Losing the love of my life

Personal Stories | December 2, 2022 | Laini Giles

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Two photos of Allan in a fedora

My husband Allan and I met online in 1998. We were one of the very first online relationships on a website called Personal Possibilities. I was in Dallas, Texas, and he was in Calgary, Alberta. He first visited me in Dallas in March 1999, and we fell completely, utterly, head-over-heels in love. After more visiting back and forth, he moved to the U.S. in May 2000, and we were married in July. Our families were still reeling when it happened. 

In 2009, we returned to Canada when the American economy imploded, and we began building a new life in Edmonton. We made plenty of friends and enjoyed our lives. We were approaching our 20th anniversary in July 2020. 

In January of 2020, after months of not feeling well, losing weight and having digestive issues, my husband had an endoscopy. After the procedure, the doctor gave us the bad news. He’d had to use a child-size scope because the opening was so small, and it looked like cancer. More tests gave us worse and worse news; it was a very rare, very aggressive form called signet-ring cell cancer. The tumor was too close to his aorta to operate, and further testing revealed that his entire stomach and gut were full of cancer. They gave him about eight months. 

As the daughter of a man who died at 47 of suspected bladder cancer, I lived my worst nightmare as history repeated itself, and the man I loved faded away before my eyes. He had an esophageal stent put in, but after that, he was miserable. He was given some radiation, but they told him it was only life-extending, and wouldn’t save him. I tried various types of protein drinks, pudding, soup and other soft foods, but his spirits flagged more every day and he basically stopped eating. Meanwhile, COVID-19 began to shut everything down, and I was forced to do everything I could to keep us safe so we wouldn’t spend his final days apart, with one or both of us in a COVID ward. 

I was able to work from home so I could care for him while assigned to a major software project, doing technical documentation. My darling waited until the day I finally met my deadline, then told me he wanted medical assistance in dying ASAP. I had thought I might have him until October, but it was only May. 

I wasn’t ready to say goodbye, but the wraith on the couch wasn’t the joyful, hilarious goofball I loved anymore. He was in constant pain and discomfort, and I only wanted relief for him, even though I knew it would be the hardest thing I ever had to experience. I told him I would support him. We completed the paperwork, and two doctors and a nurse practitioner came to the house to evaluate him. It was obvious to all that he was dying, and that they would respect his wishes. All of them were completely professional, caring, and very respectful of what Al wanted. 

June 1st was set as the day, and in the very late afternoon, he put on his favorite Rush shirt, and in his office, where I had put a rented hospital bed, I set up his toys and action figures across from him. We put on some Vivaldi, and I held his hand. It was very peaceful. It was incredibly hard, but he went out on his terms instead of suffering for five more months. The doctor and nurse practitioner were so kind. They waited with me and chatted while we waited for the hearse. They asked me about him, and about our life together because they could see I needed to talk. I was glad for their warm presence, even though I have no memory of what we said. 

Al weighed under 100 pounds when he went. I couldn’t have imagined him losing any more weight. I’d been so afraid that I’d go out into the living room one morning where he was sleeping on the couch because of its softness and find him gone, unable to say goodbye to him one last time. This way, we were able to say over and over that we loved each other before he went. I am so grateful that MAID existed, and he didn’t have to suffer anymore. 

People always say, “If there’s life, there’s hope” to oppose MAID. That’s not realistic in every situation. Cancer is a nasty way to die. When it’s terminal and painful, it’s a death sentence, and there’s no way to get around it. I would have done anything to save Al from any more pain. In this way, at last I was able to do that.

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