[Originally posted at HopeforWidows.org]
I have a right to my anger, and I don’t want anybody telling me I shouldn’t be, that it’s not nice to be, and that something’s wrong with me because I get angry. – Maxine Waters
Five years ago I was married. Today, I am widowed. My husband of 23 years passed away of cancer February 24, 2012. In April of 2011, he suddenly found himself with a bad cramp in his stomach which turned into severe pain. I remember that day that I received a desperate call from him all too well.
Two Weeks Notice
I was working for a cable broadcast company and I had just given my two weeks notice. An offer came to me that I could not refuse. I had worked with the company for two years and had taken a drop in pay. Our household was struggling and we both needed to work towards obtaining additional money. A recruiter called me out of the blue about a great opportunity and well, I took it. I was about a week into my two weeks notice when I received the dreaded call.
My husband was sick. He told me that he was going to the Urgent Care center because he didn’t feel well. He later called back to tell me that they had referred him to the ER. I left work to meet him.
After going to the emergency room and having to be checked into the hospital, the X-ray showed a tumor behind his stomach. It was downhill from there.
I was in and out of the office for two weeks. They were kind and gracious and understood although they knew my final day on the job was nearing. It was refreshing in a way because I would begin a new journey in a field I loved by working from home. God worked out everything because He knew that I needed to work remotely with the new company.
We were told that he needed a biopsy, which would tell us what the mysterious mass was. We had the biopsy performed during outpatient surgery. I was in the operating room but left due to emotional distress; I didn’t want him to see me. After waiting a couple of hours, the doctor finally came in. He took me to a private room. It was there he told me that Herb had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I didn’t know what say or do. I was alone. And…I had to be the one to tell Herb on the drive home that he had cancer. I didn’t want to and hadn’t planned on telling him until the time was right. But when would be a right time to tell someone you love that they have cancer? That was the doctor’s job!
He was slowly coming around and the medicine was wearing off. On the drive home, he asked me, “What did they say?” I ignored him. “What did they say?” I ignored him once more. “Come on what did they say?”
I stuttered until it finally came out.
“They said you have cancer.”
“Cancer? What? Awh man,” he said calmly. He didn’t scream or cry. He was taking it all in…calmly. But he was still a little groggy from the surgery.
Our lives were turned upside down. His mom immediately got a plane ticket and flew in to live with us for seven months. She was a God-send.
I Hate the ER
After three months of aggressive chemo treatments, (ending a few weeks before Thanksgiving), most of his lymph nodes were gone, with the exception of some in his neck. Then, at the end of January, he woke up with severe pain in his groin. The pain restarted. Since then, we’ve made several trips to the ER, one via ambulance and it didn’t get better. The pain in his groin ended up being Lymph nodes on his spine, which impaired his ability to walk. He was prideful and for several weeks he limped on his own until the hospital offered us crutches. It helped…a little.
Unfortunately, we were back again in the ER, this time it was for a lump on his head. The Lupus doctor told us he couldn’t do anything because it wasn’t his area (yes, he had Lupus for over ten years). He suggested we go back to our oncologist, go figure. But our Oncologist suggested we go to the Lupus doctor, so we were in limbo. At the ER, the woman doctor looked at the lump on his head, heard our story and sent us on our way…no MRI, no CT Scan. Again, we were in limbo. Since then, we were in the hospital three more times. In seven days we went back…he couldn’t stop screaming from the pain in his groin so I called the ambulance. They took us to CMC-University. There, we waited for about 2 hours in a room and Herb was screaming intensely. I had started screaming as well and crying out to the nurse and doctor that they help us. The screams didn’t seem to matter. The doctor didn’t come until an hour later. They gave him pain medicine. It subsided a little and he rested. I went to McDonald’s to get him something to eat as well as myself. I came back and Whitney Houston’s funeral was on. I finally broke down and called his sister. She drove from Mobile, Alabama that weekend. She sensed something was seriously wrong with her brother so she took leave from work and there she was that Sunday morning, with her daughter, my niece.
We were in the hospital several more times. When we called the oncologist and complained about the several visits and severe pain, (oh yeah, his doctor was out of the country for 2 weeks so we had to deal with his nurse), they finally ordered another MRI. His last MRI about three weeks prior showed nothing developing but the final MRI (it was on a Wednesday) showed lymph nodes. After our scheduled MRI 7 am that morning, we returned home at 10 AM. At 10:20 am, the nurse told us immediately go to the Main hospital – it was a matter of life and death. We went again to the hospital to the ER, only this time everything was done for us. His temporary room was ready. I, his sister and my daughter and niece were all there. Herb felt OK - he was just taking it all in and joking. Then a team of doctors surrounded him and asked him questions. It was time for his permanent room but not before they did a scan of his head to see what was going on. I held his hand as he was in the hall waiting to be next. His sister held his hand. We had his mom on the speaker phone so she knew what was going on (remember, she had left at Thanksgiving. She didn’t want to leave but Herb thought it was time for her to leave). After the scan, they said he needed to go to the thirteenth floor.
What’s on the 13th floor? ICU.
I Hate The ICU
We finally made it to the ICU room and they served him fried chicken, macaroni, and jello. He ate it all. I shared his food, too. He ate and joked. His sister and I were happy. She left to get some rest and I stayed. The doctor’s plan was to keep him through the weekend and monitor his brain activity and go from there.
It was a rough night. He began to vomit. The pain in his head was unbearable and they allowed him to medicate himself through the touch of a button. Whenever the pain would come, he would press the thimble. Then he would vomit. This was a vicious cycle. An awesome male nurse took care of him. Herb yelled over to him and asked if he knew the Lord. The nurse respectfully replied, “Yes, sir.” And Herb praised God during his pain. It was then time for me to go home at 6 am – when the ICU shift change occurred. All visitors had to go. I kissed him on his forehead and he looked at me as if in a daze. I said, “Bye, Herb. I’ll be back in the morning.”
I went home and told his sister who was on the sofa that she should go – it was her turn. I needed to take a shower. She said ok. She asked me if I thought he was getting better. I told her no and started to cry.
I woke up my daughter and calmly told her that I thought daddy was about to go to heaven. She cried heavily. I hugged and comforted her. Toni (his sister) had left to be with him at the hospital.
About an hour and a half passed and Toni called me in a panic. She told me that I needed to get to the hospital. I called my pastor’s wife and I then drove to my son’s school to picked him up.
When I arrived at the hospital, Herb’s eyes were rolled into his head. He was unconscious. His sister was crying hysterically holding his hand and never letting go. I guess I was in shock. I didn’t know what to do or how to react. I called my son in Winston-Salem and told him to get to the hospital immediately. My pastor and his wife came. My girlfriend Rita came. My pastor’s son who is the minister of music and youth minister came. We all prayed. The doctor told us that he was in a coma. The only thing keeping him alive was the ventilator. We needed to make the decision of keeping him on the ventilator or taking him off. Herb had always told me that he never wanted to be on the ventilator. The doctor frankly told us that he was already gone. Earlier, around 9:45 am he was with his sister and finally started snoring. His sister was thankful….but, it wasn’t snoring. Cancer in his head had grown so large overnight that his brain shifted. His brain shut down.
As a last resort, the doctors said they would perform several tests to see if he would react to any of them. They came. He failed all of the tests. I took out my iPhone and played Let it Rain, by Micheal W. Smith, in his ear. He didn’t respond.
The decision was made. It took about an hour and a half for his body to shut down. We all cried. My son cut a piece of his cloth to take with him and we all left the hospital.
I Hate Funerals
He had two funerals, one in Charlotte, North Carolina and one in Mobile, Alabama where:
-the city of Mobile made the day of his funeral, Herbert Robinson day -three people came to Christ -he was laid to rest next to his favorite cousin that he lived with when we first met
And just like that, he was gone. I HATE grief!