same day a senior consultant called us back to the hospital and told Chris that they were certain he had cancer, but the images would need further review. My darling husband broke his heart when they said cancer and when they asked if he was worried, he replied, “Just worried for my beautiful wife, Rach. I don’t want to leave her all alone in the world”.

Chris made the very brave decision to go on palliative care. He also put in place a DNR and an Advanced Directive so that he could say exactly what treatment he was willing to have or not have. Ultimately his decision was to be cared for at home, with no medical interventions.

Within a few days he required a wheelchair as he could no longer catch his breath when walking and needed help to shower and dress. He hated the wheelchair as he felt useless and that people were staring at him. I told him to ignore people who stared and to try and take comfort in that by using the chair we could still go out and about and enjoy the fresh air on our faces.

Everyday he thanked me for loving him and caring for him. He showed such grace in loving me that deeply he only wanted me to care for him, it brought us a level of trust and love that went far beyond anything I could imagine.

Within a short period of time he developed ascites, no longer had an appetite and didn’t want food or drink in any form. He was still only a lower dose of morphine despite being in pain, he didn’t like the confusion that it caused. He started to sleep more but was lucid when awake.

Only two days before he died we had our first visit from a Macmillan Nurse. They wanted Chris to accept a hospital bed at home because for two days he had slept on the sofa, with me on the floor beside him. He refused as he said when he died he wanted to be next to me, not in a hospital bed. They didn’t put any plan in place at that time for syringe drivers for pain relief as they didn’t think he needed it yet.

That night Chris said he wanted to sleep in our bed so he could hold me tight. The next morning we got out of bed and I helped him downstairs, but he was really struggling to breathe and there was a level of confusion which wasn’t there before, he was also starting to hallucinate and become agitated. Only a few hours later my amazing husband died in my arms. As I held him, I told him how much I loved him, and would always love him, that he was the most wonderful husband, my best friend and I was honoured that he had shared his life and love with me.

For six months after he died I had recurring images going around in my head of his last days, and really struggled with how to process the brutalness of losing my husband in such a short space of time. Nothing could have prepared me for being so happy and in love with my husband, to becoming a widow within 25 days.
I was in a very dark place, I was scared and more than anything wished I could go to sleep and not wake up. It was at this point I reached out for counselling. I was diagnosed with PTSD and can honestly say that reaching out for help was the best decision I made.

I am also so glad I joined this forum as the people on here have been such great support and have helped me in some of the darkest times. It is through this site that I have met a wonderful group of people who have become firm friends.

The first 12 months I was in such shock and disbelief, the world going on around me but I didn’t really take anything in. I had to leave my job as I couldn’t cope with this strange new life where I now need to do everything alone. It feels like 2023 didn’t happen as everything was a blur.

I do get very lonely as I don’t have close family and we never had children, it was just us two, Chris and Rach hand in hand against the world. I am very fortunate that I have a small group of friends without whom I don’t think I could carry on, but there are times where everyone is busy so I spend a lot of time alone. It’s the small everyday things I miss so much, the hug, the kiss, the smile, the touching of a hand, having someone to do nothing with. The aloneness can be crippling.

It is only within the past few months that I have felt strong enough to decide that grief has taken enough away from me and that I needed to try and do things to bring me some joy. I have been out to concerts, stayed in a hotel on my own, eaten at a restaurant alone. Oh, how I wish I had Chris at my side for these events, but I know he would be proud of me for trying.

I know people say it gets easier with time. 15 months on I will say that for me it hasn’t become easier, but that I am learning how to live with grief at my side. There hasn’t been a day yet where I haven’t cried and I’m okay with that as I loved Chris to the depths of my soul. I know that when he died we were as happily married and loved one another as much as we always had –our love didn’t die.

He was a wonderful human being, a man with honour and integrity who would do anything for those he loved.
We had a truly wonderful life together, a partnership full of warmth, humour, support, love, and laughter. I miss being loved by him and loving him in return. He will forever be with me, the light in the darkness and the handprint on my heart until the moment my heart ceases to beat.


@LonelyPanda Thank you so much for sharing this, it must have been difficult to put all of that out there, My wife had small cell and it was a truly unrelenting head dive into some of the worst that life has to offer. For her it took 9 months, to experience all of that compressed into less than 4 weeks must have been utterly bewildering. The heartbreak of DNR conversations is something I’ll never forget, it’s not what you expect, someone explaining why it’s for the best. Watching that happen to someone you see as part of yourself is soul destroying, to be a bystander in the middle of a riot, nowhere to turn for safety, locked doorways, watching it play out in front of you. It takes a long time to understand, what happened.

It sounds as if your husband was much like my wife, trying to take care of me as best she could with the decisions she had to make. Like you, I’ll be forever changed by the beauty and love I was witness to. It really does underline the moment, no way out, time to choose. As if there is a choice. I was humbled, I hope I will be the same when my time comes. Somehow her last gift, her last act of love. I take that where I find it now.

I’m sure your husband would be really proud of you for getting back up and going out and doing life. It hurts to start with, well it did for me, but I find the benefits outweigh the pain, to be able to experience joy, fun, boredom, novelty, it all adds up. It’s the best way I’ve found of giving understanding to all that I have experienced, being part of that unfolding of life, making sense of it all has been very much making sense of myself. For me it was the acceptance that I have my wife within me now, her story when it ended became mine. It’s all that’s left, but it’s enough to go on. Your husband, you will carry him forward, your post is testament to that. We face this pain for them, they did it for us. Spring is coming, days are getting longer, keep pushing yourself out there. The beat goes on.


Hi @LonelyPanda,

I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. I admire your strength and courage to share such a candid post.

I would echo what @Walan has said. It is two years since my lovely wife Christine died. While the second year has been particularly hard, I am now resolved to being less dominated by grief, to become less lop sided. Of a more rounded though changed character. It will be tough of course.

Best wishes to you.


So moving and so similar to my story … take care … i cry everyday for him too and i wish he was here … its so hard without them isnt it :frowning: take care as all of us need to xx

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Thank you for your replies and support.

Chris showed such courage and strength, and I’m determined that I will carry on living for him, for us and importantly, for me.

Grief has taken so much, but I’m determined that it will not take away the things that have always brought me joy. It’s taken a lot for me to get to this point where I need to find out once again who I am, the me without we, and whether the hobbies I’ve always took pleasure from still fit into my new world.

It’s exhausting, confusing and often heartbreaking to experience moments of joy. I’m a changed person, but one who can now find beauty in the tiniest of moments.

Somehow I’m emerging from the depths of grief to carve a life where Chris, his love for me and the grief left behind, will walk side by side.


@LonelyPanda Take hold of all of that and keep going. I was talking with a friend of mine and she said that grief, trauma, takes something away from the person. It’s a detriment. I could see her point of view, but it’s also a point of creation, rebirth, the future. It is exhausting, sometimes I just want to give up and bring out the single malt, but, nah, fuck it, step onwards.

Find out who you are, question your hobbies, I still play games, I’ve changed the games I play, the ones I played with my wife felt so lonely. But I’ve went in there, Red Dead2, Last of US, Doom, Hyperlight Drifter, Zelda. They were never going to be the same, but Stardiew Valley, Cult of the LAmb, Dredge, Dave the Diver, they’ve all been a big help. Carve that life out!


@LonelyPanda i hope you can find some joy in life . It’s two years before the grief starts to ease an expert says . Be kind to yourself. Like you I had a wonderful husband who I miss with a passion