Writing As A Caregiver: Feelings and Thoughts During My Husband’s Cancer


A caregiver uses poetry to work through their husband's cancer journey.

During Harry Small's journey as a caregiver for his husband Alan during his pancreatic cancer, he wrote his feelings through each step as a series of poems to share.


I don’t know how he feels

I don’t know for sure how I feel

I know my head hurts from crying

Both with another person or by myself

I need help. I speak to many people

Great words coming from them

Some relief, but temporary.

Being with him while he sleeps, while he’s up.

What’s going on?

With him.

With me.

Fight, please fight.


I never knew that I had all these tears in my system.

Seems like I lost many pounds, tearful pounds

My hurting heart cries out to me

To shed these tears.

The tears of joy just knowing him for thirty years of love.

Watching him decline was dreadful but

My heart and eyes still converted the dread to love

My love knows no end for him and

He will always send it back to me no matter where he is.


As he lies here ready to let go

Barely looking like the image in my mind of him

My love just manifests that this is the exact same man

That I met and married

Together for almost thirty years.

Thirty years of love, covered up sometimes

By nasty thoughts and words.

Not speaking but silent for days.


Now I know why he lost so much weight

It’s God’s acknowledgment that he is a very special,

Unselfish person.

Alan is creating more room in heaven for

More people to feel comfortable and welcome.

There is no crowding in Heaven.

Space is needed to be created on earth first.

Space to accept all people here.

No matter who they are, not what they are.

Sometimes it’s difficult to do this, even for me.

This tender loving person has shown me the way.


As I sit here day in and day out just two feet away

From his hospital bed in our apartment

And stare over at him and ask Why? No answer

So, I know that I needed to create one.

Our lives are fragile at best

And fragile at worst.


My decision to keep him here with me

While he is departing our world keeps me heart broken

But speaking to him every thirty minutes even without the smallest response

Keeps me with him because he does hear.

Our friends have called every day just to let him know that they love him

And the experience of having him in their lives.

I am sad that he is going through this, but he is pain free.

I am happy that I chose to bring him here, near me, in our home

I never experienced happiness and sadness at the same time.

My heart is broken and mending rapidly.

My experience of loving him has blossomed and consumed me

My thoughts sneak back to some bad moments

But my love outweighs them, and love returns rapidly

Don’t wait to be near love all the time.


Too much happening at one time

The efficiency making me nervous

I want it all to slow down

I guess to keep him here with me longer.

He looked peaceful, at rest, maybe even glad it’s over.

I kept looking at him thinking he would move

Hoping he would

Stroking his head and rubbing his arms

Felt the same when he was breathing

Then they came.

Forms to sign (print then write, print then write)

Please slow down. I want him here longer

Stroking his head feels the same when…..

Holding his hand feels the same when he was…..

Another man showed up

For the body and not the spirit

Do you want the under sheet?

Do you want the top sheet, top one I’ll keep

They gave me the choice to stay in the room

Or go into another room

And knock when he was gone

I should have stayed to say goodbye again


Oxygenator out, people out, silence, stillness, peacefulness

After everyone left my sister came up to me

We sighed at the same time without looking at each other

It’s over

Or is it just starting?


Moments of sobbing, head throbbing

Breaking down, I just want to sleep

Staring at times, don’t want to think

Writing this, writing this

The call comes in

We’ll pick up the hospital bed and oxygen tomorrow

No, no, please make it today

Don’t want to stare at them any longer

Was going to start cleaning out stuff

But not, really

So, I made my sister two dozen dollar buttermilk pancakes with blueberries

Great job.


Just want to sleep

And wake up two years ago

A dream, to dream

Back to now.


I never knew that even when he hurt

He would tell me he’s fine

Even when he fell, he was always fine

I discovered someone who cleared things up for me

He didn’t want me to suffer

I’m sensitive, so he said, “I’m fine”.

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