How A Day Can Turn On A Dime

I finished that last post, and then wandered half heartedly around my back yard thinking about whether or not I had the energy to water my plants.  (I’m trying to grow vegetables this year.)  I decided I didn’t have the energy but had better do it anyway or I will go broke paying Save On prices for organics.

Anyway, when I finished that I walked out the front door to go pick up Raegan, and discovered this sitting on my front step:

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A random gift presumably left to cheer me up.  I have no idea who dropped it off, but THANK YOU.  You brought a smile to my face on an otherwise semi-dreary day.

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OK … that does look slightly like a grimace of sorts, but I’m a bit out of practice.  I do love that I caught the photo of Ben and I from Christmas in the background though.  Now that was a smile!

I picked Raegan up from volleyball and then stopped to get the mail.  I found this:

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Sniff.  Forty people donated to the POG program in Ben’s name.  The program which Dr K referred to as “the future of oncology.”  And here just a couple of hours ago I admitted to having cancelled my automatic donations each month.  Well, didn’t you all just show me! Forty people!  And there were also a lot of donations made to The Last Door in Ben’s name also.  They sent me a list.  There were a few names I didn’t even recognize.  A true testament to how much My Man was loved.  Even in death he continues to make a difference.

I am humbled.  Because he was so loved, I feel loved, which makes me feel warm and fuzzy.  A pleasant alternative to the feelings from the last few days.

Thank you to the random person who left me flowers, and to all the people who found ways to make a difference in people’s lives and remember Ben at the same time.

Last thing … does everyone recall this tattoo on My Man?

Those are fuzzy pictures taken when the tattoo was pretty fresh, hence all the redness surrounding the shadowing.  Anyway, this is how our beautiful son arrived home tonight:

That’s right … a copy of Ben’s tattoo now sits forever on his son’s arm.  Done by the same artist.

Here they are side by side:

                                          Ben                                                              Zak

Ben would be so proud to share the same tattoo with this boy!  Now I will go to sleep smiling.  How a day can turn on a dime.  xo

 

Am I Supposed To Care?

Warning:  This is not a fun post to read.  You may wish to consider not reading it.

When you watch your husband waste away before your eyes over the span of a mere nine months, does anything really matter anymore?  I’m not talking about the big things, like the kids (or new floors. Duh. That’s a no brainer), but things like, well, work. 

With the exception of a few brief periods of time over the last 23 years I have always cared about work. I am good at my job and I have always worked hard. Regardless of whether I was on the road or working in administration, I have always cared about doing a good job. I have always felt like I was making a reasonably valuable contribution to society at work, and even in my private life I have always cared about helping others. But now I find myself having a hard time finding the heart to care about who gets which course, or whether or not this person or that person responds to my email on time in order to take advantage of opportunities they are being offered. It just seems so damn insignificant.  

I know that’s horrible (and needless to say I feel incredibly guilty about it) because it is actually my job to help people get the courses they need to advance their careers.  But right now I just kinda sorta don’t care.  Isn’t it enough to just get up and out of bed each morning?

I have no energy left. None.  Nada.  Zilch.  When you watch the person you love most in the world suffer so terribly and then just fade away without a moment of peace in months, nothing else seems important.  What could possibly come even close to comparing to that?

Ben’s body was about 150 years old by the time he died. His feet were so swollen it looked like he was walking on two stumps. He had to crawl upstairs. For weeks before he died, every time he closed his eyes he stopped breathing and I sat beside him wondering “is this it?” and often counted all the way to 30 before he gasped for air. When that first started I would shake him to get him to take a breath. Eventually I wondered if I was prolonging his suffering, and I stopped shaking him. I had to just sit and watch helplessly, and wait, and hope. I wasn’t hoping for him to breathe, I was hoping for his suffering to end. He cried and told me that he just wanted to go to sleep and not wake up. He was scared of not being able to breathe, and yet in the end he thought he was drowning. He panicked and begged me to open the blinds so he could ground himself by being able to see that he wasn’t under water. At the very end he called out desperately for me and didn’t even know I was right in front of him. He tried to take off his clothes in front of his his colleagues and friends, and didn’t have a clue what he was doing. 

I watched him cry out in pain behind closed doors, and I watched him stop crying instantly when the kids walked in so that they weren’t aware. In the days when he could still get himself up to bed I would often wake to find him rubbing my arm and staring at me, and I would hug him and wonder how long he had just sat there in utter mental anguish wondering what would become of his family without him. He told me he knew that we needed him. That he couldn’t die. 

I watched him go from The Titan to a mere shell. I watched him suffer the humiliation of losing bowel control and standing patiently like a child while I cleaned him up and showered him. I watched our little girls glove up and wash the entire bathroom after him.  (No child should have to have that memory.)  I watched our children as the doctor told them that their Dad had about three weeks to live. (She nailed it almost to the day). 

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This was one of the rare moments around Christmas when Ben could not conceal his pain from Jaime, and she just leaned in and held him.

A few days ago I asked my doctor if Ben had suffered at the end, when he could no longer hold a conversation but was still calling out for me and trying to “escape” something that none of us could see.  He answered “Yes.  If you think you’re drowning, you’re drowning.”  (and before you get all judgey on my awesome doctor for telling me something so painful, please remember that few people are able to deny me the truth when I demand it.  If I didn’t want to know the truth I wouldn’t have asked.  He knows that.)

I watched Ben work for his entire adult life to provide for us and our future, and now he can’t even reap the benefits.  He will never see graduations, weddings, grandchildren, Iceland, retirement parties or another birthday or anniversary. He won’t be with us in Hawaii this summer.  He won’t listen to “The Fighter And The Kid.”  He won’t go to another concert and he won’t play his guitars again.  I am consumed with guilt for having all these things that he worked so hard for. 

I keep receiving cheques in the mail, and often I don’t even know what they’re for. Three of them remain uncashed.  I believe they are the last ones, and I am overcome with guilt at the thought of cashing them because I feel like HE worked for that money (or died for that money) and now I “get” to spend it.  Sometimes I want to burn them, although I know Ben would lose his mind over doing something like that.  I know he wanted us taken care of.

Raegan overheard me talking to Zak about the remaining cheques and she came over to me and suggested (in all her innocence) that maybe I should just donate it all to the Cancer Society.  That it might make me feel better. She actually said that it might make me feel better.  Sweet girl.  I wanted to say “Dad and I donated money every single month to the Canadian Cancer Society since we were about 25 years old, even when we couldn’t afford it, and it didn’t do shit.”  Childish, I know. (I didn’t say it, by the way.  I hugged her instead). In a fit of anger shortly after Ben died I cancelled our auto donation. As though that would punish someone for not saving Ben’s life.  How terrible am I?  The only ones it punishes are those with this shitty disease.  Clearly I am not rational right now.

My point is this:  nothing matters anymore. How can I be expected to care?  What could really compare to the importance of all that we went through, that we continue to go through, and all that Ben suffered emotionally and physically?  

So I don’t care who gets what course, I don’t care if I have to change offices, I don’t care about what process is supposed to be followed in order to move my own specially ordered desk two doors down, I don’t care who is not getting along with whom, who wants holidays when, whether or not transportation is covered, or that I’m overdue getting my medical exams completed for work. (What good did it do Ben to have all his medical tests done on time every three years?). I. Don’t. Care. 

That’s a shitty attitude and is definitely not conducive to doing a good job. I know this. But I ask you… if you lived through what I lived through and still had to deal with the fallout, which I do every single day, would YOU care about that stuff?  Would those things really be important to you?  If your answer is ‘yes’ then you are a better person than I.  Right now they all just seem small and insignificant, although that way of thinking may land me right out of a job if I don’t watch it.  I know this, but I can’t help it.  I barely have enough energy to get out of bed each day and try to put on a happy face for my kids.  How can I care about everyone else?

Do you want to know what I actually care about on this particular day, at this particular time?  Today I care about the fact that Jaime has been tentatively diagnosed with gall bladder disease and may have to undergo surgery. I also care about the fact that Zak had a little melt down and accused me of not letting him take over some things around here and be of help.  I realized in that moment last night that my attempts at sheltering him are just making him feel like I don’t have confidence in him.  Nothing could be further from the truth, but that is how he feels, and much like Ben believing he was drowning, if it feels real then it is.  I also care about the fact that Raegan constantly texts me from school with her current exam marks – not because she is so proud of herself (although she is, and deservedly so) but more likely because she doesn’t want me to have to worry about her. She is now apparently raising me instead of the other way around.

So pardon me, but I don’t give a shit about the rules surrounding the movement of desks and key boxes. 

I have watched others return to work from horrible losses and they appear to move on just fine. They must be stronger than me. Perhaps I am just weak. But I was not able to save Ben’s life and I was not able to save my family from this agony, and now it just feels wrong to move on. It feels wrong to be happy.  And it literally feels impossible to care. 

On this day last year My Beloved wrote this (< click there). Today he is dead.  I care about that.  That’s pretty much all I have room for.

Thinking Out Loud – Part Deux

Some days it’s just hard to get out and find ways to fill up all the empty space in order to crowd out the loneliness.  It is still a rare occurance for me to have a day that is not filled up with all sorts of “must do’s”, but today happened to be one of those rare, empty days.

I erringly assumed that without a slew of appointments scheduled I would be able to stay calm and relaxed and enjoy some quiet time.  I went for a mani / pedi, but surprisingly that did not fill the void.  There was a time in the not so distant past when a good mani / pedi had me on a high for a solid three days.  Four, if I followed it up with a glass of wine, and five if I went with a good friend.  Sadly, not so anymore.

I wonder if I will be searching forever for ways to fill the void?

I came home and did some half hearted puttering in the garden, but that didn’t do it either.  I went for a haircut but spent most of the appointment trying to stifle a panic attack so that I didn’t look like a complete crazy woman in front of a hairdresser I have never met before.

Truth be told, part way through the appointment I was eyeing up the clippers and contemplating pulling a Britney Spears, circa 2007.

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I came home from the hairdresser and found my office floor finished, minus the baseboards …

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… but even the new floors didn’t make it better.

I poured a bath so that I could hide and spend some alone time with my anxiety without scaring Raegan, who seems to have taken over the mothering roll in this house.  (I’m guessing my shrink would not think that was cool.)  I thought that perhaps a good cry in the tub might solve the problem, but the tears, much like my sanity, were also not to be found. WTF.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up and remember that 365 days earlier I woke up on a sunny April 26th and wrote Thinking Out Loud – Part One.  I distinctly remember thinking that Ben was going to die. And soon. That I was never going to see seventy years old with him.  But at that particular moment I still had him.  Blink.  He’s gone.  I’m jealous of me from one year ago.

I have to work in the morning, and I do not want to go.  How do I possibly explain that it is the anniversary of the day I woke up with Ben’s arm stretched out towards me, and how it is the anniversary of the day I snuggled right in?

I do not want to get out of bed tomorrow.  Maybe not the next day either.

I’m sick of “life goes on.”  Because Ben’s does not, does it?

Happy Birthday(ish) To My Blog

Hard to believe that one year plus one day has passed since we started this blog.  This day last year we were at Dr A’s office, getting our hearts broken.  This is what it looked like just before we met with him:

Yes, you are indeed “the shit”!  And PS … I really did not like that red hoodie.

After that appointment Ben wrote a blog post.  (Click here to read).  I did not anticipate that one year later I would actually be wishing I could have that shitty day back again.  How I wish I could.

This is what I wrote on that day.  (click here)  I had big dreams of going to Greece with Ben. Or Iceland.  Deep down I knew that was not to be.  I wish I had been wrong.

Still, time marches on and not everything is constantly doom and gloom.  There are a few bright moments each day, and recently one of them was Jaime’s 17th birthday.  I was worried about it as it approached, because it was her first birthday without her beloved Daddy, but her pain was eased a bit with the purchase of a car.  My pain was eased a bit as I revelled in her joy and her hugs.  It was a slightly bittersweet moment, as Ben and I were never the parents who intended on purchasing vehicles for our kids, but times have changed and without Ben to help chauffeur it has become a necessity.

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We celebrated Jaime’s 17th birthday with a great family dinner at Mom and Dad’s with all the kids along with Auntie Nancy and Jeremy.

So you see, there are some good times.

The other day I received an unexpected and random email from a woman I have never met. She lost her soul mate in an accident last year, and she wanted to let me know I’m not alone.  Thank you, Kathy.  I was so moved that you took the time to contact me.  You are not alone on this path either, and I now think about you constantly.  I am deeply sorry for your loss.

Another bright moment in my life right now is seeing all our ugly flooring ripped out and replaced with hardwood.  It is a pain in the butt living in this mess …

… but hopefully the end result will be worth it.

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The floors are my replacement for Ben’s pick up truck.  I’m not so sure that Ben would think it is a reasonable trade, but since he’s not here to argue the point it appears I win. He would have loved the floors, but if a choice had to be made between the two (which it did at the time) I do have to admit he would have chosen the truck.

I miss Ben every minute.  I feel stranded right now so I try not to constantly submit to the agony of the memories of the last year because they are too painful.  If you remotely think that you have an idea of what we all went through, you don’t.  That statement sounds a bit bitchy and it’s not intended that way, but rather I just mean that even though many of you saw first hand what he and we endured, you still don’t know.  It was intolerable. Unbearable.  Absolutely horrific.  Worse than the worst thing I have ever seen or handled in 23 years of policing.  Inhumane.

So I try to keep the memories locked in a compartment right now and just let them out to breathe in brief moments.  At times I feel horrible when I lock them away and spend time laughing, but if I didn’t I think I would just die.

When I want to have a moment with him, I play a song and allow myself to surrender to the sadness until the music ends.  Today was a double header.

I miss you Ben.  You are wildly loved and never, ever forgotten.

 

I Did Not Anticipate The Extent Of The Loneliness

I love gardening, but my motivation to get out there seems to have vanished.

Ben was not interested in gardening, so I did all the yard work.  We had a unique division of labor in our house, but it worked for us.  I have always loved getting out there and cleaning things up, planting flowers and mowing the lawn, and then sitting down and admiring the beauty of it.  Ben only enjoyed it when I was finished and we could sit outside and just talk as the sun went down.

Now I just find it lonely, because at the end of the day when I am finished there is no one to enjoy it with.  What’s the point of putting in all the work if I can’t show Ben when I’m done?

This is how we enjoyed the deck last year:

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Now when I go outside, all I see is this:

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Empty.  And dirty, I might add.  I’m not that motivated to clean it up when I know Ben won’t be sitting there.  And, side note, I don’t find those chairs very comfortable.  We spontaneously bought them for Ben last year because he liked them, and how does one say “no” to a person who has been freshly told they are dying. Right?  But I still think he has some nerve to leave me with uncomfortable chairs.

This time last year we were muddling through Ben’s recent diagnosis but I continued to do the yard work and all the pruning because, despite the fact that Ben was sick, he was still there to appreciate the work and to enjoy it when it was done.  He was still poking his head outside while I worked, and asking “what would you like for dinner when you’re done?” and sometimes just sitting on the deck while I worked.  Now there is no one I can call out to when I am filthy and want a glass of water, or when I just want someone to come admire my progress (of which there has been none to date.)  Today as I looked up at this crazy “half tree / half bush” in the yard that has to be violently pruned back every spring I wondered, “Who’s going to hold the ladder for me?”  That’s a lonely thought.

Last year I admired an azalea bush while I was out with a friend, and the next day I found it sitting on my doorstep.  I planted it in my front garden …

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… and the other day I hung this above it:

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It’s not just the fact that he’s not here to keep me company while I garden, or at least to admire it with me when I’m done that I find lonely.  Its everything.  He is still the first person I want to tell when anything happens.  A hundred times a day I think, “I have to remember to tell Ben that” or “I have to ask Ben how to do that” or, more frequently, “I have to ask Ben to fix this because I screwed it up.”  Its very lonely when I remember that I will never tell him anything again.

The other day the kids, my parents and I attended a presentation for Ben at Headquarters. The person making the presentation was someone that Ben and I had talked about in the past.  We had seen his name on several email updates about Ben, and we had tried to figure out how Ben knew him.  Ben couldn’t remember.  During the presentation a light went on in my head and I connected the dots.  I thought to myself, “Ah … after this is over I will have to explain that to Ben.”  Then I remembered that I will never get to explain it to Ben.  He never gets to find out the answer to his question.

Lonely.

This is what “Ben” was presented with.  I’ll take a better picture when it hung on the wall. It is a certificate recognizing Ben’s service in the Force with his Regimental number on it and signed by the Commanding Officer of ‘E’ Division. I was very touched.

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The other night I was fast asleep and I heard Ben say “Hello”.  Not just “hello”, but more like, “Hellllloooooo.”  I actually woke up and sat straight up in bed and said “Hello?”  And then I looked around and said, “Hello?” again.  I really thought he was there.  It was funny for a moment.  Then it wasn’t.

Here was a bittersweet moment this week:

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Our “little” girl got her “N”.  This time last year she had just gotten her “L”….

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… and Ben wrote about it here.  Now she is a fully licensed driver, and today we were working on getting her a car.  Without her Dad.  He really wanted to be there for this.  I can’t believe he has to miss it.

Lonely.

In two days Jaime celebrates her 17th birthday.  The first without her Dad.  How will we ever get through?

I miss you Ben.  I tried to prepare, and I knew for the last year that it was going to hurt a lot.  But it turns out I did not adequately anticipate the extent of the pain and loneliness. I guess I didn’t think it was possible to hurt this much.

 

The Happy “This Time Last Year” Memories are Officially Over

Its happened.  At 5:20 pm tonight I crossed that dreaded line where all my happy memories of “this time last year” now officially involve cancer.  With a small “c”.

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At 5:20 pm on April 10th, 2015, Ben told me he had cancer.  One year ago today.  365 days. I can still hear his voice as he spoke the words.  It haunts me.  I can hear the fear in his voice as though I’m hearing it again right now while I type these words.  “Where?”  I asked.  “In my kidney and in my bones.” He cried, and I knew right then that there was to be no happy ending.

Yes, over the next few weeks we briefly had a slight reprieve where we were told the cancer was on the bone instead of in it, and I allowed myself to think that it might be possible to at least buy him some years of treatment.  Maybe in that time a cure might be found.  But in short order we learned that the bone scan was wrong and the cancer was in fact in the bone.  And everywhere else.  And spreading rapidly.

How we cried the day we heard that.  I have to actually shut that memory down because it hurts too much to handle right now.

Just when we thought things could not get any worse, July 14th rolled around and that day we discovered that Ben did not have kidney cancer, per se.  He had collecting duct carcinoma.  A rare and incurable cancer without even the teeniest, weeniest chance of survival. Nada. Nothing.  Not a damn hope.  No one knows why it happens.  “Just bad luck” we were told. There is literally no rhyme or reason for it and there is no known effective treatment. It is so rare, that if there is one thing you do not have to worry about in life it would be getting this type of cancer.  You have a better chance of winning the lottery.

When we first heard the words “collecting duct carcinoma,” Ben left the room to be sick and I asked “How long?”  The resident oncologist looked at me and said, “One month? Three months?”  I never could write that in this blog before now because I never told Ben about that conversation.  But thats what happened.  One to three months.  That oncologist did not know The Titan very well, because Ben went on to fight for another six months minus one day.  And every single moment of every single day I lived in fear.  To amuse myself and take my mind off the horror I often thought, “this day last year we were …. (insert happy memory here).”

Anyway, now I have crossed the line where every memory of the past year is now surrounded by cancer crap.  I have dreaded this day for months and here it is.  Bam.

I miss you so much Ben.  I want to see you and talk to you again.  I texted your number the other day, just to see what would happen.  You didn’t respond.

 

This Time Last Year

At this exact moment last year, I was likely getting ready for bed.  Nothing unusual happened that day, except for the fact that Ben had gone to visit Dr B to find out the results of his recent MRI which he had due to his chronic back pain.  Of course it had something to do with his previous back injury.  Duh.  The only question was whether or not it required surgery.

I was at work when Ben went to see Dr. B.  I was anxiously waiting to find out whether he needed surgery, and I sent him several texts to find out what Dr. B had to say.  I was praying he didn’t need surgery.

“No surgery” was Ben’s reply to my text.  Yay!!!  I was happy and relieved, and didn’t really think much of it when I got home and noticed that Ben was on the quiet side.  I do know that I was annoyed that he hadn’t unloaded the dishwasher.

How I wish he had needed back surgery to repair a disc.  Instead, this was what happened … (click on D Day)

https://wendylynnesaintonge.wordpress.com/2015/04/21/d-day/

I should have prayed for back surgery.

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