My wife was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2007, eventually losing her battle in May 2017. I share my story to help others who might have had similar experience with their own loss, and also to help raise awareness of this horrible disease.
She was a very loving/caring wife, mother and grandmother and was very active, with hobbies such as gardening, knitting, dress making and reading.
A few years before the diagnosis she started experiencing bloating in her abdomen and occasional pain. She initially dismissed this as nothing serious, but as time progressed, her symptoms were more persistent and severe.
Eventually after making several visits to the GP and further investigation it was discovered that she had stage 3 ovarian cancer and she was referred to the hospital.
At the hospital, they had arranged for a biopsy to be carried out and the subsequent tests of this confirmed that the tumour was cancerous. We were completely devastated by this news, it felt like the whole world around us had collapsed and we didn’t know what to say or do. We just sat there holding each other’s hands, crying, trying to digest what we’d just heard. The only thing going through my mind was the fear for her life.
We debated how to tell the rest of the family this devastating news, in particular our two daughters. My wife had a strong personality and decided that we needed to let our immediate family know, we had to be positive and start getting some treatment.
At a meeting with the oncologist a plan of action was agreed. It was decided that she was to have three cycles of chemo followed by a full hysterectomy and a further three cycles of chemo. After this she would be monitored on a monthly basis. After gruelling treatment and surgery, regular blood tests indicated that CA125 was well under control and she was in remission. It was the best possible news we could have hoped for.
However, in 2010, we were dumbfounded once again when it was discovered that the cancer had come back. This meant starting chemo again, with check-ups every month. Her CA125 was steady for a short period and then started creeping up, calling for another round of chemo. This pattern continued for five years until 2015.
In addition to the chemotherapy, my wife was also constantly admitted to A&E, with severe abdominal pains, constipation, nausea and urinary infections. Her magnesium level was also always low, needing regular top ups. On a few occasions, she also required blood transfusions. While the hospital was able to help manage the symptoms, the cancer continued to progress. Eventually, we were advised by the doctors that there was not much more they could do she would be referred to the palliative care team. When she became terminally ill in 2016 I gave up work and cared for at home.
At this point I stared to experience panic attacks, anxiety and stress and found it very difficult to cope with the situation. It got to point that I needed help. I had approached a cancer support group who offered me 8 session of counselling, which was very helpful. Once I got into a routine things became a bit easier.
On the 6th May 2017 my dad had passed away, and I was busy with the family making his funeral arrangements, whilst my daughters cared for their mum. Within 5 days my wife suddenly became very ill, her breathing had become much more laboured, croaky, and she was in excruciating pain. At this point I didn’t know the severity of the situation. We called the ambulance and took her to hospital.
At the hospital I had learned from the palliative care team that my wife’s condition was very serious and that she didn’t have much time left, perhaps a couple of days. We were completely shattered to hear this, and went into a state of shock. The thought of losing her seemed like a bad dream which would pass. The situation was made even worse knowing that we had my dad’s funeral in 2 days day time.
However, we found the strength from somewhere and sat by her bedside holding her hand and watching her breathe. Each breath appeared to be getting more difficult and we were just helpless, we could not do anything to help her, until she took her last breath.
We kept the news of my wife passing within the immediate family, it was only after my dad’s funeral that everyone was told of her passing as well.
Coping with the grief after the loss was extremely difficult especially because I had not been in any such situation before. The first 2/3 weeks are not too bad simply because one is in a state of shock. After this reality starts to hit you slowly and then with pace. I found that talking about grief and getting into a routine was quite useful. Counselling and attending support groups are a very good copping mechanism. When I heard about The Loss Foundation who had tailored/themed support groups I attended the partners loss group which I found to be extremely therapeutic and calming. In addition to that their social events were also helpful where one could talk to others in similar situation.
In my view one’s wounds will never heal, but you just have cope to live with them. This can be in the form of talking either through counselling, group meetings, and with other people who are going through the same grief. In this process, likes of The Loss Foundation charity and others are the key to helping one through this painful grieving process.