In Part Two of this three-episode series (listen to Part One here), we speak with Maria Stewart about finding the strength to support her husband as he lost his battle with brain cancer, embracing the help being offered by friends and family, and ensuring that her children could rely on their family “Power Unit” throughout this incredibly difficult chapter in their lives.
In 2010, Maria’s husband, Kevin Stewart, who was then 48 years old, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer. Maria and Kevin had three children, ages 10 and 8 year old twins. The doctors were upfront about the seriousness of the diagnosis and the poor odds Kevin faced. Maria and Kevin wanted the children to know that they had fought the cancer as hard as they could. They emphasized creating lasting memories of joy, but they were also honest, telling the kids what they needed to know, when they needed to know. Maria shares the good advice she received: the children are part of this story. She involved them in making decisions about hospice so they understood that they were part of the process. This empowered them to come through the experience with the knowledge that they could trust her to tell them the truth.
The outpouring of support from friends and family was incredible, but somewhat overwhelming. Maria tells us that asking for help was made easier by a few close friends who could coordinate efforts and make sure their family got what they needed.
Going through this experience, Maria recognized that without resources, it would have been nearly impossible to care for her husband and navigate the complexities of the healthcare system – managing medications, treatments, appointments, and medical bills– while also caring for her children and trying to fulfill obligations to her full time job. Maria recognizes that she was incredibly lucky to have a background in the medical field as well as having a family filled with medical professionals to help her through.
If you have listened to Part One of this series, where we speak with Roy DiNicola about the experience of losing his wife to cancer, you might have gathered that eventually Roy and Maria find their way to one another. But that is a story for another day. Today, we talk to Maria about her experiences before meeting Roy; about her grief, about the ways that she and her children remember Kevin, and about how they found the strength to carry on.
Episode Links and Resources:
Big Tree is Sick: A Story to Help Children Cope with the Serious Illness of a Loved One, Nathalie Slosse (Author), Rocio Del Moral (Illustrator)
The List of Things that Will Not Change, Rebecca Stead
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