May 10, 2022
Interview by Jack Langedijk
Written by Neha Jayaram, Communications and Marketing Specialist
My name is Ruth and I’m a client of the Day Hospice Program. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in late 2016. After surgery and treatments, the doctors said they couldn’t remove everything, and I wouldn’t get better.
The people here at SCHC have been so helpful and kind. When I come here, I feel like I am not alone. I am trying to cope with end-of-life, and I felt that this is a good place for me to be. It’s helping me; it’s giving me something to look forward to. I have lot of friends who call me and say hey let’s go out, let’s run etc. I look forward to that Wednesday and make sure I have no other plans that day so that I can be there with all of them. I really like talking to people and listening to their stories, what they are going through and where they are from and what’s their outlook on life.
My parents owned a convenience store when I was a child and they ran it together. In 1965 when I was 14, we found out about my mom’s illness and she passed away in 1967. After my mother’s death my father couldn’t handle the store alone and instead took a job as a night janitor for Govt. offices. Unfortunately, his work began at 4 in the afternoon and ran until 11 in the night. I was at school when he was home and when I got there, he wasn’t home. Losing my mom as a teenager was very hard, I was a single child and my father worked long hours, at age 17 I really felt alone. I grew up very quickly as a result.
A couple of years after my mother died, my father married my future husband’s mother. They first met at camp after World War II. Unfortunately, my husband’s father took his own life, and a couple of years later my mother passed. And somehow, these two people came together. She had 2 sons, one who still lives in the US and my husband. My husband was in the US Navy and we started our romance when he would come home on leave. Two years after our parents married, when my husband was 21, we got married. There were some jokes because I married my “brother” but it felt natural to us.
We had 48 wonderful years together. Ours was a beautiful relationship. We worked together, raised our children together and came home together every night.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2016, a couple of months before my own diagnosis. We received a lot of help from SCHC at that time too, where they would come to our home and help us. We supported and helped each other as best as we could, surrounding ourselves with friends and family. As a result of one of my treatments, when I fell and broke my femur, my husband was my caregiver for over a year, and then towards the end I was his caregiver.
My husband lived with cancer for 2 years, but he was very optimistic, always hopeful. He treated every day as if it was just another day at the office. He continued to work till the very end.
He had one particular wish and that was to die at home. My daughter and her two-and-half-year-old son live with us. She’s a single mother. And we’re all together. And what Harry, wanted more than anything, was to remain with his family and be around us as much as he could. And to watch his grandson, Joey, grow. It was wonderful. When Joey came back from daycare he would go running and jumping on his grandfather’s bed, playing with him. It was great. My husband lived till he died.
I have been blessed with a large and loving family. My son has 3 children and my daughter has 1 son. We share an open and honest relationship, so even when the news is hard and heartbreaking, we talk about it. Cry if we need to cry and laugh when we need to laugh. My daughter is my greatest support, she listens when I need to talk, is empathetic and gives me such mature advice.
There are people close to me who unfortunately do not know how to act and react to somebody who has a disease and is dying. They try their best, but some of the things they say or do, they don’t get it. I don’t want to talk about my health problems to anyone. When they ask about my wellbeing, it’s a short conversation and I try to change it to ask about what’s going on in their life,
At one point I remember telling the group that I was never very spiritual. Chrystalla (Chrystalla Chew, Palliative Care and Day Hospice Coordinator ) is a very kind, loving and spiritual person that can really look into herself and know what she’s feeling. I got so many different perspectives from the group and Chrystalla, so many different cultures and people from different walks of life. This has been a good experience for me.
The last two years have taught me to take one day at a time. I was always a busy person and would forget to enjoy the moment. Things change when you realize life is finite. I want to live in the moment and enjoy each day as it comes. I am still very optimistic; I tell myself to see what tomorrow brings. Even when the doctors said that the chemo wasn’t working anymore, that there wasn’t a cure, I didn’t let myself give up hope. I’m not a stupid person, I know what’s happening, I watched my husband deteriorate! But I look at my grandson and tell myself I will be around to watch him grow up, for as long as I can, to the best of my abilities.
I’d like to be remembered as a kind and giving person, who gave love and time to everybody, especially those who needed it. My husband used to say, “I just want to be remembered as a good guy” and I feel the same way. All in all, I think I am a very lucky person. I have a good life.