Almost one year ago, at 5:50 am on September 14th, I lost my wife to cancer. The loss was mine, and her sisters, and her mother, and her nieces and nephews, and all of her friends who loved her. But it wasn’t a loss. Cancer didn’t actually win. Let me explain.
Felecci was diagnosed when she was 29. It was a devastating blow to both of us. We had discussed buying a house within the next year or so and we would have decided shortly after if she would pursue her career more or if we would decide to have kids. We felt we still had time.
She was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma which had a high survival rate. We went thru the standard treatment for her disease. We expected her to take 6 months to a year off, then recover and we would be ok. We had hope.
We never finished the standard treatment. It stopped working, and her cancer was growing. So we moved along to step two: Stem Cell Transplant. She was scared. We made the decision not to freeze her eggs because we didn’t want to wait. I was certain if we wanted kids we could have adopted in the future and my priority was to keep her alive. But this was the first thing Cancer took from her.
The stem cell transplant worked for about 7 months. She had gone back to work and things had started to get back to normal. She was still immunosuppressed, but her job was very kind and made accommodations to provide her an isolated office for her to return to work to. She was happy to be back to being productive.
But at some point, her symptoms returned. Night sweats and pain. Especially the bone pain in her hip. I knew the first night she woke me up to help her ease the agony she was in. It was at this point that I began to realize, Cancer was going to take her. But I didn’t have the heart to tell her what the logical side of my brain had decided. She wanted to fight more, so we went back to our doctor to see what drug trials were available.
We had some success with different drugs. It kept the disease at bay for a while but time after time it would eventually stop working. It made no sense to work with the fatigue these drugs caused. She needed to focus on her health, and it was becoming too difficult to work. She went on long-term disability and as it turned out would never return to work. Cancer took it’s the second thing; her career.
My wife wasn’t good being stuck in the house and would go out to see friends or just get away while I was out at work. Eventually, as the disease spread it became difficult for her to walk long distances. And her motor skills started to become muted somehow. I had to tell her that it was too dangerous for her to drive; she was a risk to others around her if she had a sudden pain attack or loss of motor control. Cancer took its third price from her; independence.
The pain eventually subsided for reasons still unknown to me. However, I wasn’t complaining. Unfortunately, other problems began to take its place. She continued to have difficulty walking long distances, her breathing was hampered by Cancer as it spread into her lungs and other organs. Cancer took its fourth price, her vitality.
Several years of chemotherapy sent her into early menopause, making it very difficult to be intimate when combined with her health conditions. This weighed on her greatly, making her feel like she was not able to be a wife to me. Despite my assurances that I held no blame for her in our condition, she was deeply troubled. We had mixed success with prescribed treatments as she had so many problems it became impossible to stave off what was happening to her body. Cancer took its fifth price, her ability to be intimate the way she wanted to be.
Further deterioration caused her to suffer from conditions that a woman in her 30’s would find quite embarrassing. She was eventually unable to be taken outside without the use of a wheelchair. As her lungs continued to fail, she had to rely on oxygen which only made her confinement to the house even worse for her. Cancer had taken the last thing it would take from her before it took her life; her dignity and health.
But Cancer was not able to take everything from her. She still had me. No matter how hard it got and how painful it was to see her go thru this, I would have died before letting her go thru this process alone. I do regret not making more time than I did to talk with her, but my own fears and my stubborn pride kept me from showing too much in the way of fatigue or worry. I had a job to do, and I would deal with my emotions later I thought. And she knew. She knew that I had to deal with it in my own way. And she understood. She always understood why I was the way I was. I rarely had to explain it to her. She still got me.
But one thing Cancer never took away was her personality. I am SO FUCKING proud of her for the way she handled herself. She faced death with grace. It never changed her. It was hard, and she was scared, and she had moments of weakness. But they were temporary, and she would recover from them.
In the end, she laughed and enjoyed what she good as much as she could throughout the process. She forced me to not be my normal introverted self. Despite my desire to be miserable, my wish for it to be me and not her. Even thru her fight with Cancer, she always had time to worry about me and to make sure I was ok. She never stopped being a wife to me, in spite of the challenges she faced.
Her last words to anyone on this planet were to me, and they were “I love you SO much.” I know she was scared, but she even faced her final moments awake bravely. I was so scared she would have collapsed in the end under the pressure, pleading for anyone to save her when everyone would be powerless. But she understood, and she knew we did the best we could. And she faced the unknown knowing that while her time on this earth was far too short, she was loved. And those of us who are left behind are better people for having her grace our lives.
Mahal Kita babe.