My Mother Was Right

The last time I wrote a blog post I was in an anxious and annoyed state over the seemingly endless list of things I thought I could not do without Ben.  At the time, the top of the list of annoyances was the fact that I was headed off to Camp Widow where I would be attending a Saturday night Masquerade Ball and there was no one to zip up my dress.  It sent me into a full blown panic.

Well, one week-ish later and I’m here to tell you that I survived.  Not only did I survive, but I thrived.  Yes, I said it … I thrived.  And I’ll let you in on a secret I have always known on some level but often refused to admit …

My Mother Was Right.

Yup.  I’m writing it in this blog and I’ll never again be able to deny it.  My. Mother. Was. Right.  She told me I wasted too much time worrying and it turns out she knows exactly what she’s talking about.  Zipping up my dress turned out to be a non issue.

I arrived at the San Diego airport and discovered that I am perfectly capable of retrieving my own luggage and finding my way to a hotel without Ben.  Who knew?  (Apparently my mother knew).  I asked a few questions around the airport and made my way right to the area where the ride pick up is, AND …. I used a Lyft.  That’s kind of a big deal considering we do not have Lyft or Uber in BC, and yet still I figured it out.  Imagine that.

I was aware that there was a bit of a gathering at the hotel bar on Thursday evening, and as much as I wanted to hide in my room and stress out in anticipation of the next morning, I didn’t.  I forced myself to go downstairs all by myself and find the bar.

You may be wondering how one finds the rest of the Widows in a strange town, in a packed bar, with no signs pointing out which way to go and no one wearing a black veil.

 

I did the only thing I could do under the circumstances.  I walked over to a group of women and said something to the effect of, “Are you all widows?”  Class act #1 for the weekend.

I guess I now have a radar for widows because it turns out I asked the right people. They were indeed widows and they welcomed me with smiles, and in return I promptly burst into tears.  Class act #2.  There I was, standing at a packed bar and all I could do was cry.  Not because Ben is dead, although that reason is never too far away, but because it was such a relief to realize for certain that I wasn’t alone.  There were so many of us, and every single other person there appeared to be smiling.  By the looks of it, it seemed there may indeed be life after loss.

The next morning I made my way down to registration and the first thing I saw on my way in was this:

An entire wall of loved ones, and mine was front and centre. Ben The Titan.

The second thing I saw that morning was Amanda.  She was standing right behind me in line.  Alone.  So I said “hi” and guess what?  She said “hi” right back.  Imagine that.

A bit later in the morning Amanda and I met up again after attending our seminars of choice, and she walked out with Mary.  So I said “hi” to Mary too, and Mary said “hi” right back.

That evening we all went to dinner and somehow I ended up standing next to Lynessa.  So I said “hi” to Lynessa, and Lynessa said “hi” right back.

And then this happened:

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And that, folks, is how you do it in Widow World.  You say “hi” and they say “hi” and the next thing you know you are dressing up in weird outfits and hanging out together late into the evening.  And then you hook up on FB and spend a lot of time sending ridiculous videos to each other and making plans for how they will pick you up at the airport when you arrive in Vegas in November.

Saturday night was the Masquerade Ball and you may recall that I wrote this paragraph (below) before I went to San Diego, when I did a “dress up practice run” at home:

There was no one to zip me up. I was enraged.  Did you ever watch the Friends episode where someone stole Ross’ sandwich at work and he turned into Red Ross? I turned into Red Wendy.  Maybe Whacko Wendy.  I lost my sanity, upstairs in my bathroom that day.  I went into a frenzy of twisting and turning and trying to reach behind me and push the zipper up, and when that didn’t work I tried to reach down to grab it.  I am not that flexible.  Nothing worked, and I was furious.”

After all that angst would you like to know how it turned out?  You probably think one of my new found friends zipped me up, but you’d be wrong.  I could have asked them and I’m quite sure they would have helped me out, but it turns out that I didn’t need to.  It seems I had discovered my widow comfort zone and I found myself walking up to a complete stranger at the elevator and asking, “Would you mind doing up the clasp on my dress?”  Guess what she said?  “Sure.”  And that’s all it took.  (Also, it turns out that Camp Widow offers a “Zip Up” service, but in my defence I didn’t realize that until after I was back home).

I learned a lot this weekend.  I learned how to support and be supported by strangers who became friends.  I learned how to laugh at some of the crazy things that happen to everyone when their person dies.  (Turns out pretty much everyone has been told “I know exactly how you feel.  My dog died.”  Don’t even get me going on that one … that’s for a whole other post.)  I learned that there are people way, way worse off than me and they are still smiling.  I learned that widows have a dark sense of humour and I am not the only one who thought it was hilarious that the hotel put the signs for a wedding reception and a widows camp right next to each other.

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(I cannot tell you how many widows I overheard saying things like “Should we give the bride a business card?”)

And finally, I learned that My Mother Was Right.  Everything has a way of working itself out just like she always says, and worrying is a big fat waste of time.  It turns out, after all, that I am in fact brave.

So, if anyone out there has experienced a loss and has considered going to Camp Widow in the past but was held back by fear … you should go.  Trust me on this one.  I wouldn’t steer another widow wrong.

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Things I’ve Done Since Ben Died

1) Learned to use a drill.  I found about 45 of them in the garage, because in our younger days (and poorer days) Ben used to build everything for us.  I always told him that if he ever got fired from the Force he could be a carpenter. He was really that good. Once he built my mom and dad a gorgeous oak bar which they still use regularly.

Most of the drills are too heavy to be practical for me to use, but I did find a “girl” drill.  And I learned how to charge the battery on it, courtesy of Zak.  Yesterday I used it to remove a bunch of clips that were holding speaker wire to the wall, AND I figured out how to remove all the wire. Which brings me to number 2

2) I learned how to unhook speakers and pull all the wires out of the wall.

3) I have learned how to be practical and get rid of “things.”  Ben was not sentimental that way. Despite the fact that he kept everything, it was more out of laziness than sentimentality. He always said that “things” are just “things.”  You can’t take them with you when you die.

So I have been selling a lot of stuff. Things that just clutter the house and therefore my mind. And I have given items that Ben loved to people he cared about who will also enjoy them, and will care that they belonged to Ben.

Nancy now carries Ben’s “man purse” around. He liked to call it a “bag” or a “satchel”, but the kids and I always told him to call a spade a spade. It’s a purse. Nancy likes it and uses it for work, just like Ben did.

Jeremy rides the stationary bike that Ben spent hours riding. Well, I think right now Jeremy is just circling it from a distance, but he will ride it soon I’m sure.

Jeff has Ben’s challenge coin. I put it in a frame with two pictures of them and photographs of the very humorous text conversation they had when Ben first got sick. It hangs in his office at work.

Zak wears Ben’s watch.  Raegan wears Ben’s sweat pants. (Yes, you read that right. Little Raegan walks around in Ben’s sweats constantly).   Zak also has adopted Ben’s electronics because he’s the only one who appreciates them.  Jaime has a framed picture of the notes she and Ben wrote each other.

Peter has a guitar that Ben left especially for him. Ben tried twice over the last year to tell Peter how much it meant to him that Peter had quite literally saved Zak’s life. Both times Ben tried to tell Peter, he (Ben) became too emotional, so he asked me to give Peter a particular guitar and tell Peter how he felt. I hope I was able to adequately pass on Ben’s message .

The list goes on, but the point is that other then the particularly sentimental items, the rest is just “stuff.”  And “stuff” is just clutter which creates chaos of the mind. So goodbye clutter.

4) I have become more patient and understanding. That probably stems from the entire last year and not just since Ben died.

5). I have paid bills. I’m working on the budget.

6). I have slightly chilled out regarding my hypochondria. Mostly because, to be honest, I tend to think about two things when I’m worried about my health.  The first is that I miss Ben so much and I really want to see him again.  Don’t freak out – I don’t say that in an “I want to die” sort of way. I don’t. That’s not what I mean. I just miss him so much and I know he’ll be waiting for me when the time comes.  So therefore there is less point in freaking out about little aches and pains.  The second thing I think of is that nothing I can ever go through will be as bad and painful as what Ben endured. Not physically, anyway. So I will just try to take whatever comes as it comes.

7).  I made the decision to install central air conditioning.  I got estimates and made the decision myself.  And I got a new hot water tank.  That is not something I ever would have done before without deferring to Ben.  I do wish I had insisted on the a/c last year so Ben could have had some relief from the heat.

In the meantime, I continue to be blessed with the best of family, friends and neighbors. Yesterday I received an unexpected knock on the door and found Jim there with a bunch of tools.  He fixed an outlet cover that Ben left undone for about 4 years, and hung new numbers on my house.



Thank you, Jim.  And thank you for remembering without me asking.  Thank you.

While Jim was hanging the house numbers, my neighbor (who moved in last summer and whom I have only met once) came over and spontaneously mowed my lawn.


In addition to those things, another neighbor has limed my lawn and taken care of other things around the exterior of my house, while on breaks from his own chemo sessions. Yes, you read that correctly. He endures his own health nightmare and still tries to help me out.

I miss Ben, but we are blessed and I’ve discovered that I can actually get a few things done for myself.

Time Marches On

I believe it has been a full ten days since I wrote on this blog.  Probably eleven days by the time I finish writing and hit “post.”  March has been a challenging month for a few reasons.  One being that my Beloved turned 47 years old on March 13.  47 years young. And he’s gone.  Our whole future was ahead of us – everything we planned for and worked for. But he is gone and will never get to enjoy the fruits of all his labour.  I will never get to enjoy everything we planned for, together  with him.  I call bullshit on that crappy hand we were dealt.

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March 13th also marked exactly two full months since I have seen the love of my life, or spoken with him, or held his hand, or curled up next to him.  Two full months since he struggled to tell us one last time that he loved us.  Two full months since he breathed his first breath in Heaven.  I miss him desperately.  I talk to him daily.  He remains the first person I want to tell everything to, and I open my mouth or reach for my phone for a brief moment every single day, only to remember that he is gone.

Every year it is tradition in our home to have a birthday dinner of steak, potatoes and Ben’s infamous Caesar Salad.  Our family always joins us and we raise a glass to whomever is celebrating. This year we continued the tradition as best as we could.

Here was the cook of the evening with his doting grandparents:

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Mr. Saint-Onge Junior produced a caesar salad that (with a little practice) may indeed eventually rival that of his Dad’s. Thank goodness Ben left us the recipe.  We will never give it away, so don’t bother asking.

We enjoyed our meal as best as we could without the Man of Honour being physically present, and we uncorked a bottle of champagne and toasted Our Beloved Ben.

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After dinner the front door opened and our house filled quickly with our nearest and dearest.  I felt like I was wrapped in love.  Here is a glimpse into what happened next:

And then naturally we had to take one of these ….

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Look at the picture carefully.  Thats a big FUCK YOU, cancer.  With a small ‘c’, naturally.

Here’s one final shot of the evening.  This is a lot of love for Ben, and by extension, for me. Thank you, everyone. You were here for us before Ben got sick and you stayed with us during the worst time of our lives when we needed you most.  You cared enough to ask questions, to know what was happening, and to be there for us all …. especially the kids. You remain by our sides now and continue to walk with the kids and I through the dark. I believe the time will come that we will feel the sun again.  I am truly grateful.  (Nancy and Jeremy … I am sorry for cutting you out of the picture but I couldn’t find a small enough emoji to just block out your faces.  But I include you in the love.)

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Happy 47th birthday, Ben.  How I wish you were here to raise your glass and eat some gluten free cake.  I miss you more then I have words to describe.

It was odd to not have been running around trying to find the perfect gift for Ben’s big day. I really found that hard, but in the end, Ben ended up giving  ME a gift that day.  Here’s how that story played out:

Over the last month or so I have been trying to sell Ben’s truck.  It broke my heart because he loved the truck and he had waited so long to own one.  He told me that the truck was the only place he could sit where he wasn’t in pain.  He loved that truck so much, that on the night Dr B came to visit us at home, Ben asked him, “Am I going to die?”  Dr B said, “Yes Ben, you are going to die.”  After taking a moment to absorb the horror of that statement, Ben’s next words were, “Can I still drive my truck?”  If the moment hadn’t been so indescribably painful and utterly beyond horrible, it would have been comical.  He just loved that damn truck so much.

Anyway, I was very torn up trying to decide what to do but ultimately it just wasn’t practical to keep it. So I listed the truck for sale and waited, and waited, and waited.  I had a few bites but nothing really panned out and I was quite frustrated.  I had one solid lead for a sale but in order for it to go through I was going to have to sell the truck for less then it was worth and I knew Ben would not have been happy with that.  Still, the last two months have just been so difficult that I wanted to get one more thing off my plate, so I was reluctantly set to accept the lower price just so I could be done.  I silently apologized to Ben for not holding out for a price that would have made him happy.

At the end of the evening of Ben’s birthday celebration as everyone was leaving, I received an unexpected text from a fellow who had seen the ad for the truck.  Ironically, his name was Jeff.  (For those of you who haven’t paid attention – shame on you – Ben’s best friend’s name is Jeff.  So that was a nice coincidence.)  Anyway,  Jeff The Stranger contacted me right on Ben’s birthday to say that he had seen the ad and wanted to know if he could come by the following evening to look at the truck.  I agreed, and so I held off on contacting the buyer who had offered to purchase it for a bit less than I wanted to sell it for.

To make a long story short, Ben sent me a lovely gift right on his birthday in the form of a buyer named Jeff who drove a very hard bargain …. he offered me $2,000 more than we had paid for the truck.   More than a coincidence, I would say.  Thank you, Ben.  Always looking out for me as usual.  You are the best husband.IMG_4942

It was a bittersweet moment when the truck was driven away.  But having a buyer named Jeff contact me right on Ben’s birthday and ultimately pay me a sweet price for the truck is surely Ben’s way of saying “Its OK.”  I sure hope so.  I will miss that piece of Ben.  Jeff The Stranger promised me he will take good care of it.

Three other blog worthy things have happened this month.  The first was that Ben’s sweet baby girl decided to chop off her hair and donate it to help make wigs for kids fighting cancer (with a small ‘c’).

How awesome is she?

The second blog worthy thing to happen was that Ben’s main man Zak took off for Powell River to work for a few weeks while he awaits the start of his full time job in April that will carry him through until school starts in September.  He is off earning his keep, and I miss that boy a lot.

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Ben would be so proud and happy to see us together like that, with smiles on our faces. Despite how difficult the last year has been, there has been a lot of joy and positivity. The young man who is smiling in the picture above with his Mama is one of those positive things.

The third thing that happened is that the girls and I went to Edmonton for a few days so I could surround myself with the love of Beth and a lot of retail therapy.  Beth and I (along with our four girls) spent seven hours immersed in shopping, with a brief break for a fruit salad that looked like this:

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Over the course of the weekend we also took in a rodeo (yee haw) and paid a visit out to the barn to visit their horse. (Smelly place.  I touched nothing.)

While we were walking into the rodeo I couldn’t help but notice a long wall of plaques with the bronzed faces of various “important” people, but only one of them jumped out at me and made me stop and point it out to the girls.

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You’d think Mr Hole would have considered changing his name.  Ben would have busted a gut if he had seen that.

That’s Jaime riding Miss K, with Kalyn alongside. On the right is Raegan, Jordan and Jaime.

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                                                                A random pic of Rae and I.

It was a good trip.  We rode a roller coaster that almost made me wet myself.  I spent far too much money.  Beth and I laughed a lot during the day and cried together at night while watching video clips of Ben.

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Being with her healed my soul a tiny bit.  I still have quite a way to go.

 

Welcome, 2016

Christmas has come and gone.  It was peaceful and we enjoyed a lot of love.

Christmas Eve brought the traditional reading of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ which has been read to the kids by Ben every year since Zach was a baby ….

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Christmas morning brought the most special of gifts.  Ben had a photo book made for each of the kids, which contained only photos of him with each of them and a special inscription.  In turn, the kids created a frame for Ben with photos and letters from them to him …

Christmas day was spent with family and the best of friends ….

Our chosen family, Nancy and Jeremy, graciously opened their house to us so that all of us could fit and enjoy dinner together with my family and Ben’s.  We will be forever grateful for that because dinner wouldn’t have been possible without their generosity.

Since cousins from both sides (back east and local) were around this year, we were able to do these before and after shots:

And then there was these Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning before and after shots:

Post-Christmas brought a visit from Cal that we both thoroughly enjoyed. Cal is the other half of the beautiful Whitney that you have seen in previous posts, who took care of Ben during some of his radiation treatments:

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And so now we have just rung in the New Year.  Welcome, 2016! Unfortunately, My Beloved was tossing his cookies as the clock struck midnight, so I won’t be posting any pictures of him this eve.  But we did get to spend the majority of the evening all together as a family, because I have wonderful kids who all opted to bring their friends over and stay home this New Years Eve:

And since there are no pics of Ben this New Years Eve, I will share with you this throw back of my sweetheart:

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Thats him on the left.  1986-ish. I love his smile.

Have a wonderful New Year.  I hope that everyone reading this enjoys a year of peace, happiness and good health for themselves and those they love.

I’m off to drive the boys home.  Hug your families.

Wendy xoxo

POG Results and Friends

Once again, there is always some good with the not-so-good.  Radiation has been tough on Ben but it seems like he may have made it over the hump where the pain may just be starting to ease off and the radiation having some positive effect.  He continues to be treated right through this week and into next week.  Ten treatments in total.  On a few of the days, our dear friend Whitney was working in Radiation so she administered Ben’s pain medication and helped him through.  Thank you, Whitney.

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On another positive note, this guy came to town to spend a few days with Ben:

 

That is Jeff.  (Yes, he is hidden behind the emoticons so that his face isn’t out there for all to see.  I chose the most suitable emoticons.  lol)  All the way down from the Great White North.  I was feeling generous and gave him some leftover juice.  He was super excited. Hahaha

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Although I know he loved the juice (haha), I think he was a bit happier that we were able to hit up the Noodle Box while he was here.  He says that was the real reason he came to town, but I don’t believe him….

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Yesterday we met with Dr K.  As usual we brought along an entourage …

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Without beating around the bush,  the bottom line is that the POG trial unfortunately did not yield any useful results for Ben. That is obviously extremely disappointing and we had a good cry over that, but it is important not to lose hope and it is time to re focus.  We are now in the process of trying to get Ben into a trial in Toronto or get him access to a drug here called Nivolumab.   Nivolumab is a newish drug and it is a PD-1 inhibitor.  A recent study showed that 100% of collecting duct tumours express PD-1 and according to the oncologist, the drug is associated with an excellent chance of response.

The issue with Nivolumab is that it is currently only covered for malignant melanoma, and it is not yet covered for Collecting Duct Carcinoma. Apparently it costs somewhere in the area of $200K / year.  US Dollars.  Ouch.  Having said that, the first step will be to just get ahold of it and try it for a couple of months to see if it does anything, and then worry about the rest later. The emails have been flying this morning and many attempts are being made to get this drug covered for Ben.

The upside of being enrolled in the Toronto trial as opposed to taking the Nivolumab would be that the drugs in that trial would be covered, although we would have incur the costs of flights / accommodation etc.  I don’t know what that will look like yet so I won’t speculate.

We will take whichever option comes first.  I don’t have enough information about the drugs being used in the Toronto trial, so I can’t really speak to why they would be good.  (I was told, but I can’t remember).  I do know that it was clear that we need to just take whatever comes first.

And so we wait….

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Hug your families.  xo