In December of 2013 my husband, Dennis Dintino, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. We were blessed with a year of remission and another 2 years of ups and downs. On October 6th his battle was over and he crossed over. I met this man when I was 15 years old and we have been married for 45 years. He was my best friend. Now don’t get me wrong we had our ups and downs. He was a workaholic and all I wanted was a 9-5 guy but through the years we adjusted and got comfortable with who we both were. Not an easy journey but one we finally got the hang of.
As I studied the five stages of grief to talk to you about I realized that I have been going through these stages since my husband’s diagnosis. The five stages of grief concept, also known as the Kubler-Ross Model, is based on the work of psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. She published her book, “On Death and Dying,” in 1969 and based her findings on dealing with the terminally ill.
The first stage is denial. I realize that with my husband’s original diagnosis I pretended it was not true. When he qualified for genetic treatment and went into remission it was easy to deny his diagnosis. I certainly prayed for that miracle and we were able to go to Italy and take a trip that he had always wanted to take. Discovering his roots and the town his grandfather was born in. Denial was my security blanket.
Second is anger and I was ANGRY! My daughter had successfully battled leukemia but in the process because she was 8 months pregnant we lost our baby grandson. Wasn’t her battle with this disease and that loss enough? Hadn’t my family been through enough? This was not fair I would say as I shook my fist to the heavens.
The next stage is bargaining and I can kind of relate to that. I created a meditation for him that focused on perfect health. I thought about the if onlys. He visited his doctor regularly but he had not had a chest X-Ray. He had given up smoking years ago but should I have pushed him to do that since one of his doctors had recommended it? Would it have made a difference? I really never got into bargaining with God and I never looked at this as any kind of punishment.
Depression follows and boy that speaks to me. After the first year, the cancer cells outsmarted the genetic drug and it was no longer working. My husband had to get chemo again and then a new drug was available. This time there was no denial. I started asking the hard questions outside of my husband’s earshot because he was never going to give in to this. I shed so many tears and then once again he began to feel better. We had dodged another bullet. However in May of this year symptoms began to appear that made it evident the new pill was no longer working. My husband stayed brave. We never discussed his passing. He just would not talk about it. He owned two successful businesses and fought his battle privately. Very few people outside the family knew of his condition. He was a Leo in every sense of the word. As I watched him getting thinner and thinner putting on a brave front for him, I was drowning. I could not cope with his suffering. I did my best but there were days I could not get past being depressed.
Lastly is acceptance and I feel I am in that stage now. The loss for me is heart breaking but I am relieved to see his suffering end. It tore me apart to watch and although he never once complained I could see in every way the toll this was taking on him. I wanted two things for him and that was the he would always be given hope and not be afraid. We were trying one more treatment when he passed and I truly believe till the very end he felt he would beat it. In the hospital room after his death I knew that the shell that was there was not my beloved husband but was merely biology. His soul had moved on leaving the pain behind and he was finally at peace.