by Angelika Martin
I am no stranger to grief. The love of my life, my husband, and my best friend has joined my other loved ones who have already dearly departed. These include my brother who had a heart attack at 36 years old, while my mum and my best friend both had cancer.
Our First Goodbye
My husband was a loving man who made my heart pound with every smile and every special look. He was so charismatic and loved to laugh, joke and stir. People were drawn to him, especially me. I truly loved and cherished him. Together we were a great team.
After nearly ten years of the happiest years of my life, I was so devasted when you said you had to let me go. Myself and our four kids, ranging from three months to seven years in age, said our first of many goodbyes.
I remember when I first got the call that my husband, who now had cancer, was being flown to Perth in 2019. When I saw you that first time in the ICU, tubes and machines were keeping you alive. I could see the signs, and I knew we would lose you soon. There was a lot of us – my family and my husband’s other family – bonded together in love and grief. It wasn’t easy since everyone was dealing with a roller coaster of emotions. After being camped together for two days at the ICU, we collectively decided to turn off life his support.
I will always remember him with joy and the wonderful life we shared together. He will always be the love of my life. What remains is a deep sadness that he’s no longer here.
After my husband’s death, I hit an all-time low. It was hard to pick myself up and continue to carry on living. It wasn’t helped by a continual run of bad news. Major things were happening to my family and I, including a breakup, breakdowns, a rare degenerative gene that was found in my family, financial strain and my church closing after 30 years. It was very heart-breaking stuff.
Even though my faith was strong, I felt so overwhelmed with my life. Everything that was happening was affecting my outlook. I was so tired and weary from trying to hold it all together. I was in survival mode going through the motions of life and I could easily cry at the drop of a hat. Everything seemed so out of my control, and it was.
Then, there was a glimmer of hope at the end of my dark tunnel. I found a wonderful church nearly an hour away. Slowly, my outlook changed. I found a renewed sense of purpose and hope. I threw myself back into volunteering at my new church, singing and assisting with the kid’s church. It helped me to get out of my own head. Despite this new discovery, nothing had changed on the home front.
It’s hard to let go of my dream of how life should be. Now, I look to accept the things I can’t change and find joy in the next chapter of the story of my life.
My Weakening Health
In my own life, heaven came knocking too.
In 2013, I got a phone call that would change my life forever. The very next day (my doctor’s orders), I was admitted to an emergency department in a major Perth hospital. They thought I had leukemia and did a further bone marrow test. Two days later, it was confirmed I had Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML).
I was put on chemotherapy drugs in a tablet form. These drugs brought a lot of side effects that were very severe in the beginning. I had almost continual headaches, overwhelming tiredness, and nerve pain, especially at night. They also affected my balance, and I couldn’t turn quickly anymore.
Blood tests were the next step. These tests are a constant search and rescue mission for me because of the difficulty involved in finding a vein. However, now that I have a reduced amount of blood tests and a lower tablet dosage, it’s become much more bearable.
When I first found out I had cancer, it was stressful for me to be near others. When you have a compromised immune system, everyone is a potential threat until you know they aren’t sick. Eventually, I realized that if people knew about my situation and felt ill, they would respectfully keep their distance.
For the most part, being weak isn’t something I had ever been before. All my life, I had been a strong person that loved helping others. You have to be if you work outside at a market garden for 60 years. Currently, I work half of my day in an office and half outdoors, which is where I’d rather be.
Adjust Your Thinking
Only focusing on the bad in our life isn’t healthy for anyone. Regardless of how horrible you think your life is, it isn’t all bad. We can choose what we focus on, either the good or bad. It’s a choice I make daily.
For a long time, death was talked about, in hushed tones, behind closed doors and rarely in front of children. It can be an uncomfortable topic to talk about, and I understand that. It’s time to begin shifting our mindsets to talk openly about dying, death, and grieving. Although it can be a conversation downer at times, it’s an important topic to discuss. Grief and dying are often not at the forefront of our minds and lives, but it’s something that should be normalized.
For those of us grieving or facing death ourselves, we do need to talk about it often and openly. That way, we can move forward with the rest of our story. For my cancer, I’m currently testing a trial drug. This much uncertainty about my future concerns me. I try not to focus on the trial itself but instead focus on seizing the day and making every moment count.
My kids are all grown up and lead busy lives, which now leaves me on my own. This isolation has led me to become more proactive in connecting with others. I’ve learned that my capacity to handle life increases with the support of friends and family.
I run a movie night at my home and ladies’ coffee get-togethers once a month. I also attend my new beloved church, and I write a blog post every Sunday.
My blogging has encouraged me to be more open about my experiences. Being able to write about death, grief, and other life issues has helped me process my thoughts, feelings, and actions. To my surprise, it is also helping others who read my blog.
I’m sharing my story in the hope that it may help someone else. To let them know to keep moving forward no matter what life throws at you. It won’t always be like this; you will get through it. There’s always hope to be found; you just have to keep pedalling.
For more information on Angelika Martin, check out her Facebook page.
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