Kit and I met when I changed careers some thirty something years ago. He was my boss. A blonde haired, burly guy with a loud sense of humor. He knew exactly who he was and what he wanted from life. A typical “driver” personality type. Me, I was this quiet Soul.
In the prime of our life, Kit went in for a scope and we left the appointment with a label. Esophageal Cancer.
We learnt to live more from that day forward.
The Bucket List
We made a “bucket list.” It took on a new meaning in our lives. I mean how often have you heard the words “make a bucket list”?
The list was made up of “Must do” and “Would be nice to do.” Our bucket list joys are written at the bottom of this page. We really lived a lot! I must also point out our budget was tight. I mean, who budgets for fun? I often stayed home and worked while Kit got to enjoy other family members. That was a blessing in disguise for everyone. It gave me time to be me too. To face my own fears.
We Learnt Some.
- Ask lots of questions about the Doctors orders — test your limits. The doctor who diagnosed Kit said we should give up our pre-planned trip to the UK for our first family Christmas in 5 years. We decided to go anyway. We figured that family time was more important. Delaying treatment was not going to change much. No-one knows what you can and can’t do until you try. Kit treated his cancer as though it were a common cold. He did more.
- Don’t hide the darkness your loved ones and you are feeling — talk about it, cry about it and scream if you need to.
- Take calming medicine (natural or prescription) and set an appointment with a counselor — both (all) of you need to do that and independent of each other. Talking is a great healer. I remember that Kit never spoke about his cancer to his counselor — he said that after seeing her every week for 3 months, she asked when he would be ready to face today. He had spoken about regrets, about life, about anger, accomplishments, fear but never spoke about cancer or death. Then he did. It’s so final and difficult to do. The counselor is the never-see-again person that you can talk to about anything. A word of advice for working people — natural remedies like CBD can show up in your urine test and if you have a job that requires you take tests or you are going to be looking for a job — you may prefer a milder prescription drug. Sounds crazy, I know — but it’s for real.
- Do whatever it is you need to do to make you happier. Test your boundaries. Embrace your life.
- Don’t listen to friends who arrive with healing products. People bring huge amounts of CD’s, Books, Natural medicines, Tinctures, chemicals, it’s frightening how many know someone who has tried this or that. They mean well, but choose your own route.
- Understand illness and practicalities, limitations and capabilities and then live anyway — just plan better. Have plan A, plan B and plan C.
- Research the chemicals your loved one is being given — the side affects can be more crippling (literally) than the disease itself. We had a phenomenal oncologist. A young doctor who new all the latest and the best. He put Kit on a particular chemical that gave him neuropathy in his hands and feet. We knew it would. It did a great job at reducing the tumors, however the side affects were unpleasant. The oncologist checked each appointment to see how serious it had become and then suggested it was a good time to suspend that treatment before it could cripple him and force him to be bedridden. It gave us some more time and the side affects waned. It’s a tough choice when living may be a better option than having mobility. We wanted to live a lot more, but without limitations.
- Don’t fail at enjoying life — if you want ice cream in the middle of the night — eat it. If a road trip beckons and it is not even a logical possibility — do it anyway. Consequences are a small price to pay for fun.
- Put your loved one in the midst of all the fun — even if he/she may protest a little. If they have things to watch and lots of distractions, it lets them dodge their heaviness for a bit longer.
- Set up a weekly zoom call with a bunch of old friends. Kit had a group of friends from high school that were very close. The 5 boys would meet on one zoom call from all corners of the world. They would talk for hours, changing the world and reminiscing. I heard Keith laugh so heartily. It was such a joy. He looked forward to “seeing” his friends each week. Towards the end, he could not share much but he loved listening to them. That was a true gift for all and I think it made him stay a little longer. It gave the guys closure too.
- Share your time. Don’t rush off to do things. Sit a bit. Play music — memories are made of music. It helps to shift into a different happier time and makes your loved one a little more joyful. Memory Lane also forces them to think about the past — they talk a lot more and I think it helped me heal after he left.
- Did you know? A few days before Keith passed, he lost his ability to talk. He could only communicate by hand signals and eye/brow movements. I wish I had known. Encourage your loved ones to say all things before it’s too late. Let family and friends visit often, so your loved one does not pass with their words still in them.
- Voice notes. Our family members and friends from near and far sent voice note messages to him. Some were as simple as what they did that day, what was for dinner, a funny joke or a memory. It diminished time and space and he could listen when he felt well enough and reply if he were able.
- No one talks about the end. Protect those you love from being there. Particularly children. They do not need to know the heavy part of life. Let them dream about heaven and Angels. It’s the picture we all want to be loving.
- Have as much fun as you can. Be extreme. Have no regrets. Enjoy every day as though it is your last. One day it might be.
And when they have gone, remember that life is for living. Do whatever it takes to heal. It’s ok to get your own life back.
Bucket List Joys
We were truly blessed to have so much fun while Kit was ill. We took nothing for granted.
My daughter works in the airline industry. Maxi spoilt us with the cheapest tickets, the best routes for Kit’s travel. We were truly blessed.
We honestly lived more in 3 years than we did in our lifetime before.
- Christmas with the family from Scotland and Germany. It was time to tell them about Kit’s cancer diagnosis. We had a good time playing games in front of the fireplace, walking, exploring, sitting in the heated indoor pools. We laughed and we cried. We talked. It was healing. Making gentle, real and beautiful memories.
- Kit took a trip to see his family in South Africa. He spent quality time with each knowing it could be the last.
- African Safari at home in South Africa — food for both our Souls — close to nature and the sound of the african drum beat. Etched in our forever memory. One with nature.
- Kit wanted to do a particular course. It was expensive, it was on his list. He never used it, but he did it. #proudmoment
- A vacation in Ireland to see the Irish Sport Horses — a life long dream he shared with my daughter. They had a wonderful time.
- He bought a Ford F150 — he no longer needed to dream about it — he was living that dream. I still remember the day he came home with it.
- He wanted a food truck — he thought it would be a great side hustle for me after he had gone — that was not my passion but I took it anyway. I sold it after he passed.
- We did a family trip to Jamaica and Kit had a ball. He went snorkeling, swam, walked, danced — very, very special! He said it was one of his best trips ever. The photo was taken at the Usain Bolt Statue.
- I always wanted to have the prettiest garden in the street and I did for many years — then I needed it to be scaled back so that it would be easy for me to maintain. He did that too. It still is the prettiest garden in the street.
On June 6th, 2020 when he passed, we still had some “would be nice to do things” on the list. Cancer taught us how to live more. We also had several unspoken words, moments that I get to laugh about, cry about and cherish.
Life is about living — not about dying. We are all going home one day — without exception.