As much as we knew this was inevitable, this is a blog I hoped I’d never have to write.
On Thursday October 25th, 2018, at approximately 2:30pm, Krista left this world.
Krista started this blog early on in her cancer journey. She felt that it was very important to tell her story. Not enough attention seems to be paid toward metastatic breast cancer, and Krista took a great deal of pride in writing her blog in the hopes of helping and informing others. The word proud can’t accurately describe how we all felt toward her, for all the time, thought and effort she put into her blogs. If you’re reading this now, you have obviously read her blogs and understand. Long before we lost Krista, she had asked that I write one final blog after she was gone.
This particular entry, like my previous contribution, will be from my point of view, as a husband and father. I’ve been writing this over several months. Its taken quite some time to process losing Krista, and I want to do justice to this final blog.
When Krista was diagnosed in February of 2014, she was diagnosed stage 4. We knew it was an eventual death sentence. Throughout the ensuing 4 and a half years, through all the treatments, all the ups and downs, you kind of forecast in your mind over and over how you picture it playing out when the time comes. I don’t know if its Hollywood’s depiction, or perhaps past experiences of others, but what I always pictured was a slow decline, culminating with her family surrounding her bed for hours/days, as she eventually passes peacefully in her sleep.
What actually transpired was quite a bit different than any of us really expected. Several months before Krista passed, she had exhausted all of her treatment options. We had made the decision that we didn’t want to know any approximate timeframe from her doctor as to how much time she had left. The last thing we wanted to do, was spend her remaining time staring at a calendar.
The last couple of months of her life, you could see a progressing decline in her condition. She was spending more time in bed, and pain management was the main focus. With that being said, she was still walking, mobile, eating and self sufficient for the most part. If you had told me a week prior to her death, that she only had a week to live, I wouldn’t have believed it.
Six days before we lost her, Krista was feeling off, had trouble walking, and ended up having a seizure. Krista was rushed to the hospital, and after a bit of adjustments to her meds, she seemed to come around a bit. She ended up being in hospital for 5 days. One of the last days she was there, I noticed the yellow discoloration of her skin, that accompanies jaundice, due to liver failure. I brought it up to her palliative doctor, and she confirmed what I thought. So I asked, “How many days has she got?”. The doctor replied with “Days?, no, she has weeks, maybe months. If it were only days, she wouldn’t be this alert and mobile”
With that, we were able to get Krista home. We were all very excited to have her home. We had a hospital bed delivered and a psw was scheduled to come daily. This was going to be a serious adjustment from the lifestyle we were all used to. Krista was no longer going to be self sufficient, but I was willing to move the moon and stars to make this work, because this was what we planned for, and this is what she wanted.
Krista never wanted to be tied to a bed for an extended period of time. She didn’t want to be a virtual prisoner in her own body. She was always a rock, always in control, and stubborn as hell. Krista gave serious consideration to medical assisted suicide, (the medical field are not fond of that phrasing). I was not a fan of the idea, but it was her decision to make. I would have a very difficult time letting her go, even a second sooner than I had to. I’m glad it never came to that, but I would have supported her, because, when that woman had her mind set on something, it was happening. So, I think in typical Krista fashion, she went on her way, free from the shackles of cancer, less than 24 hours after coming home. I’m not going to go into detail about her actual passing, just to say, she got to be home, see the dog, and see the kids off to school. It happened very quickly, although at the time it felt like forever. An hour or so before she passed away, I had no clue the end was coming. I take that as a blessing. I always pictured in my mind that the kids would be there, should be there when Krista passed on. I’m now glad they weren’t. Those are very heavy moments that I’ll have ingrained like a repetitive loop in my head until the day I join her. Those are not images I want my kids to have the burden to carry. I think subconsciously Krista agreed. When it became apparent what was happening, and we decided to get the kids picked up from school, Krista passed on before they could be picked up.
When its all said and done, her passing happened as it should have, and I’m at least thankful for that. She was home, got to see the kids. Her Sister, best friend and mom were here. Krista’s homecare nurse also happened to be here, which I’m very thankful for.
To say the aftermath of losing my wife was anything less than devastating is an understatement. I had 4 and a half years to mentally prepare for this, yet I’m not sure I actually believed it was going to happen. Nothing, and I mean nothing prepares you to look your kid in the eyes, and tell them their mom is gone. Krista and I were always completely honest with the kids about her prognosis, so they were by no means shocked. As a matter of fact, they handled it a lot better than I could have imagined.
As typical with any family, when a loved one dies, there’s a steady stream of visitors, be it family, friends and acquaintances, and my house was no different. For the ensuing week, my house was filled with a revolving door of guests. My fridge and freezers were filled to the brim with lasagnas, sheppards pies, and a vast assortment of other foods. Truth be told, I welcomed the distraction. Between the visitors, and the planning of Krista’s celebration of life, I had a small sense of purpose.
Two weeks after Krista passed, we had an informal celebration of life for her instead of a funeral. This is what she wanted. It was fantastic. The amount of people that Krista touched throughout her life were countess, and I think they all showed up that day. It was awesome. She’d be so proud of that.
Eventually, the dust settles, the friends and family go home, back to their own lives, and reality sets in. Krista’s mom lived with us for a couple of years, and stayed for a couple of months after, and I have the kids, but I have never felt this kind of loneliness in my life. Friends and family constantly remind me that I’m not alone. I love them and thank them for that, but it simply doesn’t work that way. For the following few months, I just felt like a piece of meat, a zombie. I had no purpose, I just existed. I got up everyday, got the kids to school, went to work, accomplished nothing, went home early, and hated myself. From the beginning, I’ve tried to handle Krista’s death the right way. But its not always easy.
Going through this, one unexpected side effect, is the amount of guilt I feel. So, so many types of guilt. I know in my heart of hearts that I did the very best I could to care for Krista during her cancer battle. But, I always wonder what more I could’ve done. I feel guilty that I’m still here, and she’s not. Krista and I have life insurance. Out of guilt, it took me two months to even call the insurance company. I’m feeling guilt over the fact that the kids would be better off with her over me. The list goes on an on, but I’m trying to work on it. Its definitely a work in progress.
Through this, my kids and I have had a great support group. We have the best family and friends that anyone can ask for. My kids are getting the support they need from their schools. My kids really are wise beyond their years. I guess they have been forced to, to some degree. We have a very open dialogue in our home. Ethan, is 17, and can be difficult to communicate with about normal, day to day matters, but when he needs to talk about mom, he comes to me. Naomi is 11. She’s a free spirit, and has always been Daddy’s girl. She’s not afraid to talk openly about anything, so I feel like they are doing ok.
Losing a parent is never easy, losing one when you’re a child is cruel and unfair. The saving grace with all of this, that could potentially be making it easier to deal with for my kids, is that they weren’t blindsided by this. I think with Krista and I being honest with them through this, they were able to process it all in due time, and their own pace. Another situation that helps, is that their routines have remained fairly consistent. For the last couple of years, with Krista’s illness, I handled the vast majority of the daily running of the house. If the kids needed something, typically they came to me. So that part of their lives remains unchanged. Kids are so resilient. As much as I’m supposed to be here for them, they have helped me more.
As much as this blog has been steeped in sadness and negativity, I do see myself as a happy positive person. As the months go by, and I get through the rollercoaster of emotions, I’m able to take a look back, and realize there are some things to be really thankful for. From the time Krista was diagnosed to the time she passed away, we had nearly 5 years. Most of that time, Krista was able to lead a relatively normal lifestyle. Everyone lives their lives a certain way, but when you receive the news that you have a terminal illness, it changes things. We may not have been able to get the quantity we wanted, but we certainly squeezed in as much quality as we could. Krista was able to get to do a fair bit of travelling, with myself and the kids, but also with other family and friends. With the help of family, friends and a lot of luck, Krista got to see and experience a great deal of places and things. I think of the many people who are diagnosed with a terminal illness, and only last months or even weeks after diagnosis. I’m so happy that we were at least given a chance to have these wonderful experiences. I’m very thankful that my kids are the ages that they are. It goes without saying that I wish Krista was around until they were adults, but I can not imagine if they were babies, or toddlers . That’s the reality that others have to deal with, and I’m very lucky.
Never a day goes by that I’m not thinking about Krista, but slowly, day by day, there’s a sense of healing. There’s always going to be very difficult days, but I have a real sense that the kids and I are going to be ok. The kids, are back to being typical teenagers. Exciting thing are happening for them. Ethan starts college in the fall, and Naomi is finding her place in this world, coming into her own as a young pre-teen. For myself, the healing has been aided by immersing myself in my hobbies and passions. I’ve been a long time hockey fan , but never played. A couple of years ago, with the help of some friends, and Krista’s support, I started playing for the first time in my life……in my 40’s. I’m absolutely horrible at it, but I play in a league and I love it. I have the greatest team mates, that are so supportive, and make it so much fun. I’m also a musician. I play bass in a band, and that creative outlet is so therapeutic, and my bandmates are family to me.
Life is full of events and milestones. Every holiday, birthday and vacation is going to present itself with the challenge of navigating it without Krista. My wife was always the ringleader of our family circus. When it came to Christmas my responsibilities were relegated to lugging the tree and decorations up from the basement, and throwing money at her. She literally handled everything. This first Christmas without her was beyond bizarre. But, we got through it, and I imagine the next one will be easier.
We just took our first vacation without Krista. The weeks leading up to it, I kept filling my head with the notion that this would be the one thing that would help me clear my head, and catapult me to move on with my life. It seems so silly now that I would even think that way. During the vacation, I actually missed Krista more than ever. Grief doesn’t take a vacation. It just needs to run its course, naturally.
At the end of the day, the world doesn’t stop when you lose someone. I try to convey this to my kids. Krista was the most important person in all of our lives, but we need to continue living, and Krista would want nothing less. As much as I feel cheated, I really am so lucky. Krista chose me, she loved me unconditionally, and she was my soulmate. Most couples say this, but she really was my best friend. We could have the time of our lives watching tv, or going to Walmart. There’s people in this world that go their entire lives not finding their one true love. Mine may have come and gone like a comet, but I had her, and I would not trade a second of it. She inspires me to be a better person. With her blog, her children’s book that she wrote, and her lust for life, she’s left a legacy on this world that will always last. She’s given me the ultimate gift of two great kids. I’ll do the best I can to keep her memory alive for my kids.
I don’t know what the future holds for my kids and I, but I know that we can handle anything that life throws at us. Ill always love her until the day I die, and I’m going to be committed to be the man she would want me to be.
In closing, I wanted to mention some special people that helped us along the way. As they say, it takes a village. There’s many more than this, but here’s a select few.
Dr. Jose Chang, and his nurse, Lisa:
Dr. Chang was Krista’s Oncologist. He always had a sweet demeanor, but at the same time, told you how it was without sugar coating it. I always had the sense that he had Krista’s best interests at heart, well beyond him just doing his job. His nurse Lisa was a rock for Krista. I can genuinely say that Krista loved her.
Dr. Todd Mainprize:
Dr. Mainprize is a Neurosurgeon at Sunnybrook. Krista had a brain tumour, and was sent to Sunnybrook. Dr. Mainprize absolutely does not fuck around. He is a dry, no nonsense guy, but if it wasn’t for him, Krista would’ve been gone a lot sooner. He changed the quality of her life, and gave her the ability to enjoy life again.
Krista’s home care nurse. Cassondra went above and beyond what I would expect any home care nurse to do. She only cared for Krista for a short period of time, but she felt like family.
Tina and Cindy:
Tina is Krista’s sister and Cindy is her best friend. They live an hour away, but were always here for us, and the three of them together had such an unbreakable bond. These awesome women made it their mission to make all of Krista’s dreams come true, and there really is nobody closer to my wife.
Donnie is my uncle. Krista and Donnie seemed to have such a special bond. He was quite taken with her, and they got along so well. One of Krista’s bucketlist items was to go up and fly in a small plane. Donnie made that happen.
The Lemieux’s, The Weir’s and The Ensoll’s:
Our very close group of friends that have been so supportive through all of this. All the wives in the group called themselves “The Wolfpack”. There’s no words to express what all of these people mean to us.
Elaine is my aunt, and unfortunately lost her husband, Pete to cancer a few months before Krista passed away. Elaine is a special person who just gives everything she has to the people that are close to her, and was here for me, even though she was going through her own grief. She still texts me literally every morning to see how I’m doing.
Krista’s uncle Len, Aunt Eileen, cousins Darleen and her husband Dave, Darren, Randy, Davey and his wife Belkis. The sweetest family you could ever meet. From day one they’ve made me a part of their family, and Krista loved them so much.
I work at Manalco and Im very lucky I do. Throughout Krista’s illness, I missed a significant amount of time due to appointments and such. They have always been understanding, supportive and accommodating. Not everyone has a job where they can come and go as they please, and I don’t know how others in my situation get through it otherwise.
I want to thank everyone who has read and shared Krista’s blog. Please continue to do so. She would love nothing more than to continue to have a voice, and her story shared.