Annie (Story)
Annie Elizabeth (Barber) Harrison
  • 60 years old
  • Date of birth: Dec 12, 1949
  • Place of birth:
    Chelmsford, Essex County, United Kingdom
  • Date of passing: Nov 2, 2010
  • Place of passing:
    Wichita, Kansas, United States
"Because of Annie" You were my Bright and Shining Star. I will love and miss you until my memory fades. Thank you for sharing your life with me. "Rock On, My Angel" Love you sweetie, Bobby xo

       A TRUE "LOVE STORY"

           NEVER ENDS

 There's No Greated Love, Than Sharing The Dying Process With The Dying, Nothing Harder

           Henri Nouwen

                                             "Becuse of Annie" 

 If you love someone today, try to love them more tomorrow. .                                  

                                     Life Happens                              


This bed was created out of love for my beautiful wife Annie. It is and forever will be the bed where she, "made her last stand" in her battle with a deadly blood cancer, Multiple Myeloma. Annie had a 3 to 4 week prognosis. No one knew of her tenacious will to fight in an effort to live, just one more day. She defied the odds so many times in the first two months, they started calling her their little miracle girl in the hospital and at the cancer center. During the 3rd week of Annie's cancer, she broke both femurs, her right hip, and her spine collapsed. On top of that she had 4 broken ribs. I guess what I'm saying is, if you are fighting the battle, never give up on hope, and love your loved one like there is no tomorrow. I gave Annie 24/7 quality care, and my daughter Melissa was my wing man. We were a formidable caregiver team, with the attitude, you have to live, laugh, and love, to beat back a nasty cancer. Annie survived 30 months, and although it was very traumatic times, we're so glad we fought just as hard for her as, she fought to live. Powerful combination. Of course, Annie had incredible doctor's, specalist's, oncologist's, and medical personnel on her side too.

With grief, it doesn't matter how hard you worked, how loving you were, in fact it's not revelant. Grief tells you, you should have tried harder, done better, and it's not until later on in your grief that you know for sure, "you gave it all you had, and did enough to pull off that final miracle if, the story had not been written. Peace

The Empty Bed

The Empty Bed

 

Grieving Over The Holiday SeasonGrieving during the holiday season

We griever’s know just how difficult the holiday season can be.

The season brings so many challenges with it.  The loss of spirit can be staggering.  Not jumping for joy when you get that special gift, not wanting to do a sing-song with the family, and perhaps the ability to show your appreciation with a radiant smile just isn’t there.  And somehow, the fact that you lost a loved one recently should not play a role in how your feeling during this festive season. Don’t buy into that theory.

If you don’t jump for joy when someone buys you a special gift, that’s your prerogative.  Anybody that loves you, is still going to love you, and should respect how you’re feeling.  One of the biggest problems I saw with grief during the festive season was folks trying to force behavior through gifting. I was never going to get too excited over a present someone gave me, it just wasn’t going to happen. I just wanted my pain and grief to go away, so I could enjoy life like a normal person. It takes time!

How does one prepare for the Holiday’s after suffering a loss?

In my opinion, I’m not sure you can. I mean, who wants to go shopping, buying gifts for others, while surrounded by hundreds of smiley, happy people. Not me! And I didn’t! I stayed in and used family members to help me make decisions on what, and what not to buy or do.

It’s important to understand, that for the most part grievers are terrible decision makers, and often see things as black or white, with no color in between.  And that’s because we live in the shadows of darkness and are so bogged down by sadness and often times traumatic memories, that we can’t think straight.  We think we can, but at times we also think it’s everyone else that’s nuts, and we’re the only ones playing with a full deck. And that was often the case with me over the past few years.

One day, my daughter told me I needed to go to a sports store or somewhere and buy myself a new pair of Tennis shoes. Apparently mine had holes in them.  Of course, being a griever I made a big deal out of making the trip to the store as I knew it was a conspiracy, to get me to go out and mingle with people, I didn’t want to mingle with. Which I still believe to be true.  But I went, and came home with a brand new pair of solid Black Tennis shoes.  

Prior to my grief, I would have never purchased a pair of Black Tennis shoes.  I always loved color and dress colorful. Anyway, when she came over, I put them on for her and flashed them around a bit, and she said, “Dad, why would you buy black Tennis shoes?  That is so not you.”

My reply, “why the hell wouldn’t I.”  I honestly didn’t know the light–I only knew darkness. And the Black Tennis shoes seemed to represent or reflect the darkness in my life at the time.

In December of 2008 during Annie battle with cancer, she remembered a small 4 foot vintage White Christmas tree we had in the basement, and asked me to go get it and bring it up with all our decorations. This was all while she was in her hospital bed in our living room.  She had me set the tree on top of an antique spool cabinet, where she could roll around in her wheelchair and decorate it.  And decorate it she did.

I never took the tree down and it’s been in the same place ever sense. That was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I couldn’t even imagine decorating a Christmas tree while in the throngs of grief. And apparently I couldn’t imagine unplugging the lights on one either. Over a couple of years the bulbs burnt out. Now my dilemma is whether to put new bulbs on the tree or not, while wondering how I could exchange them without disturbing the decorations.

Holiday seasons can be a grievers nightmare, struggling with decisions that to normal folks come easy. Some would say, just change the lights! While others might say, don’t change them, you’ll disturb Annie’s creation. That stuff rolls around in my mind continually and may sound a bit silly to many, but to a griever it can be a real and valid worry. I even thought about putting up a new tree. After all, it has been 5 years now. It would give me something to do, but it takes spirit and vision to decorate a tree, and I have neither at the moment.

I guess I’m caught up in what I call, “what’s the point, loneliness.” I’m lonely, and what’s the point!  I’m the only one here and how many times can I tell the tree, “Christmas tree you are beautiful.”

Now, if Annie were to pop in and say, “Bobby, what a beautiful Christmas tree!”  I’d jump for joy wile crying and laughing at the same time. But you and I both know she is not coming back. So, what’s the point! What I’m saying is–missing a loved one at Christmas time is the ultimate illusion when trying to be happy.  I’m lonely, perhaps a bit bitter over my loss, but please don’t confuse anything I’ve said with being thankful. I’m truly thankful for what I have and the love my wife Annie and I shared for 39 years. I had a very deep love for her and her loss has messed me up,–and in a soft voice, I know it.  Isn’t that what this article is about.

Yesterday was her birthday, and with Christmas just around the corner, I get a double whammy every year. As per normal, the month of December is difficult for me, and at least for another Christmas I shall throw in the towel and simply do the best I can. And I know many of you will be doing the same thing.

If you are a griever, don’t let others place too many expectations on you. Like, expecting you to be happy, when you’re not. And if you’re smart, you won’t put too many expectations on them either, which might ease some of your burdens of disappointment. I was a griever for four solid years and it still lingers. I know the expectations and demands some friends and family members will put on a griever.

Annie passed in November 2010, and of course I dreaded Christmas and New Year’s for many reasons. Here’s a good example why. In December of 2010 some folks that were very aware of my circumstances, would walk up to me, shake my hand with a hug and say, “Merry Christmas Bob and a Happy New Year.” To a normal person that is a wonderful greeting. But Grievers aren’t always normal people and see life through a different prism. Our prism has more darkness than light.  It can be filled with confusion, chaos, and certainly pain. Because we can’t see through the prism adequately, we don’t see the future clearly…Certainly not a Happy New Year.

I remember the day a lady walked up to me and said, “Bob, I’d like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” but I better not, as I’m sure you don’t feel that way.  I loved it, and it made me laugh. She gave me the wishes while in the same sentence, acknowledging my grief.  Probably borderline manipulation, but very clever.

I know, that for a period of time my grief was so deep that I wasn’t right in the head. But honestly, I simply didn’t care. You know the old saying, “first you’re afraid you’re gonna die, then you’re afraid you ain’t.” That was me for a long time…I was literally fighting for my very existence. So this holiday season be kind to grievers. We all grieve differently, some deeper than others, and we may be a bit screwed up; but somewhere, locked inside that complex body of grief is a caring loving person that doesn’t want to be there, but doesn’t know how to get out.  Please, “help them.”

You own your grief

Take charge of your grief by doing only the things that make you feel comfortable. It’s a given that some non-grievers will push all your buttons in an effort to get you into the holiday spirit.  Please, be kind to yourself and don’t do what you just can’t do.  Others mean well, but have no concept of how you are feeling.  Tell them how you truly feel, and what your wants and needs are.  You might be surprised.

Some will listen to you intently and offer a helping hand, and some will say, I’m so sorry you still feel that way, and simply disappear. That’s the sad reality of a grievers life.  Try to understand, some people don’t know how to react to a downer, and we grievers can be real downers during the holiday season. We can’t help it, and we can’t change it. We can put a pretend smile on our face and appear to go about the festive season in a happy state, only to hear someone say, I wish he/she would cheer up a bit. Point is, no matter how hard we try, we can’t be what we’re not.  You are a griever and by nature, that makes you a very complex and hard to understand person from a non grievers point of view.  Stay true to yourself, be what you are, and do what helps you the most.  It can be very empowering and have a healing effect.  And that’s what’s important.

Nothing else at this moment in time should trump your healing.

So, during this fifth Christmas season without Annie, to be honest with you, not much has changed. Has my grief eased? Yes! How about my loneliness?  No!  Some things in life are not replaceable, and all the love I have for her is now becoming a superficial memory. Why?  Because I can’t touch it. I can’t hold her and feel her love, her hugs were always the best, and made life worth living and the holidays worth celebrating. That’s all gone now, my life has and will continue to change forever.

Sure, the memories are there, and therein lies a problem.  No matter how hard I try to hang on, memories fade too or get distorted over time.

The brown box

The lead in picture to this article is Annie setting in our living room a few years ago. She proclaimed her excitement over the big brown box I had carried over as if heavy, and sat down on the fireplace beside her. Although she didn’t know it at the time, it was just a gag, the box was empty. She handled it well!

So, if you’re a griever, don’t let your big brown box be empty. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by spending your time trying to make everyone else happy through pretense. Even if you’re doing your best and think you’re doing a good job, someone invariably will come over, hand you an empty box by saying, come on mom, dad, or whoever, get into the holiday spirit.  So you can’t win even when you’re trying.

They presume to know how you feel, so the smile on your face is not real.

Just be yourself and have the best Christmas you can, by making the best out of what might be a bad situation.

Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays to all!  With Love!

About Bob Harrison

Bob Harrison was raised in the heart of the Redwoods in the far northwest comer of northern California. The little town of Crescent City, California was located near some of the world’s tallest trees, with the west shoreline being the Pacific Ocean. Bob spent most of his time fishing the two local rivers where some of the finest Steelhead and Salmon fishing is located. He was also well known up and down the north coast as an avid motorcycle racer, winning several hundred trophies, and one Oregon State title. Bob graduated from Del Norte High School with the class of 1966, then spent a one year stint at the College of the Redwoods, before having a strong sense of patriotism and joining the United States Air Force. After three years of service, Bob met Annie, the love of his life, and they got married in England in 1972. Bob’s love of country pushed him on to what turned out to be a very successful career, retiring in 1991. Bob’s last military assignment was Wichita, Kansas, a place he and Annie decided to call home. Together they developed and ran two very successful antique businesses until the stranger knocked on their door and changed their lives forever; “Because of Annie.

Grief & Loneliness

Caregiver grief & loneliness

On 28 December 2015 I posted Grief: a silent killer. In the article I discussed caregiving, grief, stress and the role they play in our long term well being. After reading over one hundred-fifty comments to the blog on the Caregiver Space Facebook page, I saw an alarming issue that I failed to address, and it’s a key ingredient to the others when caregiving, grieving, or after the grief.

Loneliness

Caregiving can create a strong sense of loneliness, as folks, often friends and family just seem to disappear into thin air.  That’s compounded by the fact that sometimes communication with our loved one can be very limited due to the nature of the disease or illness.  In other words, there may be no communication for lengthy periods of time.

When I was caring for my wife Annie, due to her low immunity we could go several days without a visitor of any sort.  And the fact that she was on high dose narcotics didn’t help matters any as, she slept much of the time.  

What made matters even worse, was that Annie, although very ill was lonely too.  It’s can be a real oxymoron.  People can be a nuisance at times, when they come into your home and all they want to talk about is their problems, especially to a woman that is in her hospital bed dying of cancer.  But being desperate, loneliness often wants them there anyway.  Company becomes company, and the conversation, no matter what it is, becomes fresh and new, with a new voice. Sometimes the new voice takes the patient or loved ones mind off their own illness, and that’s a good thing.   

It seems to me, what it boils down to is communication.  I wasn’t very good at communicating to friends and family that we could sure use some company.  Instead, I just wondered why not many people stopped by.  It’s tough.  There were times when people did stop by and Annie had very low immunity, the new rules, as laid down by her oncologist, had changed the rules on the playing field.  I wasn’t allowed to let any person, especially children, near her over the fear of her catching a germ which could lead to a very serious, and in-fact fatal infection. So I had to turn them away. So as you can see, loneliness is a big part of caregiveing, and can happen through no fault of anyone, or the fault of everyone and everything.  Sometimes, loneliness simply gets lost in translation.   

Grief also creates a strong sense of loneliness, and can lead to a lot of solitude. On the other hand we may be surrounded by people, but we’re still lonely over our loss. In essence grief and loneliness go hand in hand. It’s the double edged sword effect.

When one grieves over a loss, there can be a strong sense of isolation, and in that instance the isolation creates the loneliness.  And I might add, the loneliness felt from feeling isolated is a real problem and can cause mental health issues.

I saw Dr. Bryant, my psychologist, the evening of 30 December 2015.  He said to me, “my biggest concern at the moment is dealing with your loneliness.”  He said it can create instability in a person, depression, anxiety and escalate to a whole sundry of other problems, which perpetuates being lonely.  Many of the illnesses I went through in 2015, probably used loneliness as a contributing factor.

From his words, loneliness is not to be trifled with, and can make you sick over time.  Having said that, a full recovery is possible when and if the loneliness dissipates.

Metaphor

When I was 20 years old I joined the Air Force.  After basic training and technical school I was sent to England for 3 years.  The first six months in England, even though I worked most days and made many new friends, I felt like I was the loneliest guy on the planet.  Over time, I think the cycle broke rather naturally as I accepted my fate. I was going to be there for 3 years whether I liked it or not, so I might as well spend my time having some fun.  So I did!  Eventually, I felt less lonely with my military buddies than, I had at any point in my life.

The truth

In the metaphor the loneliness was real, but there was always going to be a fix. After all, I had a maximum time limit of 3 years to the loneliness, then I’d be going home, and I could always see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

Losing a loved one is the real deal.  There is no time limit on anything to do with grief or the loneliness, and at the time not much hope either.  And there is no magic wand to wave and make things better.  

The dynamics of grief is such that we can literally bury ourselves in our own sorrow, cutting ourselves off from the outside world, and our family and friends.  In doing so, we inadvertently create circumstances that will fester, and develop into full blown loneliness, during and after the grief.

Understanding that loneliness and stress are bits and pieces of grief, one needs to take grief very seriously. When mixing the three together, the grief can become very intense over a short period of time, and in the case of elderly couples it can lead to extreme grief which develops into the broken heart syndrome. In a research study over a 9 year period of over 373,189 elderly U.S. couples, by Nicholas A. Christakis of Harvard, and Felix Elwert of the University of Wisconsin, it was noted that in 18 percent of surviving male spouses and 13 percent of surviving female spouses died not long after their other half, from sudden death due to all causes.  So if you lose and elderly parent, and the other parent is alive, pay attention to them. Help them through their loss if you can.

Personally, I despise being lonely.  But it’s my burden to carry and I carry it every day, where ever I go. My life has turned into a 4 step program. First there was Caregiving, then the grief and stress, now loneliness. That’s a lot for me or anyone else to deal with.  It’s like being caught in a shadow world where one minute you can see your shadow and the next minute you can’t. Meaning, we walk out of the house with good intentions thinking we have it all figured out, then soon realize, we don’t. It’s just another illusion of happiness. It’s really tough to have anything other than spurts of happiness when your lonely.

Another point I should make is that loneliness is kind of like grief, in that it allows us to make poor decisions. Perhaps, we might do things we wouldn’t normally do for a fleeting moment of self gratification.  For example, buying a new expensive feel good toy that elevates our spirits for the moment, but when we get home we think, how silly, I don’t want, or will never use that toy. And the beat goes on.

How do we get out of loneliness

I say we, because I’m stuck in the loneliest period of my life as I write this article. Yes, I could go out and meet someone, but I’m smarter than that.  Loneliness is very deceptive. I could one day get over the loneliness, and wake up one morning with someone that I don’t want to be with, or perhaps, I don’t get over the loneliness quick enough, and she decides she’s made a bad decision and leaves me. Either way, someone often gets hurt.

What I think I’m going to do is, get more involved with volunteer work, which will get me out into the community and help me start meeting new people, and doing some things that I might not necessarily want to do, but in order to break the cycle of loneliness, I need to do. I really have no other answers, or options that I know of. I’ve been told, yoga and meditation are helpful, but I’m not that guy. I know this, being around family and grandkids provides some comfort from the storm, but are not the answer. The answer lies from deep within me, and I just have to dive in and pull it out.

This has to be my year, and I’m going to get better and break the cycle of loneliness, no matter what it takes. I know, I’ll stumble, maybe fall a few times, but each time I do I’ll get right back up, dust myself off and try again.  

When I was in the 7th grade, and at a school dance, I was so afraid to ask a girl to dance with me, in case she said no. But I did it, and after I got turned down a couple times, I became more determined than ever to get a dance. Then fate intervened, and this cute little  popular girl named Bonnie, walked up to me and asked me if I’d dance with her. I couldn’t believe my luck.

One thing I know for sure.  Sitting around in this house day after day is not going to break the cycle of loneliness, or change my luck, but it could break me if I don’t get that dance.  

And sometimes, despite all we do to break the cycle of loneliness, we still need a little help. So, as I sort of did at the dance, put yourself out there and just maybe fate will do the rest. It’s not going to be easy, but you can do it, and so can I.

My fear is, if we fail, the consequences could be dire.

I wish you the best!  

bob@thecaregiverspace.org

After The Death: grief & dreams   After the death: grief & dreams

After being my wife Annie’s caregiver for thirty months through her battle with cancer, I lost her. I started out as a novice caregiver, but over time I got my Caregiving PhD through on-the-job training. It didn’t take me long to realize the pain and torment some caregivers go through is really badIt was as if my body was always in motion, relentlessly moving to the beat of a hostile drum. Their wasn’t much time for me to sit and relax, sleep, or do many of the things that would have been good for me.

Within the first month I realized my body no longer belonged to me, I was a Caregiver. In my case there was no room for being selfish or of wanting anything that might be good for my well-being. But you know what, for thirty months my body never let me down and I gave everything I had in me to Annie. Never once did I get a cough, a cold, or a fever–I just willed my body onward. So, there I was always moving forward trying to stay one step ahead of the pain and fight off any infections. Annie’s bones were very badly diseased, she had virtually no immunity on a daily basis, and needed to live in a sterilized room as much as possible. A very difficult task!

Grief

Technically, from the day I heard Annie's prognosis I started grieving.  After all, a three week prognosis is not very long. As you already know, Annie survived 30 months fighting a nasty cancer. I was told that I was fortunate, in that when I lost her my grief would not be as bad–I had been grieving for quite some time. Don’t ever buy into that theory, it’s not right.

When Annie died, this body that was always in motion lost it’s purpose. I felt like I hit a brick wall doing one-hundred miles an hour. She was just gone–no more giving her medications to her, tucking her in at night, washing her body and beautiful hair, cutting her finger and toe nails, messaging her legs when they hurt, sitting beside and sleeping in a recliner in the hospital for over one-hundred days, telling her and reassuring her “that this is not it Annie,” you’re gonna get through this event, and simply loving her with all my heart and soul–She was just gone! After the initial shock and knee buckling pain my mind started asking questions. Is she okay? How is she doing? Where is she? My faith told me she was in Heaven and doing just fine–but to me in the initial stages of grief, heaven didn’t have a role to play. I just wanted her back!!

An accidental solution: dreams

Having so many questions without answers was eating away at me from the inside out. I was searching for answers. Then one night I laid my head down on my pillow and looked across the five feet to her empty hospital bed. I noticed the sports bandage on her night stand that she wore after braking her pinkie finger. Eureka! A light bulb went on. Annie would sprinkle “Sweet Pea Jasmine” oil on her sports bandage, get in her wheelchair and move around the room wiping it on our fabric furniture and curtains. It made our house smell lovely. My thoughts were, that if I go get the oil and sprinkle it on my pillow I might have a sweet dream of her. I quickly checked the internet to see what it had to say. It said, by laying in a bed of rose petals it is sometimes possible to invoke a sweet dream, however, it can’t be targeted. I was very disappointed but at that point I was not going to give up. When I went to the wicker basket where she kept the oil, I noticed her perfume. I got really excited, and felt like great things were going to happen this night.

And they did! When I laid my head back down I said a prayer to my creator asking him to let me see Annie one more time, then sprayed her perfume on the pillow and the blanket up near where my face was. After I fell asleep I had the most beautiful dream of Annie. She was standing beside her hospital bed, dancing around in a pair of pajamas I bought her, letting me see she was okay. She was turning from side to side, letting me see that her spine was no longer bowed out, and her legs were healed. She was finally free of all the torment and pain she had been suffering. She seemed happy! I couldn’t see her face, but I knew it was Annie.

Isn’t it ironic? Her special perfume was “Angel.” The first four out of five nights I used the perfume I had a pleasant dream of Annie. The stronger the scent the more vivid the dream. And after the first couple of days, I always saw her face. Knowing that greed is a bad thing I didn’t ask to see her or spray the perfume every night, but when I did, the combination worked.

Several months later I was having problems with a question that kept going around in my head. “I can’t let go of her, until she lets go of me.” I went to see my psychologist, Dr. Bryant, and posed the question to him. He looked at me very seriously and said in a soft voice, “Bob, she is not holding on to you!” I said in a soft voice, “I believe she is.” That night I sprayed the perfume and asked for clarification of my question. What I’m going to tell you was simply amazing. When the dream came, Annie and I were up on a grassy hillside, hand in hand, arms swinging in unison like a couple of kids. When the dream ended, we were standing on a porch. Annie had let go of my hand. There was a lady with dark hair standing in the doorway behind an old-fashioned screen door. I looked at her then turned to Annie who had her hand extended to me. She wanted to slap hands. I reached over and gently slapped my hand against hers. She gave me a beautiful smile, turned and stepped off the porch and disappeared. What did it mean? I believe that Annie was telling me when I’m ready it’s okay to move on. She had just let go of my hand.

Note: After several experience’s with dreams, I went to the store where she purchased it and was able to speak to the Angel representative. She told me that Angel contains the same ingredients used in aroma therapy, but much stronger. If I had to give one warning it would be that some of the dreams were not pleasant, and were deeply troubling. I used her Angel until it ran out and although I still have the bottle, I won’t refill it. While grieving I believe my mind had opened up to a higher level of consciousness, hence even life felt very vivid. So when I witnessed trauma on a routine basis as I did, sometimes when dreaming I think I triggered the mechanism in our brain that allows psychic trauma to creep in. In other words, re-live a traumatic event through your dreams. It’s not and individual event, but just as traumatic. Annie wore Angel perfume for nineteen years. So that became her trade mark scent and I loved it.

If you’re grieving it’s very important to keep a journal or diary of how you feel and some of the events that take place from day to day. Later on in your grief, it becomes so important to be able to look back and reflect on your journey. In a sense you are tracking your grief and can clearly see if you are getting better or not. The dreams I spoke of and the many more I had were all documented in real time and now I can use them for a reference point, and share some with others. Believe me, in grief that’s a win, win, situation.

Grief A Silent Killer   Grief: A silent killer

You know, I could start this article out with a bunch of fancy words and statistics to perhaps prove a point, but I really don’t need to.

Annie’s journey through cancer was very difficult, and the truth is, she was always dying a little more each day. From the moment of her diagnosis/prognosis, which was, “we can’t figure out why she is still alive,” but she may have “three to four weeks.” Imagine trying to wrap your head around that grim news.

And I get it, when someone says, “why would you post this blog during the holiday season when spirits are running so high.” My answer, “why wouldn’t I.”  You see, I’m now thankful for what I have, which to me is the gift of having the ability and platform to share stories and events that are happening to caregivers every minute of every day, and don’t magically disappear during the holidays. I say things that many folks are thinking, but don’t want to talk about. I call it “The Truth.”  

And the truth is, none of the serious illness we get are discriminatory.  I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat, a lawyer or a doctor, rich or poor, black or white, it just doesn’t matter. Many of the serious diseases will level the playing field for all, and can bring you down no matter who you are. And you will most likely need a caregiver.  Someone like me that truly does care for your well-being regardless of your status in life, and willing to share stories or articles with you anytime of the year. Some may just help you get through a rough patch.

Caregiving is like going on a journey where no person has gone before. Why, because if you haven’t been through the experience, you can’t possibly understand the concept of just how difficult being a caregiver can be.  It will take you to places where you don’t want to go, and having you doing things that you don’t want to do. Your emotions will get very elevated at times, and your stress level can be at the top of the charts.  In essence, stress from being a caregiver can, and if not controllable, create a very unstable and unhealthy lifestyle.

Stress

There are many books floating around out there on how to manage your stress.  Well they may be fine when dealing with normal day to day lifetime stressful issues, and we all have them, some worse than others, but if you think a caregiver deals with typical stresses, think again.  

Enter the caregiver for a terminally ill loved one, whatever the disease, throw in Alzheimer's or Dementia, then you can honestly say, as did Tom Hanks from Apollo 13, “Houston, we have a problem.”  And I don’t care how many books you read on stress, they are words and guidelines that can become meaningless to a caregiver under some very challenging, and tremendously unsettling circumstances. Imagine, under the dire circumstances of Apollo 13, someone handing Tom Hanks a book on how to deal with extreme stress. I wonder what his words would have been.  Probably not, “oh, thank you.”

Yes, that was a simple metaphor, but in reality many caregivers face that scenario every day. And the truth is, there is no instruction manual or stress guide that can help you in the heat of the moment, which in truth is a moment that can be created many times a day, day after day. Tom Hanks was flying Apollo 13 by the seat of his pants, and so goes the caregiver.  We have to adjust and improvise as events unfold. And of course, making the right decisions at the time will determine the outcome of the event.  Good or bad.  No pressure, huh.

If you don’t know by now, you should know, over and extended period of time, stress is a killer. It’s a fact that, many caregiver’s will get ill and die before the person their caring for dies. And it’s usually form some sort of live or dormant disorder that is triggered by excessive stress.  

To prove my point I’m going to tell you what happened to me over the entire year of 2015, and why. It’s scary, and sneaks up on you without warning.

Extreme Caregiver

What is an extreme caregiver? Simply put, in my opinion, it’s a person that takes on the role of being a caregiver for a loved one that needs ongoing 24/7 care, which can lead to severe weight loss over a period of time, many sleepless nights, all while dealing with chaos and confusion from lack of instructions…And does it in a selfless manner, without complaint and with no regard for their own well-being.

That’s the way it was caring for Annie, as her hope for another day rested with me. There was no other choice. Annie had many broken bones from the cancer and was basically wheelchair bound, and in a hospital bed from the third week on. Just rolling her over in a manner that didn’t break another bone was a challenge.  Her bones were very badly diseased from the cancer. She was on 200mg of Morphine a day, plus a Fentanyl patch, and Percocet when needed. Her pain medication, which she had to have, was my biggest nightmare.

I knew from day one Annie would not survive her cancer, but I guess I couldn’t accept the facts as they were presented to me. So, I spoke of my fears to her oncologist about all the pain medications she was on. He was brutally honest with me when he said that he was doing everything he could to keep her alive, and my job was to keep her out of pain. Then with strange facial expressions he explained to me the type of pain she was in, and walked away saying, “stay ahead of the pain Bob,” then turning back to say that if I get behind on pain control, playing catch up can be very dangerous as one extra pill can lead to the overdose that kills her. I guess I needed to hear that, and it seemed to make me more determined than ever to fight for her.

It was up to me to make sure that when she took her medications, I kept an eye on her for the first couple of hours watching for shallow breathing.  If the breathing were to get too shallow, Annie could stop breathing altogether, and die. That was a huge responsibility for me, especially when trying to rest at night. I found myself continually waking up and looking at her chest to make sure she had positive air flow. Some nights her shallow breathing was so bad I stayed up all night, giving her a head massage and talking to her.

Bottom line is, I loved her and was willing to do whatever it took to keep her alive. Yes I was tired, but I knew I had the rest of my life to sleep and get rest, but in her case the days were numbered, it was not a matter of if, but when.

In a sense, my life was no longer mine. It belonged to everything I put into caring for Annie. And I would not change a thing. I loved her deeply, and whatever part of her that was not my world, became my world. My position in her life was way more than just being a loving husband.  I was determined to make sure that when the sun set, even during the dark of night, she had the best possible chance of surviving for sun rise, and the dawning of a new day.  

Grief

Thirty months after diagnosis, Annie passed. She died with the same grace she fought cancer with. She took me on an extraordinary 30 month journey, allowing me to see what a precious gift she was to me, while helping me understand love in a way that many people never will. I discovered, that for that moment in time, true love penetrated deep into my soul, there was no anger, no resentment, and I found it to be very spiritual. It seemed that my goal in life while caring for Annie was to share every minute I could with her in happiness. Despite everything cancer had in its arsenal to hurt Annie with, we fought back on a daily basis, and we had some fun.  

Annie’s journey through cancer was never about living, it was always about dying, and a caregiver man and his beautiful wife that simply refused to throw in the towel. We literally fought until the end.

When you consider what I just said, when Annie died it was like I hit a brick wall doing one hundred miles an hour. I was totally lost, swallowed up by darkness and despair.  I just wanted her back. Nothing else mattered.  That went on for about three years, day and night.  I didn’t know from one day to the next if I was coming or going and for that matter didn’t really care.  Over a period of  the 4th year the pain started easing considerably, and I was starting to feel alive again. So I thought.

Stress related illnesses

The year 2015 was the worst year of my life for healthcare issues. I was never a sickly person, and all through Annie’s illness I never even had a sniffle. My four years of grief were not quite uneventful.  I was put on heart medication to control heart palpitations that started a few months after Annie died.

A few months after Annie passed I went to see my general practitioner for a physical. The only problem he found was low vitamin D.  Still, his lingering words,  “Bob, there will be consequences for your extreme caregiving, they just haven’t reared their ugly head yet,” still ring in my head.  I think his thoughts at the time, followed by 3 years of intense grief,  and the 4th year spend  coming down from grief, created the perfect storm in 2015. My immune system broke down from all the stress.

In January of 2015 I had my annual physical. All my red blood cell counts were abnormally low. The low blood counts were later on diagnosed as being caused by moderate to severe Gastritis with anemia.  Also, I had two separate lung infections with inflammation, requiring steroid treatment, followed by shingles. Then out of nowhere, came a high level of full body inflammation which triggered a search for tumors in my body.  The inflammation in my body cause me to have what I called the perpetual flu, every day for 6 weeks. My general practitioner asked me if there was any place in or on my body where I didn’t hurt, I said, “my feet.”  He kind of laughed as he left the room.

It’s been a long year for me.  The low blood counts and inflammation triggered so many tests, I felt like a pin cushion. I’ve had a heart catheter, colonoscopy, gastroscopy, x-rays, and a sundry of other tests. Plenty of antibiotics, steroids, pain pills for shingles and so on. It was simply one thing after the other spread out over the year.

It seems like I’ve weathered the storm for now, but I have some more testing in January. The good news is, I don’t have auto immune disease, the bad news is, my full body inflammation can return at any time triggering another round of shingles and other illnesses.  

I’ve climbed a mountain of health issues this year, but caring for Annie taught me how to fight through illnesses that to her would have been commonplace.

The answer, Caregiver=stress, Love=stress, Pain=stress

Under the circumstances as I presented them above, I don’t believe there is an answer to stress relief. Problem is, if you really love someone, when they hurt, physically you can’t feel their pain, but in your heart you certainly can and will feel their pain.  

When my wife Annie was standing beside me and I heard her right femur snap and her hip break, and the audible sound of pain, all I could do was catch her as she was falling. Where do I put that! When she was put on the ventilator for 5 days fighting double pneumonia, sepsis (blood poisoning), and swine flu, I was told the odds of her surviving this event were incalculable. Where do I put that!  The 4 or 5 times the doctors told me that Annie would probably not survive the night, where does that go.  These types of events were a main stay of Annie’s illness.  They happened often.

Looking back, it’s obvious I was living in anticipatory grief.  Not knowing from one day to the next if she was going to survive or not. So in essence, the stress was not going anywhere. It was interlocked with the anticipatory grief and went with me where ever I went.  You can’t make the feeling of doom and gloom go away and you can’t relax or read it out of your head.  It’s there, and there it will stay. You’re gradually getting sick, and you don’t even know it.  You think you are just sad.

Then, over time Annie passed. The anticipatory grief turned to full blown grief and from that point on, the stress was firmly entrenched in the grief cycle.

Three months after Annie passed I started seeing Dr. Bryant, Psychologist. The first six months I saw him twice a week, one hour a session.  Five years later I still see him on a weekly basis for an hour each session.  

I can look back on the many times, when I got back into my vehicle for the drive home after leaving his office, feeling okay, then I’d see something that reminded me of Annie and all the dark emotions came flooding back. Like I said, stress and grief are sort of intertwined, and stress seems to piggybacks off of grief.  

When I first found out I was not well in 2015, the damage to my immune system  had been occurring over a period of the previous six and one-half years. How was I to know that?  And what could I have done to fix it, if I had of known?  There is no magic potion or pill to take away ones pain. Yes, the pain can be masked through medication, but when the mask comes off, guess what, the grief that you haven’t dealt with is right there waiting for you with all its glory and stress.

Bottom line, if you love deeply, you will grieve deeply, the stress will be strong and right there with you too. Stress can be, and sometimes is, “the silent killer.”

Grief: Time Stands Still

Grief: time stands still

One of the most painful experiences a loving caregiver will ever witness, is the dreaded moment when time stands still, and a loved one slips away in front of your eyes. Sadly, there’s nothing you can do to comfort the burden of your pain. It’s there, it’s real, and the grieving process that’s already firmly entrenched in your mind, will begin in earnest. Grief’s arrow will pierce your heart.

Metaphor

This is not how it happened to me, but in a sense it is. And if I didn’t know the truth, I couldn’t speak it.

Internally or vocally you’re screaming out in pain, but no one knows the depth of your sorrow, but you. Everything around you becomes an illusion, where it becomes difficult to process the real from the unreal. You know you saw your loved one pass, but in your mind it’s a case of, “maybe it just a dream.” It didn’t really happen, did it?

You find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff, not sure which way you’re going to fall. You become frightened, you’re lost and don’t know what to do, and then it hits you, this is real, as you fall back into a chair mumbling the words, “I just want my loved one back.”

The pain is excruciating, the fog of death is thick, and you’re slowly coming to terms with the fact that “life as you knew it has, changed forever.” There’s no going back, the care giving for your loved one is now over, and I can honestly tell you from experience, you’ve just traded one nightmare for another.

In my case, being a caregiver for my dying wife Annie was a nightmare. My anticipatory grief was always present, and in the forefront of my thoughts. She so wanted to live, but was not afraid to die. I guess I just wanted her to live, and having to let her go at the end, was beyond my understanding of how life was supposed to be. The emotional drag put on my life by viewing her death has not been good, and doesn’t create a good last memory. The medical personnel telling me how peaceful her death was, by noting the lack of stress on her face, meant nothing. She was just gone!

Oh sure, all her pain and suffering from the cancer was gone, and her nightmare was over, but for me, my nightmare was just beginning. And that may sound a bit selfish, but grievers know, “it’s the truth.”

There’s no second chance to say I love you, fix her a nice meal, or to do the special things for her that sometimes made her day. This body that was continually in motion for thirty months, was now at a standstill. It was like being on a merry-go-round for thirty months, going round and round, never stopping. Then it happens! The merry-go-round stops, and you can no longer stand, so you fall to your knees, head still spinning from all that you went through. And when you finally raise your head and look up, what do you see. In my case it was darkness, laced with a lot of chaos from fear of the unknown. Which is the same fear I, and most likely you felt when care giving and battling for your loved ones life. You are now back on the merry-go-round, but this time it’s different, it’s the merry-go-round of grief!

This is my fifth year post grief and I’ve written thousands upon thousands of words on the subject, but this post was truly meant to be about that moment in time, “When time stands still.”

Still, I need to say this: If your new to the world of grief, or been a griever for awhile, the most important advice I can give you is to not hold back your emotions. You must let them flow. Your tears are your best friend, and if you’re like me, you may cry a thousand tears, think you’re getting better, and cry a thousand more. You’re a griever, where logic is simply a state of mind, which may or may not play a role in your healing process. If you’re feeling locked up, get the photo albums out and start browsing through your pictures. That will allow you to revisit old memories which may get your tears flowing again. I’ve said this before, you have to grieve to get through grief.

Journal your thoughts, or simply jot them down on a piece of scrap paper with a date. That’s how I tracked my grief. I could look back over a year or two and proclaim, “wow, you were really messed up dude!” Not realizing I was still messed up, just not as bad. I was healing. And I knew it based on old notes I’d written. And the photo albums, well, when you can look back on the old memories, and the emotional rush doesn’t hit you so hard, or the tears fall in more of a random pattern, you are healing.

I’d like to share something with you, that a stranger recently posted as a tribute on Annie online memorial.

As you read the tribute, think how important “Your Story” would be to others. All grievers have their own unique story to tell, and think of the people you could touch, and perhaps help by sharing your journey through grief. And believe it or not, over time it becomes refreshingly healing.

Tribute

“I can never thank you enough for sharing your journey with us. The help you have extended goes way beyond the readers and posters here. So much to say, but for now, adding what Henri Nouwen said in OUR GREATEST GIFT, our “fruitfulness” lives on way beyond our passing; it is then at its greatest.. There is no greater love than sharing the dying process with the dying. Nothing harder. Should Nouwen be alive today, you and Annie would be added to an updated version of Our Greatest Gift. What a gift that you have given to us, especially me.

God’s peace always..”

Henri Nouwen, was considered one of the great writers of our time. A Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian. His interests were rooted primarily in psychology, pastoral ministry, spirituality, social justice and community. Henri passed away in 1996. Wikipedia

Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by laurel larison on 2nd November 2017

"Even though I didn't know you, I wanted to leave a message here. In going and reading through all the wonderful comments, it touched my heart. I know your husband misses you that I can tell for sure. I feel you are in heaven celebrating with all the family that has gone on before. I too have had all my family is now gone, dad, brother, mother and grandmothers. I sometimes feel alone too but in knowing our loved ones are now safe and no longer hurting makes all the difference. the Lord has a special place for you and I am sure when the time comes you will all be reunited. wow what a celebration it will be. Love from earth to heaven and kiss and hug. The Lord had gained another angel when you went to His heavenly gate. WE mourn as we don't have you anymore but I am sure you will ALWAYS BE in their hearts and minds but more importantly you touched their souls. Love and peace"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 12th October 2017

"Hi Sweetie, On Nov 2nd it'll be seven years since you passed. And I'm so sorry you're not here. I miss you terribly.  What's been most difficult is the dreadful loneliness. Very hard to overcome. Last Saturday night we went to the Leukemia and Lymphoma, Societies, Light the Night Walk. And for the seventh year in a row I spoke to the grievers in the Remembrance Area. So sad to see people in the position I was in a few short years ago. Lot of broken hearts. I so wish you could see this beautiful memorial I created for you, in your honor. You've touched so many lives Annie. You were an amazing lady, so full of love and kindness. I'll miss you forever. So much love, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Graham McKendry on 28th August 2017

"Hello Annie, I just wanted to let you know that your Bob has inspired and supported so many people, through his blogs, you would be so proud.  He shines brightly emanating a beautiful empathy that warms the hearts of strangers all over the world.  These same strangers I believe now feel a unique friendship  and bond with him.  The hope he has given me to carry on my own journey, one that like so many seemed lost, is unbelievable.  People talk about being an humanitarian, however, finding one these days seems very difficult.  They say we all come to this life with something we want to achieve, I think Bob might have found his when he wrote about loving and missing you.  Like you were he is still,  a very unique and special individual.  Thank you for sharing him with us."

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 5th August 2017

"Hi Sweetie. Just wanted to stop by and say hello. Not much going on these days, life has become a bit stale. My prostate cancer is still doing okay--meaning it's still in my prostate and has not spread. I suppose one of these days I will be forced to make a decision, but at the moment I just pray about it, and take some natural herbs from Green Acres. When I lost you, I knew life as I'd known it had changed forever, but I never expected this. It's even worse than I thought. I'm just muddling through life, looking for the happy ending that never seems to come. One day I will leave this earth and join you, but until then, who knows. Life goes on. Love you my Angel, Bobbyxoxoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 24th June 2017

"Hi Sweetie, it's been awhile since I posted, but I'm on here everyday, checking on you. I think my mission to get your story out there has been a huge success. Together, through your tragic journey through cancer, we've helped more people than I ever could have imagined. The past 3 years I've been working with a great caregiver organization out of NY City, The Caregiver Space. We have a huge following and do everything we can to assist others. And, because of you Annie, and the extraordinary caregiver journey you took me on, I was inspired to get involved in the lives of those less fortunate than I. I know that would make you smile. You were ever the caregiver for so many people, and we didn't even know it...Until you got sick. I wish you were here and I didn't know all the things I know now. I love you and miss you. Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 17th May 2017

"Hi Sweetie, Just listening to one of the songs on your play list. "A Thousand Years."  It says, "I have loved you for a thousand years and I will love you for a thousand more." Well, with a smile, it has only been 6 1/2 years, but I'm still here loving you. And no doubt, I will certainly love you to the end of my time on earth. It's been a long lonely 6 years, and I suspect that it's not going to change. Love you sweetie, hope to see you one day, xoxo precious love!"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 28th April 2017

"Hi Sweetie, Being your caregiver, watching you pass away, then dealing with 4 years of grief has really taken it's tole on me. I've developed a significant prostate cancer, gastritis with anemia, full body inflammation-on and off, shingles, inflamed lungs and the list goes on. They say that's what intense care giving does. That was certainly how out journey went. You know, I worked as hard as I could and gave it everything I had, but I could not save you. I so wish you were here. It's lonely. We cultivated our marriage over many, many years, and I believe we did a good job. But we never made it to our retirement ages as a team--retirement was gonna be so grand, but, it wasn't meant to be. The first song I put on this memorial a few years ago was Song Bird, by Eva Cassidy. It's playing now. It reminds me of the early days of grief, and I played the music over and over. The song playing now is by Lynda Ronstadt, Goodbye My Friend. I love you Annie, in a soft voice, "I wish I could tell you."

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 22nd February 2017

"Hi Sweetie, time is starting to slip away now. You've been gone 6 years, 4 months now, and although things can never be the same as they were, I still miss you, and think of you every day. There's still a shop in the area, where you bought many nice things for our home, and some lovely clothing for yourself, that I still won't go into. Way to many memories. When you went shopping, I was almost always with you. You'd pick something off a rack, hold it to your body asking, how would this look on me. It looks beautiful, Annie. You simply had a beautifully unique way of dressing, which matched your unique personality. I loved you so much, RIP Annie. Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 14th January 2017

"Hi Sweetie. I have loved you for a thousand years and I will love you for a thousand more. That's what it feels like since you went away. I can sit and listen to your memorial music, and fall into love with you more. Those memories we made during your illness ware so special, albeit a bit sad at times. When I was with you it was always alright. even during our darkest hours. We created something very special and hard to find on this earth. The "Perfect Love." I love you Annie, big hugs, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 1st January 2017

"Hi Sweetie, Christmas and New Years has come and gone, and not much has changed. I was, in a more celebratory mood this time around. But, still didn't do anything special. It's like I've been saying on here all along, time goes on, but I stand still. I mean, it's certainly better than when you left me. I look back over those 4 years, and I was so sick. Grief really did beat me down. But, I survived, and kept on loving you all the while. And so it was, and so it is. I'm gonna be okay, I just wist I was with you, somewhere. It's strange Annie. I can set here at this computer, your memorial music playing, and hear your voice, see your face, revisit old memories, but, I can't touch you. I know, we must not handle the Angels. I know you're here, always here. For that, I am thankful. I love you Annie, rest in peace sweetie. Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 12th December 2016

"Hi Sweetie, today, 12 December 2016 is your birthday. It's been 6 long years and 1 long month since you had to leave. I so much hate Cancer. And I wish you were still here. Life is not and never will be the same, without you. I miss your smile, laughter and love, every single day. I hope there is something special going on in Heaven. I know you rock the place with your trademark smile and laughter. I want you back Annie. Love you always, Bobby XOXO  I'm flying back home tomorrow from Northern California to Wichita. I will be soaring with the Angels. I'll keep a look out for you somewhere up in the sky. I have window seats. :)"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 20th November 2016

"Hi Sweetie, Been in California for 28 days now. I've only gone fishing a few times, it's been raining too much. The river usually has too much water to fish from the bank. I did catch a 40+ pound salmon at my favorite spot, when the river dropped, but the next day it was going up again. I miss bringing home cans of smoked salmon, setting around the  dining room table and having a delicious snack with you. Wow, it's really hard living without you. So many things, I miss. My grief isn't so bad now, but the loneliness is hell. And I can't change a damn thing. I'm no longer sure what life is all about. We're here one day, then we're gone. You took a big chunk of my heart when you left, but thankfully you left me with a chunk of yours. So sad. I love you and always will. Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Doreen Barber on 2nd November 2016

"Dear Sis, Remembering you with love today and always. Rest in peace angel. Miss you......love Doreen xxx"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 27th October 2016

"Hi Sweetie, I arrived in California on Sunday, 23rd Oct, only to be met with a very wet forecast. The two days I've been here it has rained and rained. The next ten days are calling for rain too. Gotta give those big Redwoods a drink. But, as you know, I can't catch the salmon when the river is running high, so I wait. Bummer!  Remember all the times I brought home fresh wild smoked salmon. We really did feast, and fed some of our family and friends too. Wonderful times and memories. Now when I take some home, it's in the form of smoked salmon jerky. Delightful stuff. I love and miss you Annie. RIP Sweetie. xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 18th October 2016

"Hi Sweetie, finally some good news. Got my Decipher Genetic Biopsy testing back 4 days ago. I still have a significant prostate cancer, but as it turns out the results of the testing were excellent. Chance of cancer Metastasis over the next 5 years is .08%.  10 year prostate cancer specific mortality is 1.5%. So I'll stay on active surveillance as long as I can. The report also stated that with my low Decipher score in most cases the prognosis is favorable. I so wish all newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients would get this test. It's allowed me not to have treatment that has so many bad side effects. I'm very thankful, you truly are my guardian angel. Love and Miss you Annie, Bobby."

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 29th September 2016

"Hi Sweetie, I'm still trucking on. My prostate cancer still has more questions than answers. I've been fighting off treatment (radical surgery or radiation) for six months now. I'm supposed to be getting the results of some genetic testing on Friday. And I'm told it will determine whether I need to go into treatment immediately or have some time, and stay on active surveillance. I'm sort of stuck between two worlds at the moment. With my cancer being intermediate grade, if I have treatment there is no guarantee the cancer will be gone. Thirty-three percent of patients see the cancer back within 3 to 5 years. Then it's considered metastatic. I love and miss you very much Annie and will keep you posted. RIP Sweetie. xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 28th August 2016

"Hi Sweetie, Congratulations.  Your memorial has now had over 80,000 views. Who would have thought that, in the beginning this would have been possible.  I remember the night I created the memorial, and my first tribute to you on here. Sept 4th, 2011. In that first tribute I said that I wanted the whole world to meet you, and hear your story. I know, no pressure, Huh! Well, I haven't accomplished that great expectation but what I have accomplished has truly been remarkable. There's no doubt that I've introduced you and your story to well over two million people.  I've been writing since the second month after you passed. Almost everyday, and it's now just 2 months shy of 6 years. I've got letters and cards people have sent me, notes, emails, and the list goes on. You've touched a lot of lives Annie, and I'm really proud of you. I still love you very much, God bless you and RIP, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 23rd August 2016

"Hi Sweetie, we'll, I had my MRI on 15 August, not good.  The urologist handed me a 4 page report, but it only took one line to sum up my condition. "High (clinically significant cancer likely to be present.) The MRI confirmed the biopsy results from 6 months ago. The urologist doesn't think it has changed much in the last six months. So, I'm gonna stay on active surveillance for another four months, then go have another blood test and see where we stand. I guess, I'm just kicking the can down the road, but once I have surgery and if I'm unfortunate enough to have the dreaded side effects, going to be hard years ahead. Roughly 70% of men have side effects. Same problems exist for those that have radiation. As those are the only two treatments for the disease, not a lot of choices. No medicine, chemo, available to get rid of the cancer. Just surgery or radiation. It's a very overlooked disease, considering it's the #1 killer of men throughout the world and #2 in this country. Got my plate full at the moment. I miss you Annie, as always, wish you were here, I could use one of your special hugs. They were always so good. Sweet dreams, and God bless, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 26th July 2016

"Hi Sweetie, the count down to my MRI has begun. In six days all shall be revealed. However, I won't get the results until 15 Aug. I'm hoping and praying for some sort of regression, but without any medicine for prostate cancer, I've been on active surveillance the past six months and praying for a miracle. The doctor has asked and advised me to get surgery or radiation 2 times now, but I wanted the MRI first to see the extent of the cancer. I did have the biopsy and 6 of 12 core samples were positive for cancer but that does not tell the whole story. I suppose I'm being a little foolish waiting like this but, sometimes I'm not sure I even want to try to fix it. It's not easy living without you, and in fact is very difficult. I don't even know what I want anymore, here on earth. I know, stop being negative and be thankful for what I have. I think, once this MRI is over and I get the results and have the clearest possible picture of my cancer, I'll be able to make an informed decision. Hope so. Surgery or radiation are the only options at the moment, and neither are good choices. I love you sweetie, and miss you always. Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 20th July 2016

"Hi sweetie, I miss you.  The days come and they go, and not much changes. You were my love, you were my life, and now you're just gone. I wish I could say things were much better, but although things are not as bad as they were, they're not much better. The days and nights are long, and you're never far from my thoughts. I will always love you Annie, goodnight and may God bless you. xoxoxox"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 19th June 2016

"Hi Sweetie, It's Fathers Day and I'm missing you. And usually when that happens I get on your memorial and listen to your music. Regardless of the reason, I still visit you every day. You played such an important role in my life for over half my life, and I thank you for that. You are irreplaceable and five years post death that has turned out to be true. I loved you Annie in a way that, well, some people just don't understand. I guess you had to be there to feel the love. If you see God, be sure and put in a good word for me. Need help with my prostate cancer. Love you, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 2nd June 2016

"Hi Sweetie, Just sitting here listening to your memorial music. All these songs will be forever etched in my memory as your songs, as they will always and forever remind me of you. You were a precious soul, so full of love. It's sad that the world lost such a loving, good person. Your smile, so radiant, is so dearly missed. As I sit here thinking of you, it breaks my heart knowing you fought such a tough battle, you were so innocent, full of hope, hope for a cure and a brighter day. I'm so sorry Annie, that you had to cross over. I miss you so much. Thinking of you sucks the air out of me, but I will battle on until we meet again. I love and I miss you every day. RIP Sweetie. xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 4th May 2016

"Hi sweetie, just stopping by to check on you. Annie, I really miss you. I so wish life had not happened as it did. If we'd only known, maybe there would have been something we could have done to change fate. Probably not, but I still wish you were here with me. It's is so lonely, and I'm dealing with prostate cancer as well. Who knows, maybe your fate is going to be mine too. I'm not afraid of death or dying, I feel like I've died a little more each day, sense you went away. I love you Annie, God Bless you.  Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 18th April 2016

"Hi Sweetie, I wrote a blog a couple weeks ago, sharing with others, some of the old memories we made together in life. We made so many. I guess that's what life is about.  Making memories to sustain us when times get bad. And over the past several years it's been about as bad as it can get. I see Dr. Byrd on 13 May to see if I'm going to get on the schedule for surgery on my prostate cancer.  I'm relatively sure my prostate surgery will be in June. What happened to us Annie.  We had a plan, and now look.  You're gone, and 5 1/2 years later I have cancer. What a nightmare.  I love you sweetie.  Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 28th March 2016

"Hi Sweetie, I love you, and knowing in my heart that you are resting well gives me some sense of peace. It seems such a long time ago that you went away, and, just making that statement sucks the air out of me. I'm getting tired Annie. When you were alive I always felt like as a team we could do anything we set our minds too.  We had so much energy, so much drive. But losing you seems to have dampened my drive and is slowly killing my purpose. I simply don't know what to do or have the focus to figure it all out.  What a devastating loss you were. This newly diagnosed prostate cancer I have, is starting to make sense now. I know that people can die of broken hearts, caused by loss, due to all the grief related stress and loneliness. And I also know that heavy stress causes so many other problems, like cancer.  I've been to hell and back the past five years, so I guess it just makes sense that I would get Ill.  Just know this, one day, we'll meet again, in the place called Heaven, free of all the pain and suffering we mortals feel. To be honest, I can't wait. Jesus died on the cross and absorbed all mortals of their sins, if they believe in him as their savior.  And I do. I love you sweetie, Bobby  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Doreen Barber on 7th March 2016

"Hi Annie, yesterday which was mothering sunday, I shared some moments with You, Mum, Wendy and Tracey at your resting places. The sun was shining over you all...Miss you all so much and love you all forever xxx xxx xxx"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 6th March 2016

"Hi sweetie, not having a good night tonight.  Feeling very lonely. I really miss you.  I know I mentioned I had prostate cancer, but that has not really influenced how I feel. Not really worried about it. It's simply a part of my life now. Nothing can ever shock me the way losing you did. I get through each day, still taking one step at a time. I'm so tired of wandering in the dark.  Sure, I have some good days, when I'm not so lonely, but I'm still alone. My grief is not as it was, but overcoming my deep sense of loneliness, seems impossible. Then there is tomorrow, just another day in my life. I long for the peace, the old days with you. I love you, and please understand, I'm not trying to be a martyr, my love for you was simply that deep. And as I know now, losing a deep love is very painful. You know the saying, God will never give us more than we can bear, that may be true, but, He certainly filled my plate. God bless, RIP Annie.  Bobby XOXO"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 29th February 2016

"Hi Sweetie, still no word on a treatment strategy. I guess I created a bit of a dilemma when I told the urologist I was interested in taking the wait and see approach. He said he didn't advise it, but if I wanted to have the Prolaris genetic assessment, it would give me a yes or no on my wanting what the assessment calls, active surveillance. It will look at the cancer cells and see how rapidly they're dividing and how aggressively they are. The test will also give me a life expectancy based on the findings. It actually says on the Polaris sheet that 40 to 50 percent of all low grade prostate cancers don't require any sort of intervention, but rather active surveillance. Blood is drawn every 3 months at urology, and if it stays under control he does a biopsy in 12 to 15 months, checking the status of the cancer. Watching you battle cancer with so much grace, taught me how to move forward with my cancer. I love you sweetie, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 23rd February 2016

"Hi Sweetie, I got my prostate biopsy back on 17 Feb, out of 12 core samples 6 core samples came back malignant.  Not good.  I'm gonna have to undergo target radiation or have my prostate removed.  I'm still waiting to be assigned an oncologist.  Dr. Rine is gonna be my radiologist/oncologist.  You remember Grant, he did your radiology.  He's one of the best in the business. I should be okay.  Apparently they caught it early according to the urologist.  But I wont know for sure until I see the oncologist.  Wasn't the news I wanted, but it's what it is.  What bothers me more than the cancer is I'll have to spend time in some of the exact same rooms as you did in your treatment, and that's going to bring back some traumatic memories. I'm really dreading it.  I love you and will keep you posted as I go through the treatment. LOVE YOU MORE. BOBBY XOXO"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 10th February 2016

"Hi Sweetie.  I had a biopsy last Wednesday of my prostrate gland.  The Urologist took sixteen samples of tissue all around and internally too.  My odds of having cancer based on my blood test came out at 17 percent. So now I wait until the 17th February to find out if I'm okay, or entering a nightmare.  Prostate cancer caught early is treatable and survivable unless aggressive, then it is way more difficult.  Regardless, treatment for prostate cancer really messes men up. No good options. Terrible subject. Things are going okay on the home front. Nothing going on out of the ordinary, we all still miss you terribly. I was a guest on a radio show the other day that is called Advocacy Heals U.  It went really well. And guess what?  I got to talk a lot about you.  My favorite and most loved subject. It will always be that way. It's been five years, and nothing has changes in that regard.  I love you sweetie.  Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 22nd January 2016

"Hi Sweetie, It's been over five years two months since I lost you.  And anyone that says it gets easier with time, well, their right.  But it doesn't change a thing'  The loneliness still grips me, it's like I'm in a vice of sorts, and it's hard to move without seeing or thinking of you. I was talking to Andrew tonight, and telling him I'm so glad I didn't sell our home.  Your presence is still everywhere. It may be an illusion, but I can see your presence moving in the hallway with your walker or pushing your wheelchair trying to get some exercise hoping that would help your body heal. You fought so hard, but in the end, we had to say good-bye.  I love you my sweetheart, God I miss you.  I'll always love you, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 25th December 2015

"Merry Christmas Annie!  I love you.  This Christmas will be a carbon copy of the other 4 since you passed.  Not going to do much.  Plan on staying at home, and simply getting through my loneliness.  It's not so bad on a day to day basis, but the holidays are hard to deal with.  So many memories are made during holiday seasons, especially Christmas. Makes it difficult for those who have suffered a loss. But, tomorrow will come and it will go. And if I'm still here, we'll just have to wait and what God's plan is for next year. It's a mystery at the moment. Rest in piece sweetie, and yes I do have a lot to be thankful for, like--I was once kissed by an Angel. xoxo"

This tribute was added by Doreen Barber on 12th December 2015

"Annie, This is a special day to remember fond memories of you, sending you birthday wishes to heaven. Love and miss you sis. Love your sister Doreen xxx"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 12th December 2015

"Annie, it's your birthday today.  This is the fifth year it's come and gone, and I simply live the day in memory of you.  What else can I do? It's not fun, there is no party favors or gifts.  Just an empty feeling, and the memory of the love we shared. One day maybe I'll feel differently, but apparently it won't be this year. I love you kiddo.  Rest in Peace Annie.  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Doreen Barber on 2nd November 2015

"Annie, Another year has passed and you are forever in my thoughts and heart. Always love and miss you. love your sister Doreen xxx"

This tribute was added by Michelle Lisle on 2nd November 2015

"Annie The English rose,Five years how fast time goes,I know your hubby miss you so much,Always telling storys all the time,How he met you !!! Plus He met a English lass I bet you put him in his place,He called me crazy I don"t know why lol,You used to wear Angel perfume just like me its gorgeous last for days,So when i have spray i think of you Now you are a Angel in Heaven,Say Hi to my David And my paps!!!Be lucky Annie free has a Bird XxxX"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 2nd November 2015

"My Sweet Annie, this virtual flower is for you--you were my one and only.   Five years ago today you left for a better place.  It's still all so sad.  Five years--sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday, and other times it seems like it was an eternity ago. But, as I am learning, death brings complexities to ones life that are often difficult to understand at times.  I know this, 5 years later I've written a couple million words, at least, about you and your iconic journey through cancer in an effort to help others. Later today our anniversary blog I wrote will post on the Caregiver Space. It's a short note from me to you.  Full of questions, which are lacking in answers, and perhaps will never be answered. It's full of love to. I love you sweetie, Rest In Peace MY Darling.  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 19th October 2015

"Hi Sweetie, Losing you has left my life in a real turmoil.  I knew it was not going to be easy, but I was not prepared for the sadness and difficulty of readjusting to life after a death.  It will be 5 years Nov 2nd, and I simply don't like being without you.  Some say I need a companion, and maybe I do, but, I don't want one.  Yet life is so lonely.  Problem is, no one can fill your shoes, and I know I would be judgmental, not in a mean way, simply comparing someone to you. Which, I believe, if I'm reading what I just wrote correctly, I'm simply not ready to share my life with another.  I still love you Annie.  Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Ginny Sorrell on 5th October 2015

"I can never thank you enough for sharing your journey with us.  The help you have extended goes way beyond the readers and posters here. So much to say but for now  adding what Henri Nouwen said in OUR GREATEST GIFT, our "fruitfulness" lives on way beyond our passing; it is then at its greatest( In my own words of course).  There is no greaater love than sharing the dying process with the dying. Nothing harder. Should Nouwen be alive today, you and Annie would be added to an updated version of OGG. What a gift that you have given to us, especially me.
      God's peace always.."

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 30th September 2015

"Hi sweetie, the day after dad died I broke out with the shingles.  Took me back to when you were fighting cancer and got the shingles, which for you became a life threatening event.  But together, we beat it back. The shingles for me were just a sideshow, as when I'm not well I think of you and your tenacious will to live and ability to fight off infections.  I sure wish you were here.  I miss you so much. It's just so painful knowing I can't hold you in my arms again.  I can't believe it, you didn't do anything wrong, and yet here we are.  You're gone, and I'm suffering a loss that I was not prepared for.  I love you Annie.  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 16th September 2015

"My Sweet Annie, the day is rapidly approaching--it will be the 5th Anniversary of your death on Nov 2, 2015.  And things aren't all that good on the home front.  The 14th, 15th, 16th, I woke calling out your name.  Annie is that you, Annie where are you, Annie are you there, no those are not quotes but I was waking and heard what I said.  It's so sad.  I was in Kohl's tonight, and the smell of your sweet scent, excitedly moving from one clothes rack to the other was everywhere.  When I walk in there, it's always immediately about you.  I guess some things never change, nor do I want them too. I need to feel your presence once in awhile, "Lest we forget."  I love you sweetie, I will be writing you more as the big day approaches.  It really is driving my emotions.  Oh, this Saturday night, 19th, is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's  big night. Light The Night Walk.  And as always we will be there as a family in force, and walk the 2 1/2 miles in your honor.  I love you.  xoxoxox"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 31st August 2015

"Hi Sweetie, On Aug 27th, 2015, at 10:28 P.M, central time, Dad died.  It was unexpected, but then again it wasn't.  He had been in and out of the hospital three times over a two months period with pneumonia.  I wasn't there, but stayed in close touch with my sister Teri who had been his caregiver for the last 8 years.  It was a sad evening, as after losing both mom and dad I felt like a fish out of water. Not so much grief, as I'm still grieving my loss of you almost five years on, and it doesn't leave much room for other grief. But still, I shall miss him.  He was my Dad, and as you know, an exceptionally kind man.  I love you sweetie, xoxo Bobby"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 28th July 2015

"Hi Sweetie, I'm just a little over half way getting our home repainted.  It's taking awhile, but I'm taking my time and doing it right.  Janet from next door has been helping me.  She comes over for about 3 hours in the morning, when she leaves I take an hour break then get back to it.  It called Bayside blue, but it does not look like a typical blue.  It's more like a deep ocean looking green in the shade, and takes on more of a greenish blue color in the sunlight.  It's really cool.  I wish you were here.  I'd love to see your expression if you were to walk up to the house.  I'm not quite sure what you might think, but most likely you would be pleased.  When I get through painting the outside, I'll take a break, then start on the inside during the winter months. I call it the family safe house.  I love and miss you everyday, and of course wish you were here. I'm gonna win five bucks from my brother Tim.  He said after you died I would be married within five years.  Nov 2nd, 2015 will be the fifth anniversary of your death and I haven't even dated.  That's how much I loved you.  Rest in Peace--Hugs and Kisses, Bobby.  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 15th July 2015

"Hi Sweetie, Hope you're doing alright.  Sometimes I get on here just to listen to your music.  It reminds me of the days after you went away, and never came back. I wish you were hear, life would be so much more beautiful, and not surrounded by uncertainty.  We were a team for 39 years, and some times when a member of a two person teams goes missing it's hard to function, or recover from the tragedy.  I do try, but I miss your touch, your love, which can never be replicated.  There was and always be only one you.  You gave the best love, the best hugs, I guess I just miss you.  And I gonna love and miss you for a long, long time.  RIP darling, see you in my dreams, I believe.  I love you, Bobby xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 7th July 2015

"Hi Sweetie, Spent the 4th of July with Malissa and her family, well, I didn't get down there until 5 PM., their neighborhood was having a block party. Melissa's husband Van spent the day at the grill as did some of the other neighbors, there was a lot of good food. I didn't eat that much as my stomach lining is losing blood.  I've been very tired over the past 1 1/2 years, and despite all my complaining to the doctor I guess he never took me seriously.  In fact seven months ago I had my physical exam, and on the lab reports all my red blood cell groups had markers on them as being abnormal low.  Apparently the doctor didn't see them, and his nurse told me I had a good physical with no problems noted.  Here I am 7 months later, after just having a colonoscopy and my stomach scoped, finding out that the lining of my stomach is bleeding and of course that's why my blood counts are low. I'm very anemic, with excessive fatigue.  The doctor took some biopsies, but I wont get the results for 2 more days.  He thinks it's moderate to sever gastritis with anemia (bleeding).  When I see the doctor on Wednesday, if I don't get a satisfactory answer as to where the blood is coming from, I'm gonna request an appointment with the cancer center.  This is exactly how it happened to you. I've been losing blood, or have had low blood counts for over a year and a half now, as they were low during my physical in Jan 2014 too. And the doctor hasn't noticed.  Hard to believe. Oh well, we'll just wait and see how it goes on Wednesday.  Sweetie I'm not worried, and after watching you fight so hard for 30 months, I have a role model to help me stay strong. I  Love you tons Annie, I miss you.  Bobby  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 29th June 2015

"Hi Sweetie, how you doing darling.  I decided to paint our home, got
rather creative on the color.  It's called Bayside Blue.  It's so cool.  It looks like the deep green and blue color of a lake or the ocean.  I love it. Had to replace a bunch of siding too.  Since you got sick and then my 4 year grief the house was in neglect.  I want to leave it in the family so I thought I'd better fix it up.  Weird, all the decorating and planning was always your responsibility.  But I think I did a good job, and you would be pleased.  Love you, I pray your resting in peace. Good night my love, Bobby xoxoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 18th May 2015

"Hi Sweetie, for the past 4 years without you I've had to learn to live on my own.  I know, that probably seems rather silly, but being with you for 39 years and having a partner to share in on all the decisions seemingly allowed us to do everything right.  Our successes in life were a joint effort. So I've decided to go out on a limb and repaint the house a different color.  Scary.  Since our house dominates the neighborhood in size, I have to be so careful with the color I choose.  I refuse to stick to the traditional colors, as I know you were such a unique person and always thinking outside the box I need to as well. So I've chosen a color called, Bayside Blue, which on the wall looks a bit green.  But that's my choice.  For a trim I'm going to use a beige.  We have so much trim, I believe it will tone down the base color a bit.  I learned that from you.  Lets just hope I get it right.  Then I'm going to put all new windows in using the Pella brand to match our back sliding doors.  It's gonna be beautiful, I just wish you could see it.  Who knows, maybe you will.  One of life's great mysteries.  I love you sweetie, and always will.  Bobby xoxo  Rest in Peace Annie.  xoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 3rd May 2015

"Hi Sweetie, just checking in.  I know I don't leave the tributes or write on here the way I used too, but you know the truth.  I stay busy writing about you on "The Caregiver Space" in New York City.  Since Dec 2014 I published 30 blogs, and have 5 more scheduled.  The last one I wrote which will be published in mid May, is 5,500 words and deals with the hospitals first attempt to put you on hospice. All my blogs fall under the heading of the book I wrote on you,  "Because of Annie."  It's all good baby, and I'm doing better now.  Only took four years, and over a few million words.  I love you darling, rest in peace Annie.  Bobby  xoxoxox"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 24th March 2015

"Hi Sweetie, not much happening around here.  My birthday was on the 18th of March. All I did was stay in the house all day.  It did start off okay.  At midnight our daughter Melissa and our granddaughter Hannah pulled up to the house around 12:10 A.M. blowing the car horn to the tune Happy Birthday To You.  Hannah jumped out of the car with two birthday helium filled balloons, followed by Melissa dancing to the music from her cell phone, "Uptown Funk."  She and Hannah danced to that music on our front lawn and sang some made up happy birthday song. Then they presented me with my favorite cake you used to make me. German Chocolate Cake.  I pigged out.  They stayed about an hour and left. It was fun, but we were missing you.  I wish I could see you.  Rest well baby, Bobby  xoxoxoxoxo"

This tribute was added by Bob Harrison on 2nd March 2015

"Hi Sweetie, we laugh, we live, we love, and sometimes we die--then we cry.  That was you and that was me.  What the hell happened Annie.  Will I ever understand.  I try so hard to make sense out of how suddenly life can change. One minute you were here, one breath later you were gone. As I'm learning, sometimes it's simply a case of bad luck with cancer.  Your cancer was rare, and the odds of you getting it were tremendously against. But it appears one cell popped out of your bone marrow into your blood stream and it was malignant. The rest is a horrible tale of pain and suffering. I'm doing okay, but still miss and love you. I hope you're resting well my love--Bobby xoxo"


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