What Helps When You’re on the Front Line? | A Cancer Journey

What Helps When You’re on the Front Line? | A Cancer Journey

This is Part III of my story, to read Part I, or Part II, click here.

{ my husband Lou was diagnosed with cancer and given months to live. this is what happened to both of us as his life drew to an end. the people that touched me were angels and not many people read this part of the story. if you know someone on the front lines like i was, here’s what you can do to help }

It was amazing to us how quickly Lou lost basic strength and the ability to just handle any of the normal routines.  He was having difficulty navigating the stairs to our bedroom, but insisted on remaining there, though hospice had an open bed order.

There was a huge DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) sheet on display in the house.  We were told if anything occurred we must call Hospice, not 9-1-1. That came into play quickly in the middle of the night when Lou fell in the bathroom and couldn’t get up.  I was next to no help.  It took us over an hour to get him into bed and nearly injured both of us.  This was so distressing.  Hospice was unavailable and we were temporarily on our own. It was so frightening.

We both realized the hospital bed was now inevitable.  We placed the order.

The will to do and be Lou’s “everything” was so strong in me.  I did not look in the mirror and see what it was doing to me.  Even if I had, I did not care.

Here are some of the sweet things that really helped me walk through this.

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/aurorat

*We maintained daily devotions and prayer together.

Taken a little out of context, but comforting still the same, I read Psalm 107:6-10 to us every day.  It became our conscious choice to praise the Lord for the circumstance in which we found ourselves. We also read from sheets of scriptures on healing promises, here are a few of the ones we went to often: James 5:14, Jeremiah 17:14, & Isaiah 53:5.

*Family Support:  Our daughter April worked it out to be there for part of most days.  Just having the support and her cheerful personality perked Lou up greatly and me, too, not to mention her fabulous cooking.

*I identified a core group of friends and family who were standing with us and maintained contact. I did this through Facebook and group emails. One sister-in-law checked in weekly and I took the time to be specific in my response covering the previous week and current prayer requests. She passed it on to the rest of the family.

*I accepted visitors, meals, and any other helps that were offered.  It is amazing how much my work, Rotary, friends, church and close neighbors wanted to provide meals.  I was so thankful and encouraged!  My favorite was chicken soup. Lou was able to sample most everything.  Those visits strengthened and uplifted both of us greatly.  Our most frequent visitor was our pastor, Mike Bayer.

*Music became even more important than usual.  I identified with certain song lyrics and a couple really “got me through” tough moments.  Sara MacLachlin’s “Answer” (If it takes a lifetime, I won’t break, I won’t bend”  ran through my brain during all the tough times.)  And Twila Paris’ “Fix your Eyes on Jesus” was another mantra:  “Following Close behind, Following, ever blinded to the things that “should” not move me…Fix your eyes on Jesus” (not on what was quickly happening right before my eyes!)  We also had quiet, but uplifting music playing most of the time.

*Taking breaks.  Boy that was a tough one.  I didn’t want to be out of Lou’s presence.  And believe me, he didn’t want me out of the room.  But it became important to leave for short periods, even it was to rush to the pharmacy and wait for drug refills, or walk around the block.  Once Lou was in a coma, I even went to Dana Point the morning of his birthday.  Angela and I walked the harbor with the dogs and sat on our bench and watched the waves in his honor.  Bella, his Bernese Mountain dog knew right where she was. She jumped up and sat on the bench,  nuzzled us and watched the water quietly for nearly an hour.  It was a healing time.

I Needed To See Her In That Pink Casket: Viewing Our Loved Ones

Photo Courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/bitterfly

*Getting enough rest myself.  That never happened.  Looking back, I should have found some way to make sure it did.  If you find yourself in this situation, insist on it, for your own health and for your sanity.

*Actually fitting myself into Lou’s hospital bed with him.  I really wish I had done this more, in retrospect.  We did it a few times and those have become precious memories.  If I had it to do over, I would have personally rented a larger bed.  Being in a separate rollaway right next to him just didn’t do it.

Everyone’s journey is different.  Some cancers are actually beatable.  Some aren’t, but come on so slowly and gradually that everyday life and even the ability to continue working is possible.  Our situation was totally the opposite.  The trip to total incapacity was extremely fast.

But whatever you may be experiencing and at whatever level, I believe these points may help you, too.

|| what about you?

Have you been through a similar struggle?

What helped you?

What do you wish you would have done differently?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Molly grew up in and around funeral homes her entire life. In 2009 she began working for O'Connor Mortuary and found a bridge between her passion for writing and her interest in grief and bereavement. In 2016 she earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. She is honored to be able to write about these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective.


  1. Joanna Ramirez says:


    Thank you again for sharing your story and journey with us. It makes me sad whenever I read your blog. I haven’t experienced grief and I fear that that day will come sooner than later since I am surely not getting younger or anyone around me. Great advice Mrs. Collins.

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      I just love you and your no-nonsense straightforward ways. I know about the sad part. It makes me sad to write it, but since it helps, I will finish what I started.

  2. Kari Lyn Leslie says:

    I know this blog will help so many who may find themselves in your situation. Thank you so much for sharing from your heart. I am especially proud of the strength of character and faith that you showed us all during this journey with Lou. It proves that when we trust in the Lord and give Him everything, He is faithful to support and hold us up. You are such an inspiration to me.

    I love you Annie!!


    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      If I can inspire one couple to love each other more completely. If I can inspire one person fighting the fight we fought to not give up, or to do it smarter, or with more insight, then it is worth exposing myself.
      Even though the outcome was death and I fought against that final end, I submitted my will to God’s and praised Him anyway. We both did. That acceptance is what keeps me now.
      Love you back,

  3. Shayna Mallik says:

    When i read your blogs my heart aches for you. You are such a strong women to not only have went thru this journey but also to share your story with us. Your stories show how devoted you were to each other and I admire you for that. I can only hope that my relationship with Brad will be as amazing and strong as yours and Lou. Lou will always be in all of our hearts and now he is watching and guarding you from above. I love you Annie.

    <3 Shayna

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      I can say that no relationship is perfect, or without work, they won’t last. I always felt, if within my own heart I was giving more than taking, it would work out. Lou must have had the same attitude because I can see now, that he gave more than I did, even though I thought I was giving all I had.
      I know you are right. Lou is watching carefully, and if I need something I have no doubt he is saying to his angel buddies: ” Hey go take care of this. Annie needs help.”
      Love you

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