Tuesday, August 5, 2008

My Story

In less than 48 hours, the title of this blog will no longer be appropriate for me ;-) That's right, I am getting married. I can remember sitting on my couch about two weeks after I attended my 10 day silent meditation course, thinking, "I have never been so at peace, being alone, in my entire life." And of course, I met my fiancé just a few days later :-)

A lot has come together for me since I learned how to meditate and quiet my mind. Not just meeting and falling in love with my soon-to-be-wife, but also being at total peace with Deb's death. I can listen to her voice or watch a video of her and feel nothing but peace. Such a far cry from two years ago!

Because I'll be busy (!) for the next few days, I thought I'd share a speech I gave in June to Bereaved Families of Ontario. I talk a bit about my journey and the many lessons that I have learned. I hope you will find it helpful.

Hi, my name is Vic. I'm a 36 year old widower. Tonight I'd like to tell you a little bit about my story, share some of my experiences, and reveal some of the valuable insights that I've gleaned from my grief journey. At the end, I'll be happy to take any questions you may have, but I'll tell you right up front, I am an expert on one person's grief, and one person's grief only: mine. Still, there are some common threads that bereaved people tend to share, so it is my hope that you are able to take even just one thing home with you tonight that would be both helpful and healing.

First, a bit of back-story. I was married to my wife Deb for 12 and a half years, and she died at age 32 of cervical cancer. We found out in childbirth. Or rather, I had my first inkling that something was wrong just a few hours before my son was born. We were working with a midwife at the hospital, and when she was checking for dilation, she noticed something. "Probably just a polyp," she said, smiling. But her eyes weren't smiling. This is my first clue.

September 2003. Two months after my son is born, Deb finally has her consultation with her gynecologist. She meets me after work with the stroller, in tears. Cervical cancer. At this point in time, we aren't thinking about death. It is caught in the very early stages, and besides, young people don't die of cancer. We are more upset about the upcoming hysterectomy and the resulting loss of fertility. No more kids.

Six months later. We get the results of a PET scan: no traces of cancer. The operation, chemo, and radiation are a success. But we do not celebrate. These tests aren't foolproof. Somehow I know that things are going to get worse. How much worse, I have no idea.

Christmas, 2004. The results of a test are in. Yes, all this recent pain is a result of the cancer that is back, hard. We are looking at major, major surgery and heavy chemo. The oncologist says, "There's more to tell, but that's enough for now." This is my second clue.

Late January, 2005. The doctor says, "You have a mean survival time of 3-6 months." When we get home from that terrible hospital meeting, Deb looks at me and says, "Well, I guess this is goodbye." And the emotional connection I share with my wife is over, just like that.

March 29, 2006. Fifteen months, countless chemo, radiation, and surgical procedures later. I'm leaning up against the back of my car in the parking lot of the hospital, eating a banana. I have been up for over 48 hours. I have just kissed the lifeless forehead of my now dead wife minutes before. Strangely, I feel nothing. My thoughts at this time are, "Well, that's over. Now I'm a widower. Now what?"

Part II tomorrow night...

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