Losing the man she loved
Donna Bushell-Lucas recounts the pain of when her husband died of cancer and going on without him.
ONLY one month. That’s how long Donna Bushell-Lucas was married to her husband Kim before he succumbed to the ravages of pancreatic cancer.
“We were married December 22 and he died on January 23,” Donna recalled sadly.
To understand the full scope of the relationship and the man that was the love of Donna’s life, one only has to wind back the hands of time ten years. Back then, Donna felt that she had met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.
Like most attractions, theirs was pretty routine. Boy meets girl. Girl falls in love with boy. Both spend years building a relationship and raising a daughter, Havana, who also came along. Marriage, though it was something yearned for, wasn’t an immediate prospect.
Donna and Kim had gotten into the business of living their lives, enjoying each other and raising their daughter. By all accounts, their life was picture-perfect – that is, until two years ago when Kim started feeling ill.
“I had taken Havana to Disney World and when I returned Kim had a lump in his stomach and he wasn’t feeling well,” Donna recalled. “He did tests which led to more tests and eventually to a full CAT scan.
“That revealed that he had multiple tumours on his liver. By the time of the diagnosis, he was already at Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, so there was no hope of chemotherapy because it would have killed him quicker,” Donna said.
Initially, hearing the news was such a blow to Donna that when they left the doctor’s office and were driving home, she just lost it.
“When he found out the news he never cried or flinched. I pulled the car off the road and I just broke down,” she said.
Donna recalled that Kim had maintained his composure all through. She said that she didn’t recall him ever crying about his situation.
“We had to go the route of natural remedies, so I consulted. Dr Cheeseman, the Maas Clinic,” she said. “I wanted to take him overseas but he said that if anything was supposed to happen, he wanted it to happen here.”
What made the diagnosis harder to accept was that Kim was only 33 years old. He was the picture of health.
“He was always the one telling me to cut out the macaroni pie and other stuff,” Donna said. “He didn’t even have a history of that in his family so it was such a shock.”
Though the doctors had given him seven months to live, coming to terms with the reality that she was going to lose the man she loved and that their daughter would lose her father was especially difficult to bear.
“Havana, who was five years old at the time, was so close to her father. They were always together, and I knew that it would be hard for her,” Donna said. “She was always the one saying that she wanted her daddy and mummy to be married, so we wanted to give her that.”
As the months passed, Kim gradually got worse. At one point in December he had to be hospitalized.
“Even though we were planning to get married before, he didn’t want to do it under these conditions,” Donna said.
The wedding, which was held at home, was very intimate, with only 30 people, family and close friends.
“Coming on to the end, he wasn’t mobile. My boss Claire, who owns Dingolay, was so instrumental in helping me plan everything. She and my mum were just wonderful.”
Though Donna admits it was one of the happiest moments of her life, it was also the saddest because deep down she knew time wasn’t on their side.
“Right after the wedding, Kim’s condition started to get worse. We had to bring home oxygen from the hospital. I didn’t sleep a lot because I would get up during the night to check him, check his oxygen and give him ice and water,” Donna said. “But the night he died I slept right through until the morning. I don’t know what happened . . .”
On February 4, 2009, Donna buried the man she loved, along with many of her own dreams for their life.
“What has kept me going is my daughter Havana. To see how she has handled this has given me strength,” Donna said. “I’m happy we had her. We were a good couple. As I’m seeing Havana happy and smiling, I’m happy.”
Now she’s on her own, Donna is building her life back one day at a time. She admits that she has finally stopped locking herself in the bathroom and crying because of the pain.
“Now I’ve learnt that you have to love every day that you have and just live your life,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to do now: live a clean, happy life.”