Coping with the loss of her husband
At CancerCare, we often hear about how bonds are formed and friendships are fostered at our support groups for people with cancer, cancer caregivers and people who have experienced the loss of a loved one to cancer. But Diana found something more. In addition to gaining support, confidence and new friends, she found a partner.
“We started dating in October 2014,” Diana remembers. “He came over to the house at the end of September. At the support group he was very tentative about being involved. This was the only time I really think he opened up: he said he loves to cook, and one time he made a paella that was big enough for three or four people to eat. And when he sat down to eat it, he said it was one of the loneliest experiences of his life. And this was a clue, because I love to cook, and particularly like paella.
“On the last day of the group, he offered me a ride home. When we got to my apartment, I gave him my card and said, ‘Whenever you’re ready to make paella, I have a whole kitchen filled with great pots and pans and I love to cook, too. So I hope you’ll do that with me.’ And that was how we got together.”
As the relationship progressed, Diana realized that the two of them could have difficult, candid conversations about their lives because they had both gone through the experience of losing a spouse. “I recognized, I’m not going to meet somebody again who understands so much of my loss. I began to understand, to know that I really loved this guy.”
Diana first learned about CancerCare from a friend after her husband passed away, though she needed a bit of a push before reaching out. “My girlfriend said, ‘If you do not call and make an appointment, I’m going to do it for you,’” Diana recalls.
She says that joining a support group gave her the chance to connect with others who were grieving, and helped put her own experience into perspective. “I lost the love of my life, but I also lost my business partner. I don’t think I realized how completely messed up I was by that, until I came to CancerCare. And then I saw other people who just had one aspect of a loss, and they were totaled. And I thought, ‘Diana, you’ve got to give yourself a break.’”
Diana still stays in touch with some of the women she met in her last support group. She says they try to meet for dinner at someone’s apartment once a month. “We all became so close, because if you really open up you can trust when somebody says, ‘I know you can do it.’ It’s amazing. It’s like you have an extra family.”
Diana also saw a CancerCare social worker for individual counseling, and credits her sessions with helping her learn to take risks. “My social worker was expressing to me what a miracle it was that my partner and I had found each other, and that it was working so well. She said I shouldn’t ask questions, I should just enjoy it. She helped me find the courage within myself to take a chance.”
Over three years later, Diana’s relationship with her partner is still going strong. She’s also started to feel more confident and stable in her professional life. “I clearly needed some direction,” she says of the healing process. “I needed to see other people, to see what they were going through. And even if I hadn’t met my current partner, I couldn’t be where I am now without CancerCare.”