When the nurse pulled back the curtain to the hospital room where my husband Matt slept following his colonoscopy, tears filled my eyes and I felt sheer panic. I had no idea how he was able to be so strong as my caregiver for two years with my chronic severe asthma. Seven months pregnant, I was a mess waiting for him to wake up from a simple procedure. Suddenly, the doctor walked in to announce that Matt had stage IV colon cancer. Stunned, I turned to see tears streaming down Matt’s face. It was in that very moment I knew our roles were reversed and I would learn the depths of a caregiver.
The next few months were a whirlwind of medical visits, scans, and a never-ending battle to advocate for Matt’s medical needs. Complicating my efforts to coordinate his care, was the fact that I was running my own mental health private practice. For treatment, Matt opted for chemotherapy with the goal of surgically implanting a hepatic arterial infusion pump to increase his survival rate to 60%. To outsiders, I know I appeared to be managing it all with ease. However, showers or solo car rides told a different story of emotional breakdowns where I begged for my husband’s life.
A deep grief set in for the unknown future of my family. Eight days after Matt started chemo, I gave birth to our son Cullen. That night, the impact cancer was having on our growing family hit hard as I rocked our inconsolable baby in the maternity ward. It had been only 14 hours since I had given birth and I felt horribly alone. Matt had been present for Cullen’s birth and it was magical, but he was exhausted following his first treatment and we agreed that it would be best for him to rest at home. There, as I held our screaming newborn, I couldn’t help but look at the bed where a new father would typically sleep and feel we had been shortchanged in life on so many levels.
Amidst the turmoil, we realized that we needed to cherish every moment and found deep enjoyment in spending every minute we were together as if it could be our last. Our priorities were forever changed! It was during these moments that I truly believed we were finally living the life we had yearned for - one we never could have imagined would come from a cancer diagnosis. Matt was the most amazing “dada” and would shoo me away when Cullen was sleeping on his chest. He treasured those alone moments with our son and watching the undeniable bond they had filled my heart with pure joy.
One weekend, while Matt was lying in bed recovering from chemo, he began designing T-shirts as a creative outlet. We sat together and talked about our journey and the life lessons we were experiencing. It was during this time that Matt came up with the idea that we could teach the world something from our experience, and it would be to “Live Moore!” (Moore, after our last name). You never know what will happen tomorrow, so travel, take risks, go on adventures, spend time with loved ones, check things off the bucket list, do fulfilling activities, create, connect, engage in acts of kindness, love, be and simply LIVE Moore! This birthed the message that we hoped to share with the world.
Matt’s January 2016 scan showed his cancer had likely spread for the second time. This meant the pump was off the table forever and treatment went to palliative, not curative. The new prognosis gave Matt two to five years to live with the current treatment. Despite the devastating news, we simply could not agree to palliative care while Matt still wanted to fight to live. He discontinued chemotherapy and began Gerson Therapy, a complex regimen of diet and supplements, along with other alternative treatments and immunotherapy in Mexico.
Following Matt’s departure to Mexico, I closed my successful business, packed up all our belongings, and moved us from Oregon to Arizona in order to be closer to family who could help us in this cancer journey and to be closer to Mexico for ongoing treatment. After leaving our son with my mother, I went to be by my husband’s side to support him through his treatments and to pray for a miracle. It was there that one day I was praying to God for Matt to be healed and I had a sudden feeling of peace. That feeling, to me, was an affirmation that God was hearing my prayers and my husband and I were filled with hope once again.
In March 2017, as I was driving through the desert crying in complete disbelief of Matt's deteriorating health, I had this realization that perhaps God's answers to my prayers of healing didn't come in a bodily form, but in a heavenly form. On April 25, 2017 at 2:15am, Matt took his final breath and at that very moment, I knew that Matt was finally healed.
What I could never have imagined following the loss of the love of my life, was the utter devastation that cancer would leave in the aftermath of my husband’s death. Grief often swallows me whole like relentless waves crashing over me and pummeling me with unimaginable sadness, while reminding me of a future life Cullen and I will never get to share with Matt. Being a caregiver has now transformed into widowhood and reshaped every facet of my life. One of the gifts Matt has left us with is to continue his dream to encourage others to follow their passions, get the most out of their life, and to live more in the present. However, the absolute best gift my husband left me with is our amazing brown eyed, bubbly boy who is destined to help his mama share our story, increase colorectal cancer awareness, and inspire others to “Live Moore.”