Losing a Loved One to Cancer
- Grammy-winning vocalist Céline Dion lost her husband to throat cancer on January 14, 2016, and she took to social media to remember him today.
- Throat cancer is an HPV-related cancer. One of the the easiest ways to reduce the risk of your children developing the disease is to make sure they get the HPV vaccine, particularly between ages 9 and 12.
- Losing a spouse to cancer can cause immeasurable pain, but it’s important to try to have uncomfortable conversations with your loved one – if they’re open to it – during their cancer battle.
Angélil was first diagnosed with throat cancer in 1998, but went into remission for some time. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with throat cancer again after doctors found a lump on his neck in 2014. He had surgery to treat the cancer and doctors removed parts of his tongue. Two years later on January 14, 2016, he passed away at the age of 73.Read More
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“I would be lying if I said I’m fine,” she wrote under a photo of her beloved late husband. “I think of you at least a hundred times, cause in the echo of my voice I hear your words just like you’re there… I miss you – Céline xx.”
In a previous interview with TODAY, Dion shared that she still felt Angélil’s presence in her day-to-day life.
“Losing my husband, for my kids to lose their father, it was quite something,” Dion told TODAY. “I feel like René has given me so much through the years and still today I see my kids I look at them and… We still live with him. He’s part of our lives every day.”
Losing a Loved One to Cancer
Losing a loved one to cancer can cause immeasurable pain – as Dion can surely attest to. And while it’s difficult to imagine life without someone like your significant other, it can be important to have hard conversations with your loved one if both parties are willing to talk.
No one knows this better than John Duberstein who lost his wife, writer Nina Riggs, to metastatic triple negative breast cancer. He previously told SurvivorNet that all he wished for while she was suffering was for things to go back to the way they were – but Nina had already accepted her new normal.
“I really wanted things to go back to normal, whatever that meant,” John said. “She was not for that. She wanted to embrace the existence that she had, even before she knew she was going to die imminently. I did not want to talk about what was going to happen with me after Nina died. Nina is the one that really brought it up, she brought it up a number of times. She wanted to make sure that I knew that it was OK … she really wanted me to have another relationship after she was gone.”
John said that even with the pain of losing Nina, and even though he didn’t want to talk about it at the time, he’s so glad that his wife started those seemingly uncomfortable conversations.
“In retrospect, I can’t even explain how glad I am that I had that,” John said. “And I think, across the board, the people who have had those conversations who I know who have lost a spouse are immeasurably glad that they did.”
Remembering all the wonderful ways the person you’ve lost enriched your life can also help you move forward. For Fiona, one of the lovely memories she keeps of her husband is singing with him.
“I was much better singing at home than I ever was on stage, and we loved to listen to music and sing in the car,” she said. “We did that for sure. And, you know, we started that from the first month we met. We had the exact same taste in music. I knew all the country songs, and then he loved Van Morrison.”
Caleb Farley also knows what it’s like to remember the impact a loved one had on your life. In a previous interview with SurvivorNet, Farley talked about his mother’s battle with breast cancer. He also discussed how he opted out of his position as a cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies due to COVID-19 concerns. Having lost his mom to breast cancer in 2018, he knew he wanted to be extra careful during the pandemic.
Farley announced the news of his opt-out in an Instagram video saying, in part, “I cannot afford to lose another parent or loved one… Though the competitor in me badly wants to play this season, I cannot ignore what’s going on in my heart, and I must make the decision that brings me the most peace.”
Farley trained for the NFL draft instead of playing for Virginia Tech, and his efforts paid off. He was selected by the Tennessee Titans as the number 22 overall pick in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft.
Farley’s mother fought two battles with cancer. He watched as she went through multiple rounds of chemotherapy while still working and taking care of her family. Although his “superhero” mother will not get to see him play in the NFL, Farley will take many lessons he learned from her and apply them to whatever challenges he faces in life moving forward.
“My mother raised me to be very religious, very God-conscious. That’s been everything to me, and my life. That’s like the building blocks of my, of my life,” Farley told SurvivorNet. “Anything that’s happened to me, any adversity, any good times, any bad times, I’ve always kind of stood on that rock of faith. I can’t thank her enough for how she raised me and because it was her who gave me all of that, um, spiritually, she, she just filled my heart with love and joy. I’ve had a happy life because of her.”
Understanding Throat Cancer
Throat cancer is a type of head and neck cancer where cancerous cells begin in the throat, voice box or tonsils. Some of the main risk factors for this disease include smoking, drinking alcohol, a diet lacking in fruits or vegetables, acid reflux disease and the human papillomavirus (HPV). So, one of the easiest ways to decrease your chances of developing the disease is to get the HPV vaccine.
In a previous interview, Dr. Allen Ho, director of the head and neck cancer program at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, talked about different kinds of throat cancers.
“[HPV-negative throat cancer] is the more familiar type of head and neck cancers that people know of, usually caused by decades of smoking and drinking,” he said. ” Those tend to be more aggressive. They tend to have a much poorer prognosis, and we tend to be a little bit more aggressive with our treatments when we come across these patients.”
Dr. Ho also explained HPV-positive throat cancer.
“It is driven by a virus called human papillomavirus, the same virus that causes cervical cancer, and what many women get Pap smears to test for,” he said. “Early stage disease is usually treated with one modality, which is either surgery, or radiation alone. As you get to the more advanced stages, the standard of care remains, two forms of treatment, either surgery with radiation, or a chemoradiation.”