An Honest Love Letter … Saint-Onge Style

This is my first attempt at reblogging. Not even quite sure what will happen when I hit “reblogging post.”  I originally wrote this post on September 8, 2015 and I re-read it this morning.  It reminded me that I told Ben that we would be OK. I said “Whatever may come, we will be Ok.” So I need to be Ok.

Mom is a widow

To my Groom,

I am sorry that you are in so much pain.  It truly, physically hurts my heart to watch you suffer.  I wish I could take all that pain away.

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(I bet this is the face you are making right now as you read this)

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “LIAR!  You would not agree to taking all the pain!”  Fine.  You caught me. You’re right.  That was, in fact, a lie … you know me too well.  But I would definitely agree to take half of it.  I would totally take half. Or at least 35%.  But probably half.  Asking me to take it all on would be a little much, don’t you think?  That would just be mean, to want me to take it all.  But I would agree to a solid 50%.

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My Dear Ben … you know I have loved you almost from…

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Sometimes I Smile

I was looking over some of the blog posts of late, and I realized that if one were to be reading or following my blog they may think that I am a big Debbie Downer.  Sarah Sadface.  Wendy Whiner.  You get the picture.  Honestly I’m not.  Not every day.  At least not every minute of every day.  And even when I do feel like a Depressed Darlene I try not to take the world down with me if I can help it.  Maybe just one person each time, and I try to spread it around.

But sometimes I smile.  Like when I see things like this:

                                                            Easter dinner at Mom and Dad’s.

I also smiled when my friends came over to help me put together yet another Ikea product before our weekly “Wine and Greys Anatomy” night.

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And when I watched Jaime play volleyball on Easter Sunday:

(They won the tournament, by the way.)

The kids make me smile:

                                                  (Zak came home for Easter, the Good Boy!)

I do admit that I am more often down than up, but cut me some slack – it’s only been (gulp) two and half months.  Every day that passes takes me one day further away from Ben. When I think too hard about time passing I can’t help but think about Raegan.  She is only fourteen, and in the blink of an eye another fourteen more years will have passed.  She won’t even be 30 years old and she will have been without her Sweet Dad longer than she was with him.  I am so afraid that she won’t remember him.  After all, what do you remember from that age?  I don’t remember very much, but then again, I didn’t lose my beloved Dad at fourteen, thank God.

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Anyway, the point of this post is to reassure people that I’m not a Gloomy Gus every minute of every day.  I still laugh.  I’m sad a lot, but I still laugh occasionally and I smile more then that.  It’s just that I write this blog for myself and I’m generally moved to write when I am feeling particularly down.  It makes me feel better and allows me to think about Ben while still keeping busy so I don’t totally stop breathing.  Because sometimes I think too much or I stumble across things like this, and I just can’t breathe…

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Boy, did he ever love his kids.  He was a GREAT dad.  The best.  Even when he annoyed the Hell out of me (and let’s face it, sometimes he did, and you are all liars if you deny that about your own spouse), he was still the best dad.  Ever.  Period.  And generally a damn fine husband too, for that matter.

Those texts were while he was in the hospital.  Eight days before he died.  He loved fiercely.  He fought hard.  I always feel his hand on my shoulder when I sit in his office chair and type on this blog.  I feel it now.

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When I feel particularly low, I look at things like this and I smile:

How could anyone look at that and not smile?

Hug your families.  XO

Dear Ben … Love, Your Bride

These are the words I spoke at Ben’s service.  I miss him horribly.  I currently waffle between extreme sadness and extreme anger.  I’ll get into the anger part another time. But at this moment I just miss him and my heart aches.  Turns out you really can feel a broken heart.

*****

Often when people are spoken of after they pass away, they are made to sound as though they were a person who lived a perfect life. Ben would not have wanted me to do that. He was way too real for that. He would have wanted me to speak the truth from my heart. So I will. And I’ll just jump right into it.

Ben misled me about what I was getting into when I agreed to be his partner for life. He presented himself as a courageous man, when in fact the reality was that he was petrified of spiders. A spider could live for months in our home because he was not willing to deal with it. I once had to call my kids’ 90 lb nanny to kill a spider because Ben was too scared, and he didn’t even have the decency to be embarrassed about it.

The one time I forced him to take care of a spider, he couldn’t bring himself to squish it so he trapped it in a Tupperware container. And then, while he was on duty, he put it in the back of the marked police car, drove it away from our house and emptied a can of pepper spray on it in the back parking lot of the bank.  (That is a true story.  I swear.)

I was sadly disillusioned that day. But I had recently vowed to love him for better or for worse, so here I still am.

Ben was annoyingly forgetful and easily distracted, which was helpful when I was trying to avoid answering a question about how much money I had spent, but not so much when he was getting ready for work in the morning.

Every work day I would say, “Have a good day at work Ben” and he’d say “Shhh. Don’t talk. I need to concentrate. Have you seen my keys? Do you know where my wallet is? Did you take my badge?” The kids and I would laugh at him and then he would get really mad and yell “Why won’t anyone help me find my stuff?!” It was annoying, but I will miss that banter in the mornings.

Ben had an awesome sense of humour. He kept me laughing from the moment I met him. He told off color jokes that were completely inappropriate but had the kids and I rolling on the floor. I had to continually explain to the kids when they were young that even though Daddy was hilarious, they were never allowed to repeat anything he said or they would be expelled from school. Maybe even arrested.

In the beginning I tried to stop him from saying stuff like that in front of the kids, but eventually I gave up. Now I’m stuck with kids who can’t pose for a picture without finding a way to flip the bird at the last second and ruin my family photo.

Ben was ridiculously stubborn. He was literally unable to force his mouth to form the word “sorry.” He would apologize in his own way, by teasing and trying to make us laugh, and he’d say to the kids “look at your mom …. She sticks her jaw out when she’s mad.” But he’d never actually say sorry. It was not his best trait, but definitely some of the funniest times happened when he was trying to be forgiven without actually asking for forgiveness.

But for each one of those crazy and annoying habits that Ben had, he had an equal number of gentle and caring characteristics.

He was a devoted parent.   He loved his career, but parenting was more important to him. He devoted countless hours taking Zak to karate, or hanging out in the rain at soccer, or driving the girls to volleyball. He took them shopping and to movies, he read to them endlessly when they were young, he played Lego and pulled out little fingers that were stuck in flutes, and he kissed knees when they were scraped. He taught them to drive.

His commitment to all our children during the worst of times a few years back was solid and strong. Where other fathers would have turned their backs, Ben rushed forward with his arms wide open to make our kids feel safe and loved. He was passionate about being a good parent. He knew that there could never be a more important job. He understood the impact that fathers’ actions can have on their kids, and he was determined that his impact would only be positive and loving. He succeeded in doing that in the short time he had.

Ben was a husband who stood above the rest. He was vocal about his disdain for men who aren’t true to their families, or who simply aren’t present. I loved that about him. Ben particularly wanted to be an example to his own son of what a real, stand up husband should be, and to demonstrate for his daughters what they should demand from the men in their lives.

With the exception perhaps of anything to do with spiders, Ben was a brave man. He ran towards danger where others run away, and I know this first hand because we were often each other’s only back up on the Sunshine Coast, back in the days when members worked alone. He never showed fear and he treated everyone with respect, regardless of whether or not they deserved it. I am very proud to share a last name with Ben in our policing world.

Ben was a good friend to many. Despite suffering with unimaginable pain at times, he still found it in himself to be a support to his friend Chris who was also suffering with cancer.

Within the last couple of weeks they had an email exchange where they discussed what appeared to be the looming reality of the situation for both of them, and they decided that if the worst should come to pass they would meet in the gym in Heaven, work out together and then have a drink.

Two days after Ben passed away, Chris also passed away. And I am happy that the two of them are together while they wait for the rest of us to walk each other home.

Outside of work and family, Ben had hobbies and passions that brought him great joy. He was an avid guitar player, and our home was filled with the sounds of his acoustic and electric guitars. He passed on his love of music to our kids, but he particularly enjoyed hearing Raegan pick up her guitar and play, or hearing her play a song on the piano that she had learned just by watching it played on You Tube. In those moments he saw a piece of himself.

Ben had many goals in life, and he liked to write down his goals every New Years Eve. He always said that a goal that is not written down is just a wish. This is the first year ever that we didn’t do our goals on New Years Eve, but if he had, I don’t actually think that his goal would have been as simple as to just survive cancer. I think it would have been to ensure that the kids and I were safe, and cared for, and loved. Surviving cancer would have been a bonus, but ultimately, the kids and I were always his priority. And as Ben and I talked about many times, “one beats cancer by how they live, why they live, and the manner in which they live.” And if that is the standard by which to determine who wins the battle, then Ben came out of this with the blue ribbon.

Zak, Jaime, Raegan … I want you to know that your dad was honest, hard working and reliable. He had integrity and strength of character. He honoured his vows. He was a great leader, because he was gentle and led by example, and never expected of anyone what he wasn’t prepared to offer himself.

Your Dad loved us deeply and fiercely, and he did not want to leave us. He tried so hard, because he didn’t want to miss one moment of what is sure to be your extraordinary lives.

He himself was an extraordinary man, and you can take solace in the fact that he was so loved, just by looking around this room at the people here today. Their hearts are broken, just like ours.

Dad wanted you to know that you should not waste your time worrying, because worrying never bought anyone a moment of extra time. If he was here he would tell you to laugh every day, don’t take yourself too seriously, and above all, to make sure you play a meaningful role in the world.

I promise all three of you that I will be strong. I will not break, so don’t worry. What has happened to us as a family is devastating for now, but don’t allow fear to rule your lives. It is ok to grieve, its good to grieve, but it’s a passage and not a place to stay. And Dad would want you to laugh.

The last 10 months have been indescribably difficult, but in many ways Ben and I also experienced some of the most beautiful moments of our lives. This year was a reminder to us that people are so good. After years of being exposed to the ugly side of humanity through work, we had kindness after kindness thrust upon us. Unexpected gestures of love that moved us deeply, and allowed us to remember that people are good. That’s a blessing for which we were both so grateful.

In addition to the countless number of people who cooked for us, drove our kids around, sat with us through our sadness and enjoyed meals with us on the better days, we also found ourselves surrounded by doctors and nurses who truly cared and went above and beyond what they are paid to do.

We are so grateful to our family and friends working in the medical profession who helped us out time after time, and cared for us in our home, right until the very end. And there are no words to tell my sweet family how grateful Ben was to all of you. Barb – without you, we all would have been standing here months ago. Your hard work gave Ben and I extra time together. Thank you.

And to Andre B, our patient, patient doctor, who is here today. Ben wanted you to know that he was truly, forever grateful for the kindness you showed at the beginning when you had to break the bad news, and at the end when you answered his questions honestly. I’m grateful for all the moments in between where you tolerated me and found time for me that I know you didn’t really have available. I am really forever indebted. You are such an asset to your profession.

It hurts me deeply to have to say goodbye today to one of the greatest men I have ever known. Since I was 22 years old, it has always been Ben. He was always our light in the dark.

Thank you Ben, for choosing me to be the other half of you. I will never forget you. I will deeply miss you forever. I hope you are enjoying that drink with Chris in Heaven.

I love you.

Video taken on January 10th, three days before Ben passed away as we enjoyed the last moments that he was reasonably coherent.  He kept his sense of humour right to the end.  How I miss him.

Know Your Audience and Rough Patches

I’m scared today. A lot has happened over the past 8 months that has scared me and continues to do so, but this is kind of different. I’ve been presented with realities like “you have cancer”, “you have a tumour”, “you have a blood clot that must come out”, etc etc etc… No brainers basically. This is what you have and this is what we have to do to intervene at this point. No major choices to make.

First of all, let me tell you that I had a shitty week. I spent Monday through Wednesday in the Surrey Memorial Hospital emergency ward because of shortness of breath. Some other stuff happened too, I think, but Wendy would remember that better. I felt shitty, to say the least. I may have been getting pneumonia, I’m not sure. They eventually drained almost a litre of fluid from the space between my right lung and rib cage. I felt better after that and was released. That was a long, boring and somewhat traumatic 3 days. It kind of wore me out for a number of reasons. I won’t get into them at this point. I’m tired of complaining about them. Lol.

On Friday I was given a choice to make that can and will affect the rest of my life, however long that may be. Based on the tone and comments made by Dr. H., he was suggesting that I don’t have much time left (that’s where knowing your audience comes into play). He even commented on Wendy’s enthusiasm with respect to my recovery and laughed. It didn’t really sink in until after the appointment. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in the past, but that’s a major peeve of mine when visiting specialists. They make me feel like death is right around the corner and they are here to help me get there in relative comfort. The problem is, I don’t want to die right now, and I was hoping they could help me get through this rough patch until the next one. Clearly we don’t see eye to eye.

Okay, wait a minute. I just got sidetracked. Here we go again…

On Friday I was offered a chordotomy, which involves severing a nerve in the cervical spine to eliminate pain on the right side of my body. It is a permanent procedure. There is no going back. I am apparently a good candidate for the procedure as I am in palliative care and my pain relief threshold through narcotics has been reached. Blah, blah, blah.

The reason I am scared is simple. I want to pull out of this death tailspin and get back to living, but every Doctor I see makes me feel like “this is it. The end of the ride is near and it’s time to get off.”

The chordotomy will remove the sensations for temperature and pain on the right side of my body, from the neck down. That means down my right arm as well. That means it may affect how I play the guitar. As I write this I see how stupid that sounds but it’s still really important to me. I don’t want to be in pain and I hope the procedure works, but it may mean that I won’t be able to feel guitar strings anymore. I’m not sure. The Doctor seems to think that I’ll be fine and should feel them but no one is 100% sure.

Another reason I am scared is because I can’t seem to pull out of this tailspin right now. The mental one and the physical one. I can usually pull out of the mental tailspin pretty fast. I would like to think I am mentally strong but this one is dragging on and on. I see my body melt away in the mirror and I watch the numbers on the scale go down everyday, and I have to admit I feel like my body is failing me. I get focused on that and then I can’t get back on the mental fast track. I’m finding it really hard this time around. Maybe that’s why this chordotomy thing is bugging me so much. I don’t know.

So if anyone out there has some spare mental strength they can throw my way, I would appreciate it. I’m having a really hard time right now. This has been the roughest patch so far.

Fearless, Courage, Strength

I woke up a little misty eyed this morning.  Sometimes the reality of our situation catches me off guard in the quiet of the early morning.  Generally because I tend to spend the latter part of each evening trying to comfort Jaime before she ultimately ends up crawling into bed between Ben and I to sleep closely through the night.  Yes indeed, she is 16 years old.  And yes indeed, it is not a comfortable sleep.  And no, I will not ask her to leave.

In the middle of the night I awoke to find Jaime (fast asleep) and holding onto my hand.  So you can understand why I sometimes have to pause in the mornings to catch my breath and wipe my tears.

I confess that I worry endlessly about our kids.  Each is dealing with the reality of the situation in their own way.  All of them seem “ok”, but then I wonder….

Zak is always smiling, always positive, always willing to lend a hand, help out, sit down at the end of a work day and have a chat with his Dad.  The days of anger and arguing are long gone.  I can barely remember them in the face of this new and wonderful human being we have raised.  That all seems like a bad dream that we have awoken from…only to fall asleep and face another equally horrifying nightmare.  I do wonder how Zak will cope.  I want to rage at the unfairness of it all.  This was supposed to be our time.  Their time, really.  Ben and Zak.  This was supposed to be their time.

Raegan has shut off most of her emotion when it comes to her Dad.  I worry about that too.  I have no idea if it is a good coping mechanism or a bad one.  I wonder what goes through her head each night as she lays down to sleep.  I wonder if she’s too young to grasp the true reality of what is going on.  I feel helpless and I don’t want to keep pressing her to talk, incase that is really not what she needs right now.  Every time I look at her, I flashback to an image of Ben coming into the house after work when she was just one year old, and her sliding down the stairs to greet him so that he could carry her back up.

Jaime is strong and brave every day, but she crumbles every night.  I struggle to find the balance between continuing to parent her properly (“stop being rude.  pick up your clothes. etc”) and allowing her to grieve.  I am scared of how far into grief she may slide.  She cries so easily now.  I hardly ever see her smile.  She is often angry.

We have decided to cancel our trip to Osoyoos.  I have not yet told Raegan, and Jaime is very upset to share the news with her friend Emallee who was coming with us.  Emallee’s dad had a heart attack a few months ago, and she was looking forward to this break.  Its been a rough go for her this year too.  I told Jaime (and will tell Raegan) that we will have a “Stay-cation”.  We will take the money meant for that trip and instead we will find things to do with Ben that we can all enjoy.  Then I threw in the two happiest words in the world…‘clothes shopping.’  I think I saw a brief twinkle in her eye.

Yesterday I went out to lunch with a friend, who presented me with three bracelets.  One for myself, one for Jaime, and one for Raegan.  The timing was impeccable.

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FEARLESS.  COURAGE.  STRENGTH.

This afternoon the Saint-Onge Five meet together for the first time with the Oncologist and the counsellor.  But first we will all enjoy some time together as a family in Vancouver.  We’ll find somewhere nice to share lunch together.  Then we will hold hands and head off to the meeting where we will undoubtedly cry and feel that painful knot that punches us each in the stomach continuously.

But we’ll have each other.  And we will do our best to remain fearless.  And to show courage and strength.

Chemo and Hiccups

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Ben completed his first round of chemo yesterday.  I think the anxiety leading up to it may have been worse then the treatment itself, but then we are only 24 hours post chemo drip so hopefully I am not speaking too soon.

About 15 minutes ago, Ben developed an intense case of the hiccups.  Funny for about 2 minutes only.  A quick google search provided this little bit of info:

“Dexamethasone is likely to play a role in the etiology of hiccups in patients receiving cisplatin-based regimens. Two hundred seventy-seven patients received three doses of ondansetron 8mg intravenously (IV) at 4hour intervals plus dexamethasone 20mg IV from the start of chemotherapy, followed by dexamethasone 5mg IV every 12hours, until chemotherapy was complete. Hiccups were observed in 114 (41.2%) patients, of whom 97.4% were men. Nausea and vomiting showed inverse correlations with hiccups (P < 0.0001 and P = 0.001, respectively). In 73 patients who experienced hiccups but lacked nausea/vomiting (H+N/V-), we discontinued dexamethasone in subsequent cycles. Sixty-six patients (90.4%) ceased hiccuping, but complete protection rates of nausea and vomiting decreased to 63% and 74%, respectively. For patients who experienced both hiccups and nausea/vomiting, the onset of nausea/vomiting usually was delayed to Day 3 or 4 and began after the cessation of hiccups. We conclude that cisplatin-related hiccups are predominant in males, dexamethasone-induced, and associated with protection against nausea/vomiting.”

Well that sucks.  Having the hiccups may be better then vomiting, but they suck nonetheless.  I hope they go away soon so he can sleep, but they show no sign of slowing down.

Over the last couple of days we have had a heart breaking discussion with our GP, followed by the most difficult conversations of our lives with the kids.  They are so strong, and so brave… they take after their Dad.

And that, my friends, is all I have in me to write tonight.

Fear not…

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How did I ever get so lucky as to have this bunch of awesomeness around me?  We have certainly had our fair share of challenges, but really….how many people in this vast world would give anything to have what we do?  A lot, I’d venture to guess.  I think all the past challenges were just prepping us for this one….the one where we get to be the rock for once, instead of leaning on Ben.

While I really don’t like that fact that Ben has to go through this fear, and this treatment, I’ll tell you one thing…..I can stand it. For him, I can do anything.  So bring it on….I will definitely not be defeated.  After all Ben has done for us for half of his life, I can certainly withstand this little test for his sake.  So can the kids, because they are Ben’s kids and he taught them well.

Lean on us, love.  We’ve got this one for you.  You’ve only got one job to do, and that is to heal your body.  The rest is up to us and we will not let you down.

FEAR NOT!

Loving you every minute of every day,

Your bride