A man who lost his wife due to cancer explains how it changed the trajectory of his family’s lives. He writes, “The question will still weigh on me at times, often in a religious or philosophical sense – was this the plan all along?”
How do we get to where we are and what necessities of life did we have to experience to get us here? My wife has been gone for over 13 years now. She was diagnosed with melanoma in 2004 and suffered surgeries and treatments. She joined the clinical trial for Yervoy (ipilimumab). However, she subsequently passed in 2008. My son was 22 and well on his journey into adulthood. My daughter was only 12, so her main influence would now be me, her father. She struggled at times but worked hard. She is now 25 and working as an M.A. and continuing school in the field of psychology.
My wife and I were very different people. She sewed, did crafts and prided herself with her home making skills – a homebody at heart. She was the one in charge of raising the children and reveled in it. I was content as a baker in a bread plant. Making a good living, working any available overtime and having seniority with vacation time was my priority. I am an avid reader, especially science fiction and fantasy. I’m also a fan of live performances such as bands and plays.
After her mother’s passing, I became much more involved in my daughter’s upbringing and cut back my hours at work. We regularly attended Broadway plays, live concerts and yearly trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, OR. She was in 7th grade when she read the Twilight series, which prompted a trip that summer to the Olympic Peninsula. I always looked for the opportunity to encourage these activities and to be involved as well. Before finishing high school, my daughter had prompted this conversation regarding the choices she had made, the interests she now had and path she had taken. She asked, “What would I have been like had my mother not passed away?” If she had been here, how would that have affected her experiences and choices? Was losing her mother a necessity of life? Was it fate? Was it destiny? Was it the way to lead her on the path she chose?
I was struck at how this question applied to myself. I don’t have a formal education beyond high school and always felt my skills are limited. During my wife’s treatments I spent a lot of time self-educating… In between then and now I have created legislation which led me to improve my speaking skills. This triggered a trip to Las Vegas to speak at a union convention (and at 54, this was my first time on a plane). I started volunteering at melanoma events. I then moved on to a position as a Scientific Research Advocate as part of a panel which reviews grant requests. This work sent me to symposiums and events in the area. It also triggered trips to Washington D.C. for an MRA retreat and greater interaction with researchers and other advocates. Thirteen years later, I am now working in a hospital as a registrar and getting involved as a patient advocate for a clinical study. My world has expanded beyond anything I could imagined.
The question will still weigh on me at times, often in a religious or philosophical sense – was this the plan all along? Was this our fate? Our destiny? A necessity of loss to bring us here and to have hopefully provided help to some that needed it along the way? Ultimately the truth is that it does not matter. It is only necessary to accept what is, and to accept life and loss as it comes.
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