Tag Archives: cancer

Five years ago today

Dear Nick,

5 years ago today, everything changed.

5 years ago today, my world shattered into a million little pieces.

5 years ago today our daughter lost her father.

5 years ago I lost my husband, my best friend, my advisor, my motivator, my life coach, my everything!

In the time that followed your passing, I never thought I could be truly happy again, that I would ever love again, that I would ever be ‘me’ again.

And I was ok with that.

I had such a beautiful, fulfilling life with you, that I thought I’d filled up my love quota. That the love tank was now on empty, having used it up in the 10 years we were together, and I felt truly lucky that we had experienced that. That you chose me to live your short life with.

5 years ago today
Nick

But, what happened next, no one could have predicted. As I’ve always said, I’m so sure you had a hand in it.

because….

In the 5 years since you’ve been gone I got married again to my high school boyfriend and had a baby girl.

In the 5 years since you’ve been gone I’ve found love again, the type to rival any fairytale.

In the 5 years since you’ve been gone I found myself.

In the 5 years since you’ve been gone, I can say life is really good, I have all I need and more.

I still miss you like crazy, I still walk around the house talking to you, I still talk about you Every. Single. Day. You are more apart of our life than most people would believe.

I hope you see how amazing your parents are with the kids. How much the baby adores your Dad, how lucky we are to have them in our life. How accepting your parents have been, how they treat my husband as their own and call him their son in law.

How much closer I’ve become to all of your family and mine in the 5 years since you’ve been gone.

I still have your surname, I feel like it’s my last connection to you. It’s something you gave me, something we shared. I haven’t bought myself to change it yet. My husband is the most understanding, caring guy there is, it has never bothered him that I didn’t take his name when we married. He gets it. I will eventually change it, but I’m in no hurry, I may even keep it and hypen it instead. The options are there!

I wish I could see you, have a real heart to heart, or even just sit in silence with you. What I would give to know what you are thinking now, you always had an opinion on everything!

I wish you could see our baby girl, no longer a baby, but an intelligent, beautiful, thoughtful young girl. Who loves with all her heart. She just lost her first tooth the other week, and I got a little teary, just realising how fast she’s growing and how much you’ve missed out on her.

But I know you see her, I know you walk beside her everyday. How proud you are of her.

So, on this the 5 year anniversary of your death, I’ll light a candle and go through our photo albums, remembering all the good times, the birthdays, the trips, the family functions, the work events, our wedding and of course, the birth of our daughter.

I’ll shed a tear but ultimately i’m just happy we had those years and times together. That I have something so wonderful to look back on, a life with someone as inspirational as you. Who left such a legacy and lasting impression, it makes it hard for me to be mad at you for leaving us, when you left behind so much to be grateful for.

So, Nick I will forever love you and call you my husband (makes for some strange looks when I say that!) We will never forget you, whether it be 5, 10 or 50 years on. I am the person I am today because of you and I am forever in your debt for the gift of life and love you have shown me.

Forever your wife, Michela xxx

To anyone reading this, sorry for my leave of absence, please let me know if you’d like a life update since my last post so long ago!

I still get so many people reading along, though I haven’t written a word in over a year. I get beautiful and some heart breaking emails every week from widows and people all over the world sharing their stories of loss and love with me. It fills me with such light to know Nick’s story has helped so many in their time of need. That when they search for ‘young widow’, or ‘widow story’ or even ‘help, my husband has cancer’ they find my blog and know they’re not alone.

If you want a refresher or to start reading along, you can begin reading from here or if you want to read what happened 5 years ago today, you can find it here now i’m off to paint my nails in memory of Nick, i’m thinking a bright red would be fitting!

til next time xx

 

 

 

 

Nick's Final Few Days

Nick’s Final Few Days

Today, i’ll focus on Nick’s final few days, you’ll find the beginning of this here, I did go off on a tangent last week and posted the footage of Nick beginning his video documentary to our daughter Claudia. Thank you to everyone for your beautiful comments and messages I received following my last post, it touched so many people, including those that have never met us.

So, if you’ll forgive me for a short time, I want to again move again from the sequence of events, and mention last night’s premiere episode of Offspring, Season 5. If you live in Australia, you’ll know of this, and you may well have seen it, as 868,000 of us did! I’ve always watched it, thanks to my girlfriend Cathryn and our Wednesday gourmet pizza and Offspring night, but only now has it resonated so much with me.

Watch the below clip for the overview of Season 5 if you haven’t seen this already, it’s me 3 & 1/2 years ago:

As per the episode last night:

1. Both Nina (the main character) and I lost our partners and were left with a baby girl to raise

2. Both returned to work 6 months after their passing, but were perfectly happy in the cocoon of home life with family and close friends.

3. Both hated the pity faces people gave you when you mentioned you were a widow, but also noticed how weird people acted around us, not knowing what to do/say

4. Scared of scarring my daughter when she was so young, have tried to keep her protected from anyone’s grief, always talking of happy times with her Dad instead.

4. I also pretended Nick was still with me at times in the early days, I still talk out loud to him now! Yes, Nick, that’s you i’m always talking to!

5. And I also asked myself many times, ‘Can I do this?’, be a single mum, raise a child, be me again ???

So needless to say, I cried last night, along with many others watching i’m sure, but it felt so real to me. without the maxi skirts and being a doctor part!. I’m not sure how it’s going to play out from here, but i’ll be watching and I’ll will be writing future posts about this time for me, let me know if you’d like to hear about it ?

On with Nick’s story:

Nick's Final Few Days
In healthier times, with Claudia at 2 months

Wednesday:

The operation was off. They told us Nick wasn’t going to be strong enough to survive the operation. They told us this could be the beginning of the end. They told us it might resolve itself, maybe.  But, Nick wasn’t getting any better, he’d barely eaten since he’d been admitted on the Sunday night, he was looking thinner than ever and was sleeping most of the day.

On Wednesday, he must have been getting nervous about what might be coming, he asked me to fetch his laptop for him, he wanted to jump online and look at our financial situation (he was crazy organised, remember?) but he just couldn’t remember his log in password, he tried so many times, he was locked out. He was angry, he threw the laptop off the bed, I caught it and tried to calm him down. It was the time, I think, he finally realised he wasn’t himself anymore. I tried to tell him it was all the medication fogging his mind. Of course, he couldn’t remember some stupid numbers, but he knew, he said, ‘Chel, i’ve been using the same password for 10 years, what’s wrong with me?’ Broke my heart, it was like a light bulb moment for him.

Our doctors that day, had pulled me aside to say he had a 50/50 chance of pulling through this, but not to get my hopes up just yet.

I’m grateful though that we had a very honest discussion that day, in a moment of clarity for Nick. We had always discussed were he wanted to be when the end came, but that Wednesday, I sat on the bed and we spoke again. He said, if the end comes, and you have the time to decide, take me home, don’t let me die here. I promised i’d do my best to make that happen, and we cried together with our baby girl between us.

Later that night, one of Nick’s best mates, Bill called me and asked if he could come past for a visit. I said no, he wasn’t up to visitors, he’d been inundated all day and needed his rest. Me just being all protective of him. I got off the phone and told Nick, he yelled at me, ‘tell him to come and bring all the boys, I want to see everyone, wives too.’ I sheepishly rang Bill back, apologised and told them to come in. And they all did, they filled his hospital room and for that short time, he was himself again, he joked and laughed, they shared stories and called each other ‘Dickhead’ a lot. I think it was his way of saying goodbye to them all, his best friends from primary school, who knew him so well, over 25 years of friendship with each of them.

Nick's Final Few Days
Nick’s last birthday 16th March 2010

Thursday:

Nick woke up and wasn’t well at all, the Doctors were in and out of the room, performing tests etc. I was starting to get more concerned, there was no improvement in his condition, but they weren’t saying much. I went about my day, draining his ascities and changing over his hot gel packs when they cooled to give him some comfort. (yes, walking right into the nurses station, like I was one of them. The nurses had also taught me how to continue his morphine drip when it kinked and stopped, to avoid that annoying beeping it made!) I was doing all I could to keep him comfy and to keep things as ‘normal’ as I could. Meanwhile, visitors kept coming, our daughter was bought in to hang out and all our parents and close family had been dropping in everyday, which is when I would quickly drive back to the apartment to shower and grab clothes.

On the Thursday afternoon, one of his good mates had come in and Nick had again turned on the charm and acted ‘well enough’, I walked his friend out to the lift area and said, ‘you know this is probably the end now, thanks for coming to say goodbye’, he broke down on me, this great big guy, just started bawling. He couldn’t believe what I was saying, we sat on the couch by the lift, as he composed himself, ‘Nick can’t die’ he kept saying, ‘he can’t’, he left in tears and I think it was my first taste of what was to come.

While Nick and I had been nothing but honest with everyone, telling them his cancer was terminal and would take his life, the reality of it was something different. I could understand everyone wanting to deny it, but it was my living reality, we were under no illusions.

That night our Doctor came to visit and wanted to speak to me alone, I said anything he had to say, he could say in front of Nick, who at this stage was doped up and drifting in and out of being aware. But, he told me to prepare for the worst, things weren’t going to get better. This was going to be the end for Nick and at this rate it was going to come sooner rather than later. He apologised for having to tell us that news, he had wanted to give us a happier ending.

We went to sleep that night, side by side in his hospital room. Not knowing my world was about to be turned on its head in less than 30 short hours.

I’ll leave it here, but will add a short note, I have been to a couple of functions in the last few weeks and want to say, if you are reading along and see me out, please come up and have a chat, I love hearing from you. I promise you won’t bring me to tears, I can talk about it all day, if I see you backing away slowly from me, i’ll know i’ve gone on too long!

And I love knowing your thoughts, so please continue to read, comment, like, share on Facebook,  you never know who might come across this and find some inspiration from it.

Til next week, Michela x

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Nearing the End

Today, i’ve decided to start the Nearing the End series, somehow making this part of the Back to the beginning series doesn’t feel right, when I think of where this is headed. I hope you agree with me?

So, at this stage, Nick knew he didn’t have too much longer to go and between the two of us, he often said he was done himself. I guess after all the chemo and treatments and news only getting worse, he was so over it. There was nothing but bad news every week, in fact, the whole time he was sick, it only went from bad to worse, without barely a plateau week in between. As much as he wanted to live for our daughter and me, he knew no amount of wishing was going to make it come true.

We fought about it a couple of times, he’d tell me he was done, that he wanted no more treatment, that he wanted to live out the rest of his time without hospital visits, i’d tell him it wasn’t his choice, he wasn’t going to give up! These have to go down as the weirdest couple fights ever! He was lethargic and losing patience with most things, he just wasn’t himself anymore and truthfully this scared me. Of course, he always had the right to stop treatment to his own body, at any time, and in ways I feel guilty for making it more about me, I just wasn’t ready to let him go.

I always just wanted him back to normal, for our lives to go back to normal. In my heart, I knew this would never be, but how I wished for those ‘normal’ days again. That old Nick. I missed cooking us dinner, the 6pm phone call, to tell me he was on his way home, Nick walking through the door, planting a kiss on my lips, complaining about the traffic then launching into a story about his day. I would crave the normal, ordinary life we once had. I knew I would never have this with him again, but the 10 years of memories we had together were going to have to suffice.

Nearing the end
A photo of a more simple time, Nick after work taking a quick photo

Of course, there are some things I don’t miss, even now, like how he could fly off the handle so quickly or how pedantic he was about cleaning….of yes, there is a story about Nick spying a cobweb and not telling me about it, to see how long it would take before I spotted it! A little strange to some maybe, but it was Nick nonetheless. I definitely laugh about this one now!

If you’re a friend of ours and reading this, you might be thinking to yourself, you never saw this side of Nick, where he felt so close to the end, but the truth is, he hid it so well from everyone, including his work friends. They might remember Nick coming past the office, wanting to be kept in the loop on happenings, he would speak to his manager about coming back one day, his manager would try to nicely point out, that Nick should be concentrating on treatment and spending time with us. Which was right, but I guess, Toyota had been such a big part of his normal life, he didn’t want to give up on it. I knew he was truly unwell, when he stopped talking about going back to work.

But his Toyota family, (as i’ve always called him) kept his spirits up. He had so many friends at work, in all different areas, that he would actually email  what felt like, the whole Toyota network with his cancer progress updates. The replies via email, text and phone calls kept him buoyed for days, he’d read them all out to me, how they wished him well, praised his positive outlook and mostly, told him how much he was missed in the office and out on the road. Nick was actually asked by his manager, to stop sending the emails, because the office productivity always came to a standstill, as people read them and gathered to discuss, and he thought the mood in the office changed to a more somber one. Nick was gutted when he was told this, but that’s the impact he had on his work friends, they were truly touched, not just by his diagnosis, but by who he was, in general.

Below is a direct copy of two of the last emails Nick sent out to his work family, the first is just a month after his diagnosis:

29/07/2010

Good Afternoon All, 

Well I would like to begin to expressing my sincere thanks to you all, the support provided since finding out about my ill-health has been overwhelming. I can tell you its support from each and everyone of you that keeps me motivated every day!!

Over the past 6 weeks my body has been put through a hard slog, and all that training and fitness over the years has definitely been put to the test.
Having completed Chemo and Radiation, today i begin the road to recovery, as I do my best to regain my strength and get my appetite back.

Its a waiting game now, while my body recoups from all the trauma of the treatment it will be some time before doctors can advise if it was a success.
I have an initial test booked in for August 17, followed by a PET scan (full body cancer scan) in mid Sept for final result and next step discussions.

So the Kosmas goal…. to remain completely focused over the next short period and get back to work as soon as possible…. I just don’t feel the same without interacting with dealers each day !!

Take care everyone, I will be in touch with you all soon.
Once again thank you for all the support !!

Cheers
Nick

12/10/2010

Good Afternoon All,

Well, it’s been a little while since my last email update, so I thought today, while getting treatment would be the best time to update you all on what’s been happening in the life of the Kosmas family.

Europe Trip
Europe was great medicine for Michela and I, the last round of treatment played havoc on my body and was mentally draining at the end. We just needed a break away from hospitals and medication which makes me feel unwell. Our trip served its purpose, giving us fantastic weather (30 degress everyday), and great food and culture. We spent a few days in London and Michela and I were pleasantly surprised with how much we liked London and would go back again. Italy is where we spent most of our time, and I have to say, we really love the place and can’t wait to go back….. It’s just perfect, the relaxed attitude, the way of life, the food and let’s not forget the best coffee in the world!!!
We came back to Oz rested and ready once again !!

Treatment
Landed back from Europe on Sep 15 evening, and was back in hospital 9am the following morning. Totally out of sorts, and in true Nick fashion I pushed through the day… A mammoth day, it began with the installation of an arm port at 9am (USB for meds!), where they hit a nerve on insertion.. Very painful… (I swore very loud), then it was over for a blood test for an update on my platelets, white and red cell counts before the day-ward nurses could begin chemotherapy… What a day, we got home 10pm, never want to do that again!!! Ever!!!

Since then, it’s been a learning curve, testing and trialling medication to help me cope with this new cocktail mix of chemotherapy. This includes meds like anti-nausea to overcome side effects like vomiting, dizziness etc.
I am very pleased to have an opportunity to be trialling this new chemotherapy, they don’t offer this treatment to many, and you must fit a category, like young, healthy, fit, good looking etc…
It’s a very potent mix of meds, but I feel strong enough to take on the challenge….

Today I’m on my 3rd dose of treatment, which occurs every second Tuesday, it drains me for a few days, so i go into recovery mode until the weekend, and then I start getting around again and begin the preparation (eating & drinking plenty) to do it all again.
Sounds a bit heavy and it is, but you know what, it’s amazing what you get used to when you have too!!

My Driving Force
My wife, Michela and baby Claudia are my inspiration, and let me tell you I will never lose hope or my fight, with this terrible sickness that effects so many families, whilst they are by my side.
The support from Michela is inspirational and she keeps everything together always… Best investment I ever made was buying her a Prada bag, wallet and sunnies while away…… (cost me a packet, but she’s worth it!)

To all of you out there, thank you!!! I really mean that, this is a emotional roller coaster ride, and it’s not always easy but support goes so far… That simple text or email can change my day.. Thanks

Giving Back
Health is so important to me, so if I can help spread the word on health to any of your staff/team in the future.. It would be my pleasure to talk openly about my own condition at any forum.

I’m signing off for now, cause I’m a distraction to you all from the job at hand… Keep selling, I hear we have some great finance offers coming available on key models, so good luck and hope your business continues to grow.

Cheers
Nick

I hope that by including these emails, you can even more of a feel for who Nick was, in his own words.  Since beginning this blog, I have been overwhelmed by the amount of people telling me they still talk about Nick on a regular basis and that he is never far from their thoughts. I think he would absolutely love that, knowing that he is still spoken of, and that his memory is being kept alive by so many, even today.

Nearing the End
Singing ‘You’ve lost that loving feeling’ with work friends on a trip to Brampton Island, always the life of the party!

Do you remember getting one of the above emails? What were your thoughts at the time?

I’d love to hear from you, please leave a comment below and don’t forget to like The Polished Widow on Facebook!

Til next time, Michela x

Back to the beginning – part 3

This is Back to the beginning – part 3 in the series, if you’ve missed the earlier posts, you can find them both here and here.

As you might have imagined, these were tough times, I had witnessed Nick becoming such a changed man, almost overnight from his diagnosis. I like to break him into two parts during this time, sick Nick and well Nick, because there was such a difference in the characters of the two. I guess you’d call it perspective, he knew he wasn’t going to be around forever, and with that, he became a softer version of himself.

He went from never saying ‘I love you’ to repeating it 100 times a day! He forgave anyone he had previous grudges with, he apologised to anyone he could remember giving a hard time too, because well Nick, could be very difficult, he was headstrong and this sometimes rubbed people the wrong way. But, sick Nick was a dream to be around, so sweet and sensitive. You could say Fatherhood helped this change along, but I’ll always believe it was because he was living on borrowed time.

We were together 24/7, we had a role reversal in our relationship, suddenly he needed me, I took over his role of being the ‘lead’, because I could see him slipping, and one of us had to be on top of everything. I got him his medication, made sure all his scripts were up to date, co-ordinated his appointments and chemo times, along with his scans etc. , talked to all his Doctors and went with him daily to the hospital, (he wouldn’t let me drive him there, that was one thing he held strong on!). We had become a tight little team, plus add a baby to the mix and breastfeeding and I was literally on the go, all the time! I would never had believed, that I could step up and be the person I was becoming, but I had no other choice.

Another reason why we were never apart, was a deal that we made with his oncologist that he would never stay overnight in hospital. Nick had a fear that if he ever stayed, he would never come out. And so, this is why we had such long hours at the hospital, trying to fit everything in. He was especially germ phobic during this time, knowing that any sign of infection would see him admitted overnight. We just became very used to the 45 minute commute in the morning, to start what he liked to call his ‘work day’.

One day, I actually let Nick go to his chemo appointment with one of his best mates, knowing there were no Doctor appointments and nothing too important to miss, I let his friend step in, so I could enjoy a rare day at home with the baby.

He came home from chemo all excited to tell me he had stumbled (yeah, right, bet he looked it up the night before!) across an AMAZING apartment in the heart of the city, that he thought would be perfect for us to live in. He had already spoken to the agent and she’d meet us the next day, to go over the details. Like most couples, we had discussed where we’d like to retire one day, (is that normal??) we had always agreed on settling in the city and living it up, with all that Melbourne had to offer. Nick had said, seeing as we couldn’t grow old together to do this, he wanted to make it our reality now. How could I not agree with him, plus the travel time to the hospital would only be 15 minutes tops, I was SOLD!

That one time I let someone else take him to the hospital, he bought an apartment on the way there! I couldn’t believe he’d even had the thought to buy a property, but real estate excited him, it was a sign of well Nick.

It was a brand new, 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom apartment and the settlement time was super quick, before I knew it we were living there. We loved it, being so close to the hospital meant we got to spend more time at our new place. Nick was so much more relaxed being there. We had awesome views of the city and of a night we would just sit and watch the city lights and action down below. If he couldn’t sleep, he’d walk the city streets alone at 3 or 4am, watching people stumble out of clubs and bars. He’d bring us back breakfast and tell me all about the crazy people he’d met. (Mostly, strippers paying their way through university and mates having brawls on the streets after a few too many!)  I think living in the city, with the constant noise and action suited him, it didn’t give him much time to be alone with his thoughts.

On the upside, we were also more in control of visitors. When we were living in the ‘burbs, we had a constant stream of people wanting to visit, but once we were in our city apartment, only the people he wanted to see got an invite, by special request only. It was his haven, away from the constant demands of a house and garden, the apartment never needed anything done, it was sick Nick’s ideal life!

Then Nick came up with this crazy idea to have a first and last family holiday with our daughter overseas. We had travelled extensively before his diagnosis and he just wanted to have one last trip. We had the discussion with our oncologist, who advised against us going, but after much pleading, he finally signed Nick off for 2 weeks from treatment. We were going away, something we both desperately needed.

Back to the beginning - part 3
Nick on holiday with his baby girl

We had previously spent a couple of nights in the small town where my Father is from in Italy and Nick always wanted to return. He thought this would be the perfect place to get some time out, so he roped my parents in with us and we took a two week holiday stopping in London for a couple of days, then the beautiful quaint town in Italy and then a few more days in Rome, before returning home. (He even had a friend and his son meet us for the last leg in Rome, Nick really appreciate this too!)

The most relaxing time was staying with my Father’s relatives, they left Nick and I alone, no pressure to do or see anybody. Nick spent much of the time sitting under an apple tree, reading the Lance Armstrong biographies. (He never did get to hear about Lance’s doping allegations and fall from grace, what would Nick have thought then??) And while he was unwell and couldn’t eat much, he never let it ruin his time away. He was so happy to be away from the grind of it all. Plus he got to spend quality time with our daughter, walking down to the piazza every morning for coffee and pastries. Nick used the Italian he knew, to befriend the locals, pretending this all never happened, that cancer was still a word he knew nothing about. That holiday was the best thing we ever did!

Back to the beginning - part 3
Nick enjoying a coffee at the piazza

I’m a firm believer that sick Nick had such a positive outlook on life, because he  was fulfilling whatever he wanted. Sure, when we returned from our holiday, his scan showed that his cancer had grown another 2cms, (because of the pause in chemo) but Nick didn’t care, he’d been able to live a couple of weeks, like he was almost normal again and for that, it was worth it!

Back to the beginning - part 3
Nick waiting while I shopped

That’s all for now, please stayed tuned this Sunday 16th March for an extra special post, if you knew Nick you might have an idea what this is, but I won’t give anything away just yet!

Til next time, Michela x