You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone


Ten years ago, I was working full time as an Irrigation Agrologist at Outlook, being a mother to my two preschoolers, and watching my husband of nine years being consumed by brain cancer. He had done all he could to fight it and it was taking him quickly in that winter. I was trying to keep working to support my family and maintain my sanity. Sometimes I would just be sitting at my desk crying.

Later on that winter, I was was sitting beside my husband’s bed in the palliative room of the old Outlook hospital rocking my toddler son to sleep. I felt so isolated, even though my mom was with me. Everyone else’s lives were ticking along with the usual problems that young parents have, while my family was in a crush of horror. It felt surreal, like I was in the wrong century. Rocking my son and watching my husband die.

I realized that I was not as alone as I thought. How many of the pioneer women who farmed here had done much the same, but with far less help and support? How many women had found the strength to be with their spouses as they died, while still taking care of their children? How many farming women had got up the next morning, fed the animals, fed the children and done what needed to be done for their families? For their farms? That thought made me feel less alone. Less of a tragic oddity. Even though no young working parents I knew were dealing with anything as horrible as this, I didn’t feel so alone anymore.   

My husband Scott died that night of the brain cancer that had consumed him and I found the strength I needed to carry on in the legacy of fortitude of the women who had come before me. I knew I wasn’t alone.

I’m not suggesting that you keep your troubles to yourself and soldier on. What I am suggesting is that when you feel very isolated by circumstances and experience, it’s a good idea to draw from what inspiration you can to find your strength and find your way forward. I talked to people who could support me even though they couldn’t necessarily relate to our circumstances. I talked to people who could make me laugh to relieve the strain. I talked to counselors. Talking helps, but most people who are listening can’t really understand what you’re going through. That’s OK as long as they are good listeners.

Some people seemed to have an urge to find a way to blame my family for our troubles. I think they wanted to convince themselves that such a thing couldn’t happen to them, so blaming us makes it seem less random. The reality is that this medical tragedy could have stricken any family, but that chaos a difficult thing to accept. It’s best to avoid talking to people who are saying things that are only a comfort to themselves. Surround yourself with people who build you up and help you, whether that’s in person, over the phone, or online. "

Ten years later, my children are well and I’m proud of them. I’m research manager at the South East Research Farm with an innovative research program that I’m very proud of. My second husband is working with me at the farm.  I know that I have the strength of my pioneering fore-mothers and fathers who settled this province. At 40, I’m just hitting my stride professionally. I’m not afraid to trust myself now. I’m not afraid to lead.  

~Lana Shaw~