Two weeks ago (almost), I lost my life partner and soulmate of over 30 years to breast cancer. I was with her at the hospice, holding her hand when she died. I now feel utterly bereft and just have no idea how I’m going to live out the rest of my days without her.
I’m 57 and Jude was 60. She was initially diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, had a dreadful experience going through chemo, surgery to remove her breast, lymph clearance and radiotherapy. She was given the ‘all clear’ in 2017!
Roll forward to 2018 and she had a bit of a cough so I nagged her to go to the GP. Because of her history, the GP arranged a chest x-ray and it all went bad from there. We were sitting in the kitchen on her birthday in October opening cards and prezzies and the phone goes. I answer it and it’s the GP surgery … she needs to go in to see the GP today … no, it’s her birthday (couldn’t you have waited a day?) … so, her 60th birthday is ruined by panic.
From that point on, life has been an absolute rollercoaster from being told she had lung, liver and bone metastasis, being admitted to hospital after her first round of Chemo because she had a bad infection, to being told the chemo was working well. She had a CT scan before we had our holiday in June but we decided to wait until we came home for the results. We were elated because the oncologist said the CT results were very positive, but she was to keep going on the Heeceptin and Perjeta plus another drug.
A couple of weeks later, after a regular blood test she had a call from the oncologist to say the cancer markers had shot up, but it was probably an anomaly. However a CT was organised (on a day I was working) and she was called in within the week to be given the news that the cancer had significantly accelerated and the prognosis was bad. A matter of weeks.
And so it was. The hospital handed off responsibility to our local hospice and community team. She deteriorated far faster than I could ever have expected, initially difficulty in walking, then speaking and eating. I had a stairlift put in to help her get upstairs. She used it 5 times!
The plan was (her plan) that she wouldn’t die at home. She would go into the hospice for her final days, and we thought that would have been a relatively simple process, except she became very ill and unresponsive on a Friday afternoon, and the hospice wouldn’t admit her as they didn’t have a doctor available. So for that weekend, her last weekend, I nursed her 24/7 catching the odd 15 minutes if shuteye. We had the community nursing team who would and did come in, but other than that, and a couple,of her friends who came to see her, I had to sit with her from Friday night until the Monday morning when she was finally admitted into the hospice.
We expected her to pass away on the Monday, but she clung on, sometimes conscious but barely. Again I sat up with her through Monday night and the Tuesday morning. Her brother finally came on the Tuesday morning and my only surviving blood relative, my cousin. She died with me holding her hand, and seemed to wait until it was just us, on Tuesday afternoon. That was 13th August.
Since then, only a very few friends (count on half the fingers of one hand) have been in touch. My cousin has been a rock, but she has her own life. We have no kids! So it’s pretty much now me.
I haven’t lived alone since the early 1980’s having been married before Jude. We were each other’s best friends and did everything together. She even worked with me occasionally (she had retired from her job when she initially had breast cancer).
We haven’t even had the funeral yet! I only found out that she had changed her mind and wanted to be buried a couple of weeks before she died, because she arranged a meeting with the funeral directors as a woodland burial! That is something else that is not only freaking me out, but the expense is eye-watering, just for the plot. I don’t think she realised as I know she would never have wanted me to have that liability. But it was her wish and I have to honour it.
I just cannot understand though how so many ‘friends’, both hers and mine, have vanished into the mist. Some no contact at all, a couple of her friends just contacted me to ask about the funeral. No one really seems to actually care about me. Perhaps that sounds selfish but I’m still here and having to deal with this almost completely alone.
The house that we chose together, that was our dream home, I now hate. It feels empty and dead. The only thing I have of hers that has any meaning is her parrot … he was supposed to be my parrot (long story) but he chose her. They do that. He calls for her every morning. He says words and phrases that she used to say to him. It’s heartbreaking! If it wasn’t for him, I honestly think I would have found a way to join her.
I’m a freelancer so am not strictly speaking employed. I work for several companies on a freelance basis but since Jude became disabled with the disease I haven’t worked. I’ve let down several clients and whilst they are very understanding, at some point they will expect me to return or terminate my contract(s). There seems very limited help for people like me in this situation. My job requires intense concentration and I’m worried if I return too soon, I’m going to screw up badly.
I’m fortunate that the hospice provides a bereavement councillor who is very good, but it’s only an hour a week, and I find it’s not long enough.
I knew this was going to be tough. Some people have said I was ‘fortunate’ that I had a few weeks to prepare … FORTUNATE? My god, Clearly these people have no idea what losing your life partner, soul mate and best friend is like!
I’ve done things far too quickly apparently. Sorting out the finances, even applying for probate (she didn’t have time to fix the finances so I wouldn’t have to go through that) … too soon, should wait until after the funeral. Why, what difference does it make?
If I could avoid going to the funeral I would. People don’t understand that, but I said my goodbyes … I was with her, talking to her, holding her hand in the hours right up until she passed away. I don’t need some glorified ceremony to do that. Yes, others may do. But I don’t. But it’s just more pain I have to endure, just to satisfy convention and other people’s wishes, the people who can’t be bothered to see if I’m even still alive! One friend has been ‘banned’ from seeing me or talking to me by her boyfriend because he thinks I’m now a ‘risk’ to their relationship. Can you believe some people?
I’m told it will eventually get easier, but I can’t see that. I see no end other than ‘an end’ … but even that isn’t an option due to her parrot I now have to care for.