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Oxygen

Dealing with a global pandemic has turned our entire world upside down. Oddly enough, it hasn’t changed much in my house. Our world has been turned upside down for 2 years. Our schedule that we previously craved along with all normalcies of being a happy two parent household?

Gone.

Everyone who feels like their life is spiraling out of control and they can’t handle the changes?

Welcome. That’s what cancer and death does to you. We’ve been sitting in this for a while, and though I am most certainly no expert on the subject, I have tips to get you through this.

Let go of your expectation of normal

Nothing is ever going to be the same. Every schedule you had, every daily thing you took for granted- that’s gone. This is it now. It may get back to somewhat normal, but this will always be lingering in the back of your mind. You will never have a single day in your life that you don’t fear this on some level. It may keep you up at night. I haven’t had a solid night of sleep that didn’t involve outside help since the day cancer came down on us. This is your cancer.

Routine helps, but you’ll always crave the simplicity of the routine you had before.

I was a stay at home mom for 5 glorious years. I cooked 3 meals a day. My house was clean. Clothes were folded and put away fresh out of the dryer. My husband would come in the door from work and knew he was getting a home cooked meal. His job was to provide for us, and I provided for him by keeping house. He never wanted me to work outside of the home and I enjoyed the comfort of knowing I didn’t have to. Anything we wanted or needed was there for us. Q knew she had a mom who was at every school function, every birthday party, everything. When Matt was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer at age 33, our entire lives became about fighting the disease. We leaned on other parents to step in when treatment prevented us from being there for our daughter. Our community fed us for months. I had to learn to let go of the control I had over my household and my traditional role of wife and mother. Still, I craved the routine. I wished so badly that I could just go back to the easy days of Mother’s Day Out and brunch with my friends, leisurely strolls through Target to buy things I didn’t need, and the comfort of knowing that I was taken care of. I’ll never not crave those days.

You will mourn your old life.

It’s ok to be sad that your child cannot finish the school year. It’s ok to want so badly to dress up and go out to a restaurant and eat cheese dip and drink margaritas and make small talk with friends you bump into. It’s ok to miss play dates, birthday parties, and fun times with your friends. Human connection was robbed of us during treatment and we felt like we were being left behind by our core group of friends. The space we held in the lives of others was forever changed by cancer. I mourned that for a long time. This is no different. We all crave human interaction. We all crave community. Cancer families know the pain of this, and now everyone is getting a glimpse of what it’s like to mourn your old life and feel helpless and completely out of control of your new one.

You will fear death.

Before Matt got sick, I never thought about death much. I couldn’t let my mind go there. My biggest fear was protecting my daughter from everything bad in the world, and then the worst possible thing happened- her whole world died right in front of her. Every day felt like a nightmare I couldn’t wake up from. Even when we knew death was coming, I was still afraid. Matt had accepted what was and was ready to go home. His death was not a shock to us because he was home on hospice, but afterwards I became terrified of dying myself and leaving our sweet baby with no parents. The mental and emotional anguish this causes is insurmountable. The feeling of dread is overwhelming. For many of you, this is the first time in your lives you’ve let your mind go there. This thing could take you out. You have to accept the fear and continue living, because so many people do not get the opportunity to do so when illness strikes. No one is immune, just like with cancer. It doesn’t pick and choose.

You will break down life to the basics needed for survival.

Matt and I talked a lot about what we needed to survive while he was battling cancer. We broke it down to the most simple things- a roof over our heads, food, water, oxygen, and each other. Nothing else mattered. Nothing else does matter. When you’re fighting something that feels so overwhelming and all consuming, you have to look at the things that are important and let go of every single other thing weighing you down. Making future plans doesn’t matter. All that matters is today and what you do with it and how you treat people. Don’t let your need to return to normalcy cloud your judgement on that. Tomorrow is promised to no one. We took everything day by day, minute by minute, and in some cases- second by second. Breathing, especially in the end when he was on oxygen, mattered most. As long as he was taking deep breaths and his heart was still beating, we were ok.

Accept what is.

The day he died we knew it was coming. He was tired. His body had fought so hard. If love could’ve saved him, he would still be here. He was so loved. In the end, all we had was love. There was no schedule, no bill due, no job that was more important than that. Knowing that he got to leave this troubled world for perfection in Heaven was a comfort to all of us. When they came to remove his lifeless body from our home, the sky was beautiful. Streaks of orange and light right in front of our house. Nothing I could’ve done was going to change the outcome. I had to accept it for what it was. Down to his very last breath, he was loved. We have accepted that he is no longer here, even though our hearts break every day.

I don’t know how COVID will impact the world we live in longterm. I don’t know if my family members will survive it. I don’t know if I will.

But I have accepted it for what it is- just life. Nothing is promised. No job, no relationship, no expectation of comfort is promised to any of us.

All we can do is love as hard as we can, do the best we can, and continue to breathe when it feels like we’re gasping for air. Make every breath you have count, because we are all just simply passing through this world.

3 comments

  1. My husband died a week ago after a 3 month battle with bladder cancer and 2 years of dementia. I thought I was prepared with the dementia but cancer was the icing on the cake.

    I have walked around in a fog for a week. I know I need to move on and live, but I am struggling.

    Today the sun is out and a light dust of snow, I am going to go outside a take a walk and start to live again just one day at a time.

    Like

    1. Debe I promise you it will come in waves. It will be horrible then let up and you’ll feel like you can breathe for a bit, then it will hit again. It’s all about learning to ride those waves. Nothing you do is the wrong thing. Just take deep breaths and drink water. Someone told me that and it’s so true. Deep breaths. Water. You’ve got this.

      Like

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