It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of Maria, my darling wife, who left this life for a much better one on 26 April 2013. We had just celebrated our Ruby Wedding Anniversary in March, so I am very thankful that we spent 40 wonderful years together.
I remember clearly writing on her card, "To my darling Maria, my ruby, the finest and most loved gem in the whole jewel box."
You may have wondered why I have been absent from BlogLand for several months - the reason being that Maria's health issues gradually worsened over the last 2-3 months following her last course of chemotherapy, combating that dreadful disease, breast cancer, originally diagnosed 16 years ago. Maria sensed two months ago that her health was failing and said she considered that this time it was the beginning of the end for her. Of course I went into complete denial because Maria had bounced back so many times and we thought she might be with us for perhaps a couple of years. I say this because the last CT scan revealed that the cancer had just spread to her liver, hence the need for more chemotherapy. Unfortunately the four oral hormone therapy drugs had all become ineffective so she was beginning to run out of options and this greatly disturbed her. We knew that a spread to liver usually means about 2 years to live, although no-one gave us a prognosis.
I looked after Maria with gradually greater intensity for about 3 months and this I was so pleased to do because on our wedding day I promised for better, for worse, in sickness and in health - and I meant every word. About 3 weeks before she died Maria developed an extended and very hard abdomen which was extremely uncomfortable for her. Our GP diagnosed that there was a problem with her liver, although she considered it unlikely that the cancer had got out of hand so quickly and there must be some other cause. While she was alive they never did discover the cause and Maria gradually became weaker and weaker, which was heartbreaking to watch. She knew she was dying, and I too accepted this, albeit reluctantly. Maria told me she wanted to stay at home as long as she could and be with me. She also said she was so pleased to be my wife and laughed when I said she might have needed the services of SpecSavers and that that Polish Vodka was so strong it encouraged me to propose and encouraged her to accept. We have been through so much together, sharing the good times and the bad times. I feel she is part of me and I am part if her . . . . . still.
She was eating less and less and could not keep a meal down and hence her appetite for food was almost non existent during her last week. Also she was not drinking nearly enough causing me to worry that she was beginning to dehydrate. So the time had arrived to get her into hospital and an ambulance took her to A&E. I stayed at home for half an hour and broke down in tears for a while. I arrived there and was alarmed to see she had deteriorated further and was not able to communicate. She was wired up to monitors and they managed to get a canular into her neck through which a saline drip provided much needed liquid and nutrients. A doctor saw me and said she was a very sick lady and they would do everything they could for her - if they could cure her they would but he suspected the cancer had spread and for me to be prepared for any news.
The next day she was transferred to the Medical Assessment Ward and a registrar from Intensive Care saw me and said he doubted whether she would be able to recover because she had nothing in reserve for any sort of treatment they had in mind - the treatment itself would probably kill her. They thought she might be fighting several things all at once and her body was completely overwhelmed.
I was visiting her, with various people all day, and a close Christian friend and I asked our local priest to say the last rights for her, which he did that afternoon. Just as we arrived at the hospital we saw her sister had come over to see her from Wales. She looked very shocked at Maria's condition.
I managed to get my son over from Cardiff and together, with my daughter, we visited Maria again that day and left her bedside at 10.30. She had not regained consciousness since A&E, nor did she ever again. We were asked if we wished to be contacted if her condition changed and at 4 am we received a call asking us to come in. The three of us arrived at her bedside and by that time all her drips and monitors were disconnected and she was transferred to a private room. We stayed with her until the end. I managed to find the strength to say to her, "It is a privilege and an honour to be your husband, darling. God gave me the perfect life long partner and our children, both hand picked by God, would not have been quite as wonderful if you had not been their mother. I am not saying goodbye but just au revoir because I know we will be together again one day and this time no-one and nothing will ever hurt you again and keep us apart."
I also prayed that she would be taken to heaven very quickly and be spared any more suffering. Now this is quite remarkable because at 8.15am no fewer than 15 of my daughter's devout teaching colleagues from her last school, were praying the very same thing and at 8.20am Maria breathed her last breath.
I felt, and still feel, as though part of me has been ripped apart because when we married we became one flesh for ever. I was in a state of shock and disbelief for a couple of weeks but I am gradually coming to terms with this huge loss. I take her nightdress to bed and cuddle it. Perhaps the hardest part is awaking each morning . . . . alone.
The cause of death was still not known and therefore a post mortem was necessary before they could issue a death certificate. The cause of death was a Gastro Intestinal Haemorrhage caused by the spread of breast cancer. So this was not detected on her last CT scan and it explained a lot of exactly what she experienced and her symptoms. There was nothing they could have done for her.
In conclusion I know that lots of people all over the world were praying for her, including many Blogging Buddies, and I thank you so much for your prayers and good wishes. We needn't have had those 16 years (it is a long time after all) and it might be that prayer kept Maria going for so long. Another reason is that she focused on her work at a local Care Home, where she helped many people. She worked right until a month before she died and I was privileged to go in and help her lay the tables and mop the floors. I did so for 6 months.
Next time I shall tell you a little about Maria's wonderful funeral and I shall show you the tribute I wrote for her which was beautifully read and introduced by my cousin, with whom I am very close.