Sunday 3 April 2016
It's been a whole month since Steve's funeral and some three weeks since my last blog post. Because they hadn't heard from me for a while, some of my Facebook friends were concerned that I've been shutting myself away during that time. So this post is to reassure you that in reality, nothing could be farther from the truth.....apart from the first week or so when the adrenalin stopped pumping and I came down with a nasty chest infection that knocked me for six for while - but I survived :)
Since then, I've moved forward on a number of fronts:
I've been gathering the information needed to complete Steve's "estate accounts" and apply for Grant of Probate. That has involved many meetings, phone calls and correspondence with various people to establish the value of Steve's savings and investments; the house and its contents; the car; the business and its assets, plus our local green energy scheme which we both invested in and the life assurance company...not forgetting DWP for back payment of his Industrial Injuries Benefit and HMRC to see whether he owes any tax, or is due a refund.
Most of the bits of jigsaw are in place now, so I hope to be able apply for Probate very shortly.
Getting out and about
Although dealing with probate matters has been time consuming, I haven't been stuck at home all the time. Daughter Katie and I spent a couple of days in Bristol with son Jack over Easter, long enough to enjoy an open top bus tour and an evening with nephew Nick and his lovely family.
I've been to Guernsey on a work-related trip - primarily business, but also a pleasure to reconnect with work colleagues and friends after a six month hiatus.
I've also been out with friends here in Oxford to a couple of live music events - one evening of experimental music "Sonorous Matters" at the amazing Pitt Rivers Museum to listen to pieces inspired by items in the museum's collection, and to enjoy an evening at the Old Fire Station Arts Centre listening to Scottish contemporary folk singer/songwriter Kris Drever.
There are other social events in the pipeline and a return trip to Guernsey in the near future. And yes! I will be taking you up on your kind invitations to visit, especially when the Probate application has been submitted and I have sorted out my body.....
Everyone knows that careers are prone to neglect themselves...you tend to prioritise the health and well being of the person you care for over and above your own. Often you have no choice. I was as guilty of that as the next carer, even though I knew I had to look after myself in order to look after Steve.
However, now free of caring responsibilities, I have been able to catch up on a bit of personal body maintenance, with visits to the optician for eye health check ups; to the dentist (precipitated by cracking a tooth on a particularly chunky bit of Easter egg - I kid you not!); to audiology to follow up on improvements to my hearing, now an ENT specialist has confirmed that my hearing issues are not due to a tumour on the auditory nerve (phew....)
I've also had several consultations with the GP about the worsening of a chronic back pain problem caused by damaged and degenerating discs between the lumbar vertebrae, a condition which was probably exacerbated by the extra physical demands made on me towards the end of Steve's life when his physical capacity was severely restricted. Another nerve root block injection is in the pipeline later this month, and a consultation with the spinal surgeon in the summer.
Any thought of spinal surgery had been put on the back burner while Steve was alive, but it's now an option to consider. I don't really want to spend the rest of my life on heavy duty painkillers and anti inflammatory drugs if the source of the problem can be fixed with an acceptable level of risk and side effects. However, they are helping me live with the pain for the time being....
Dealing with bereavement
I would be lying if I said I didn't miss Steve more than you can imagine. So much has been going on since mid-February - things I would normally discuss with him. And he isn't here. No one to bounce ideas off. No one to get angry and frustrated on my behalf when things go wrong. No one by my side all the time to help put them right. No one to give me a cuddle, or a good morning/good night kiss. No one to hold hands with as we walk along the street (yes...we still did that) Just an enormous Steve-shaped hole where he used to be.
But I know he would have wanted me to get on with my life, so that's what I'm trying to do. And thankfully, I'm not alone. I'm fortunate. I have my grown up kids, the wider family, good friends and neighbours. Thank you all for being there for me, as you were when Steve was still alive.
Dealing with red tape
If you have had to deal with bereavement, you will know that as well as grief and the sense of loss, you have to deal with a lot of red tape. I thought I was well organised....well, Steve's impending death had been on the cards for a while and we had made an effort to get our affairs in order. But, as I have since discovered, there are things which we didn't think of or sort out in time, and dealing with those matters has been frustrating to say the least.
How difficult is it to change or remove one name from an account if the other person named on the account is still around, and the address and bank details are the same? More difficult and time consuming than you could possibly imagine, especially if the account is with Virgin Media or Thames Water....
Add an email address hack into the mix and it becomes almost impossible. If you are reading this and wonder why I haven't replied to your emails sent to my NTLworld account, it's simply that I can't get into it (or Steve's NTLworld email account) any more. Please, please, please do NOT try to contact me via my NTLworld email address. It will go into a black hole. Use my gmail address instead, or use the blogger contract form and I'll be in touch that way!
Then there are the things that Steve set up online using passwords that were in his head...The Oxford Studio website and Wride and Co website for starters....Without doubt, there are other things that I remain in blissful ignorance about simply because I can no longer see emails sent to his address. I just hope that these things don't come back and bite me on the you know-what-at some point in the future...
The digital era and online access are very wonderful in many respects, but please make sure you share key information with someone you trust. Otherwise, access to your digital archive and accounts will be nigh on impossible after your demise and the content will simply be lost forever - the important stuff as well as the trivial.....
Ever since Steve was diagnosed with mesothelioma in June 2009, we tried to be positive. I will try to carry on with that attitude as I move forward without him. If nothing else, I appreciate the importance of trying to make the most of each and every day, even if you don't always succeed.
At some point in the future, I'll try to emulate other Meso Warriors and carers like Linda Reinstein in the States, Mavis Nye in the UK, Lou Williams in Australia and do some advocacy to raise awareness of the risks of exposure to asbestos and join the fight for a global ban on this hazardous material. But for now, I feel like a need to stand back and learn to enjoy life without it being overshadowed by mesothelioma.
I have turned off my daily Google alerts. My involvement with the mesothelioma community on Facebook will not cease but will be at a much lower key, at least for the time being. I will still follow my fellow Meso bloggers, even if I don't comment very often on your blog posts. And my thoughts are still very much with those who are still fighting the disease and their loved ones, and with those who have lost loved ones to mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
In short I still care, very much...but I'm taking a break from mesothelioma for a while so I can get my new life on track, recharge the batteries, sort out my body. I'm sure you will understand.
Writing blog posts for Doing Something Positive has been part of my life for so long now, it's been very strange not writing so much recently. In truth, I have missed it! However, this blog was inspired Steve's mesothelioma journey. There will be a few more posts before the journey is finally over - updates on Jack's big bike ride; progress on the grant of probate and any useful tips I pick up along the way for those who are thinking about doing it themselves; the final figure for donations made in Steve's memory; our ideas for a permanent memorial to Steve at some point in the future, and such like. However, it's coming to a natural end....
To fill the gap - and because I have found blogging to be both therapeutic and creative - I have started a new blog about moving forward on my own. However, it's early days and I'm not sure where it's going yet. It may stay as a private online diary...But if and when I feel ready to share, I will let you know.
For now, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads the blog and in particular, to those who have contacted me to say how much it has helped them through similar journeys. That means a lot to me. Please stay in touch, if you feel moved to do so! Perhaps we might meet up when I restart my travels :)
For now - enjoy spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn on the other side of the world. With my love to you all x