My husband Brian was a simple man who lived an honest life. He worked hard for a living, and loved and supported me and our three children. Brian had no
desire to own a luxurious house or a fancy car. As long as he had a roof over his head, a reliable car and a small boat to go fishing, he was happy.
Brian had two passions in his life: Fishing and cooking. He was a big man with a big appetite, and he enjoyed eating almost any kind of food. His favorite was seafood, and being a keen fisherman, he had more than ample opportunity to indulge himself with any type of fish or shellfish that took his fancy.
He was an excellent cook, and eventually, took over the preparation and cooking of all our main meals. I was more than happy for him to take on this role. He had an endless amount of patience, and spent a great deal of time and effort creating culinary delights for both of us and any family member who visited.
Though all of his meals were amazing, everyone agreed that he truly excelled when it came to his garlic prawns and steak cordon bleu.
This happy situation would have gone on indefinitely had Brian not started to experience shortness of breath, and gone to the doctor to find out why. Subsequent tests revealed that Brian had pleural mesothelioma. He was given a prognosis of three to nine months.
Losing Ability to Swallow Favorite Foods
When Brian was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he was not told anything about the stages of this disease or what symptoms he might experience as it progressed. Several months later, he found himself unable to swallow solid food. This came as a terrible shock to us.
Following an MRI, Brian was informed that his inability to swallow was caused by a tumor pressing against his esophagus, narrowing the opening.
This was a cruel blow to Brian, especially since his appetite was still good. To alleviate this problem, his doctor arranged for him to have a dilatation (stretching of the esophagus). Brian had several of these procedures over the following months.
However, the procedures did not result in Brian being able to swallow solid food, and all of his meals had to be puréed. Understandably, when these types of meals were presented to Brian, they did not tempt his eye or his pallet.
Mesothelioma is a cruel disease. Despite Brian’s inability to swallow solid food, he still craved his favorite meals, and often tried to eat a piece of meat or fish. Every time he did this, it got caught in his throat, and I feared he might choke.
This caused me a great deal of distress, and whenever I witnessed Brian attempting to eat solid food, I found myself chewing my own food to a pulp, while at the same time willing Brian to swallow.
Eventually, Brian had to accept that it was impossible for him to eat solid food and quit trying. Although it was a relief to no longer worry about him choking, his inability to eat the food he loved made my heart ache.
Giving up Food, Fishing
Since Brian no longer enjoyed eating, he lost interest in cooking. Once again, I took over that role. Every day I cooked something nutritious for him to eat, but by the time it was puréed, it looked like mush. I could sympathize with Brian’s distaste.
Making matters worse, the weight of the tumor pressing against Brian’s esophagus caused the opening to shrink further, barely allowing him to swallow anything, including his own saliva. At this point, palliative chemotherapy was offered in the hope of minimizing the tumor and extending Brian’s life.
There was no guarantee the treatment would be successful, but for Brian there was no choice. Without chemotherapy he would die.
Chemotherapy was unavailable in the country town of Exmouth, where we lived. So we had to arrange accommodations in Perth for the duration of Brian’s treatment.
Leaving Exmouth added to Brian’s distress because he loved the endless fishing opportunities it provided for him. When he was fishing, thoughts of illness and death were the furthest things from his mind.
Thankfully, the chemotherapy treatment Brian received was successful, and his tumor shrank considerably. This meant he could once more eat normally, and he did this with wild abandon. It was wonderful to witness his joy when he savored a good steak or a fillet of fish without the fear of it getting caught in his throat.
Despite the temporary respite, doctors warned us the tumor would eventually grow back again.
‘One of the Boys’
Not long after Brian had completed his chemotherapy treatment, he expressed a wish to go back to Exmouth on a fishing trip with his mates.
Knowing our time together was limited, I was reluctant to spend any time away from him; however, I knew how much this trip meant to him, and was able to push aside my own needs.
I sent him off with a smile on my face, and was glad that he could not see the ache in my heart.
Brian was gone on that fishing trip for a total of 15 days. During this time, I felt really strange. No longer having him to care for, I felt lost and incredibly lonely. I constantly worried that something might happen to him while he was away, and that I might never see him alive again.
His nightly calls to me were a huge relief. He sounded so happy, and I could not help but be happy for him.
Thankfully my fears of not seeing Brian alive again after his fishing trip were unfounded. He returned to me with a huge smile on his sunburnt face and a cooler of frozen fish.
It was immediately evident to me that Brian’s fishing trip had been everything he had hoped for. He had many fishing tales to tell, and every time he talked about his time with the boys, his face would light up.
I am so glad that I allowed him to find happiness in his love of fishing, and once again have the chance of being ‘one of the boys.’
I am also eternally grateful to my brother-in-law Dennis, who helped Brian with his pain medication in my absence.
Brian was able to continue eating solid food for some time after he returned from his fishing trip, and during this time, he regained his love of cooking. It wasn’t surprising that most of the meals he prepared were of a ‘fishy’ nature, but I was not complaining. I loved eating fish as much as Brian did.
Holding on to Happy Memories
When we lose a loved one, it is our happy memories that help us through the grieving process.
One of my favorite memories: Seeing the joy on Brian’s face when he told me all about his fishing trip, and how good it was to once again be one of the boys. I will also treasure my memory of him cooking and eating his catch. Together, these memories always warm my heart, and never fail to bring a smile to my face.