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
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Mitch says:

    What a great picture of devotion to each other. Remember Jesus is bigger than any of us. We may not understand & we may not like it but we don’t have the same perspective as Jesus. Lou now knows & is praising God. Remember, He will be with us no matter what. Thank you for sharing.

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      Thanks, Mitch. I need that reminder even though I know it is true. I have alone days and far more time to myself than I ever dreamed I would, but I know I am not alone but Jesus IS with me.

  2. Elsa says:

    I really admire you in being able to share such a difficult and intimate experience. Luckily, at this stage in my life, I have not experience something like this and to be completely honest, I don’t know how I would be able to develop the strength to carry on. Working here , I often think of how I would handle loosing someone so close to me and it terrifies me. I thank you for sharing this experience.

    • Anne says:

      I did not see you had posted a comment to my blog. It is almost time to write the last one I intend to share about this journey. I have a feeling that should you be called upon to live what I have lived through, your strength will come as you are called upon to need it. I admire your deep resolve to make the experience of your families as their arranger meaningful and memorable. You have a real gift.

  3. Lauren says:

    Anne, thank you so much for sharing your journey. Your words are always honest, helpful, and comforting.
    Something I wish I would have done differently with my mom would to have sat with her before her radiation appointments. I remember getting up really early to drive to LA for her appointments and then I would fall asleep in the car after dropping her off. Typing that and reading those words makes me sad that I did that. But I’m glad I was the one to drive her to all her appointments.

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      In the malady of human imperfection, we can easily find something we wish we had done differently, once we don’t have that person with us. I had quite a few, but I am glad you realize that the fact you were the one to take her meant a lot, both to you and to your mother.
      I am finding more strength to focus more on the positive than I was able to at first. I believe with time that will improve even more. Lou and your mom would both want that for us, I am sure.
      Thanks for honestly examining your own loss in this way. It takes courage. It also takes courage to love ourselves when we know we did our best with what we could see at the time.

  4. Michael Thomas says:

    Although I didn’t know you well before I started driving you guys, I’m so thankful that I was given that opportunity. Reading these blogs and experiencing your love for Lou first hand has added to my knowledge of life, as sometimes it is important to remember that when we are losing someone, we are losing parts of ourselves as well. Thank you. So much.


    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      You were such a wonderful escort. You made us feel a little better, really.
      Your mind is good, like your mother’s. It is wise to learn from the mistakes and experiences of others. We can’t possibly live long enough to make them all ourselves. And some, like this one, I hate to see you ever have to experience first hand.

  5. Joe Lavoie says:

    I appreciate you being there and as I walk through my own journey with my parents I admire your strength that you have shown to me and others. I find strength myself with your devotion and care you are a guiding light and I appreciate you very much.
    Sincerely Joe Lavoie

    • Anne Anderson Collins says:

      Ah Joe,
      Sweet words. You are going to get through this. You will never get over it, but you are who you are because of the loss you have already had and this year will make you change even more, but for the better. Remember, I am always here for you Joe, and you know I mean that.

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