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Mum says she was ‘torn in half’ as her husband lost his cancer battle and couldn’t even talk about it for FOUR months


A MUM has recalled the devastating final days of her husband’s life, after he lost his battle to Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in January this year.

Janelle Brunton-Rennie from New Zealand, has taken to social media to share her grief, explaining the 12 days leading up to her husband’s death have been “too painful” for her to revisit.

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On a wing and a prayer… 🙏🏼 #bostonbound #allthetears #wewillbeatcancer

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Janelle’s husband Kurt tragically passed away in January this year, after battling Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma – an aggressive blood cancer.

The 41-year-old dad of baby daughter Sage, found a lump in his abdomen the day after the couple’s third wedding anniversary in 2018 – and despite undergoing immunotherapy treatment in America for three months, Kurt passed away almost a year to the day later.

Kurt was buried in the custom wedding suit, shoes and the tie that he wore to marry Janelle just four years earlier.

Four months on, and in a bid to process her grief, Janelle – who explained the pain she experienced in those 12 days “was more intense than anything she could have imagined” has spoken out about the heartbreaking time.

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Out of the hospital room today for the first time in 17 days! Riding out the ups and downs presently, the CAR-T cells are active and are causing some pretty major issues with toxin release and inflammation. We won’t know too much until Kurts progress scan which is a wee way off yet #positivethinking #immunotherapy #wewillbeatcancer

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“There are 12 days of our journey in the last year that have been too painful for me to visit,” she explained in the first post.

“Too painful for me to unbox. Too painful for me to even speak about until now. I never posted during that period. I couldn’t.

“From the phone call I received from Kurt on Dec 27th, to the day he passed on Jan 7th.

“I’ve packed it away, and haven’t been able to visit it yet for the depth of pain I experienced and witnessed over that time was more intense than anything I could have imagined.

“I need to be able to access it though, to process it, to try and let it out.”

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Cancer. This is the red raw, tear stained face of a new mum who had just found out that her husband has cancer. Exactly one week ago to the minute, our lives changed forever. My gorgeous, strong, fit, seemingly healthy and indestructible husband found a lump in his abdomen and after scans we found out it’s two large lumps, and it looks like lymphoma too. Until we have biopsies done shortly we have no confirmation of stages or a treatment plan. It’s been a tough week, my surgery was already planned and had been for 12 months, so we went ahead with it as I need to be strong and healthy to help Kurt now with the next stages of his journey. It’s as if balancing a wee baby a major surgery and a business wasn’t quite enough, the universe has decided we can grow through a little more yet. Please hold us in your prayers, we have a huge fight ahead of us, but we’re going to come out of this stronger than ever I promise you! #fuckcancer #wewillgetthroughthis #heartbroken #newmum #realtalk

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Janelle recalls how Kurt arrived home on New Year’s Eve, after receiving treatment in America.

“On Dec 26 Kurt had what they termed a ‘repositioning scan’. He rang me immediately on the morning of Dec 27 when he received the result,” she explained.

“I answer the phone and hold my breath. I realised he was in tears. ‘Baby it’s bad news’. I remember the words ‘innumerable tumours’, ‘progressive disease’ and something about ‘massive’.

“… Kurt tells me there is still a chance they can kick the T Cells off again with multiple doses of a drug, but no one seems entirely confident anymore.

“Drs have advised immediate flights home to NZ where he can still receive doses of the kick off drug.

“… He lands early morning on New Year’s Eve. I meet him at the international arrivals gate. I’ve prepared mentally for the worst to confront me, it was.

I just sit there with my head on his chest and weep


Janelle Brunton-Rennie

“I take over the wheel chair from the attendant. I just want to get him home.

“I hold his frail hand all the whole way home, and reassure him we are still fighting, and I will continue to do everything we can.”

Tragically, after rapidly deteriorating at home in between doses of the drug, Kurt is admitted to hospital.

In another post, Janelle explained: “Kurt’s abdomen now feels like it’s full of large rocks. So many large and hyper-fast growing tumours.”

The mum later recalls the moment she realised Kurt wasn’t going to make it.

“We have lost,” she said.

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He’s gone. On January 7th at 9.52pm just a few hours after lots of kisses and cuddles from Sage and with me and his mum and brother holding his beautiful, strong hands, Kurt slipped away. I can’t even begin to describe the depths of this ocean of pain and sadness I’m trying to stay afloat in. Christ I am so proud of the courageous battle he fought. We threw everything at this, everything. The pure anguish and emotional trauma of the last week is indescribable. Kurt began to decline rapidly in Boston and we managed to just get him home to NZ safely on New Years Eve. He spent two days at home with Sage and I where we lavished him in kisses and cuddles and was then admitted to hospital. My heart is in pieces. My soul is deeply wounded. And I’m just so grateful I got to be there with him, caring for him and loving him the best I could until the end. #soulmate #broken

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“What did we do wrong. How did I fail him like this. We were perfect.

“I’m so sorry Sage – Mama and Dadda fought their hardest… we threw everything we could at this.”

Over the next two days, Janelle watched as select members of Kurt’s family visited the hospital to say their goodbyes.

In a devastating post, the mum explained the heart wrenching final moments of Kurt’s life, explaining she was “torn in half” knowing she had to let him go.

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(2/7) Kurts mum books their flights home in two days time, tomorrow in Boston he’ll receive his second dose of the supposed T Cell kicking off drug, and some hydration fluids, and fly the morning following. He can have the third dose of it in NZ. I book urgent flights the next day home to Auckland for my mum, Sage and I. I wonder why he suddenly doesn’t respond to texts or answer calls. I figure it’s due to the hurried business of packing to leave. After more radio silence, in desperation I call his mum and catch her already on their layover between Boston and Houston onto NZ. She tells me straight, Kurt can’t talk or text anymore. He can hear though, so she holds the phone up to his ear for me and I tell him how desperately I love him, I can’t wait to see him, to kiss him, and to just get home safely where I can take care of him whilst these T Cells get going again and finish their goddam job. He lands early morning on New Years Eve. I meet him at the international arrivals gate. I’ve prepared mentally for the worst to confront me, it was. I take over the wheel chair from the attendant. I just want to get him home. I hold his frail hand all the whole way home, and reassure him we are still fighting, and I will continue to do everything we can. Just hang in there baby, I’ve got you. I’ve got you. I’ve always got you. I’ll get us through this okay. I can still feel that rope though, it’s just got a little tighter. 📸 (Kurt with his lion he brought for Sage in Boston which is now one of her favourite cuddly toys) ▶ #nakedgrief #grief #myhealingjourney #fuckcancer

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“I only let a few of Kurt’s very closest visit him in hospital over the weekend. I feel very protective of his privacy, his dignity. I don’t want them to remember him like this.

“Each one has some time alone with him to say goodbye. I wait outside, drink another cup of coffee, so much coffee. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep.

“Monday morning, Ward nurse greets me with surprise and pity. I’d heard the term ‘death rattle’… but until you’ve heard that sound, you cannot even begin to comprehend it.

“It’s like the opposite of the effect of listening to the waves has on your soul. I can feel his immense discomfort with every laboured, painful breath.

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(4/7) Thank god, he’s in hospital, the professionals can now care for him best, it’s Wednesday, something like 12 or more days till the next dose of the T Cell kicking off drug… we can still do this. We can still do this baby. I can tell Kurts fighting still, I can tell that he’s hanging in there in the hope of making that next drug dose and the minuscule chance it might work. I tell the doctors this, I try and make sure they know just how super human he is. He was Mr Universe for Christs sake. He was the healthiest and strongest man I’d ever met. I make sure it’s always positive around him in his room. He’s listening to everything that is said, I can tell. His dad stays the first night in hospital with him, I stay the nights following. I never really sleep though, I’m always listening out for his breathing. The ward nurse asks to speak with me Friday morning, she tells me not to go anywhere today, he might pass today, it won’t be long now. I ask Kurt if he’d like a shower, one of his favourite things in the world is a long hot shower. I shower him lovingly for half an hour, beautiful hot water, his eyes smile at me… I can feel his happiness in that special moment. I can’t begin to try and tell you what an honour it is to care for someone in their final days with so much love and compassion. I’m shocked by it myself. Ward nurse leaves Friday evening, doesn’t expect to see me Monday and gives me a long, heart felt hug for what lies ahead over the weekend. Kurts abdomen now feels like it’s full of large rocks. So many large and hyper-fast growing tumours. They insert an abdomen drain. I think I accept it now. I’ve accepted our defeat. I think Kurt has too, I can feel a shift in his energy. The palliative care team visit, I talk to them outside, they ask me if he knows he’s dying. I say yes, we both know, but I still ask them to introduce themselves to Kurt without using the word palliative. We have lost. What did we do wrong. How did I fail him like this. We were perfect. I’m so sorry Sage – Mama and Dadda fought their hardest… we threw everything we could at this… #heartbroken #nakedgrief #grief #fuckcancer #vulnerability #thisisme

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“Sage comes in again after dinner as he seems to have gotten even worse which I didn’t believe was even possible. He has such a strong, fit, young and healthy heart. It won’t give out.

“She kisses her Dadda and tries to stroke his arm better. This scene is unimaginable, she’s just 15 months old. Kurt’s mum and brother decide to stay on with me tonight. It’s never spoken about but we know why.

“9.50, Kurt’s breathing seems to get a little less painful sounding all of a sudden… I’m so relieved, then it stops…. the longest 10 seconds of my life, oh god, breathe, breathe damnit.

“Thank god another breath, and another, then it stops… another 10… a longer 10, what’s happening, what’s happening… one more, thank Christ, then… this very moment is the most vague, yet vivid and painful moment of it all.

“Waiting for that next breath… waiting, holding my own, waiting… holding myself back from jumping up to commence CPR… breathe baby… breathe…. breathe.

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(5/7) I only let a few of Kurts very closest visit him in hospital over the weekend. I feel very protective of his privacy, his dignity. I don’t want them to remember him like this. Each one has some time alone with him to say goodbye. I wait outside, drink another cup of coffee, so much coffee. Can’t eat. Can’t sleep. Monday morning, Ward nurse greets me with surprise and pity. I’d heard the term ‘death rattle’… but until you’ve heard that sound, you cannot even begin to comprehend it. It’s like the opposite of the effect of listening to the waves has on your soul. I can feel his immense discomfort with every laboured, painful breath. Sage comes in again after dinner as he seems to have gotten even worse which I didn’t believe was even possible. He has such a strong, fit, young and healthy heart. It won’t give out. She kisses her Dadda and tries to stroke his arm better. This scene is unimaginable, she’s just 15 months old. Kurts mum and brother decide to stay on with me tonight. It’s never spoken about but we know why. 9.50, Kurts breathing seems to get a little less painful sounding all of a sudden… I’m so relieved, then it stops…. the longest 10 seconds of my life, oh god, breathe, breathe damnit. Thank god another breath, and another, then it stops… another 10… a longer 10, what’s happening, what’s happening… one more, thank Christ, then….. this very moment is the most vague, yet vivid and painful moment of it all. Waiting for that next breath… waiting, holding my own, waiting… holding myself back from jumping up to commence CPR… breathe baby… breathe…. breathe. I’m torn in half, I have to let him go, I know that escaping his body and leaving this suffering behind him is what’s best for Kurt. I have my left hand on his chest. My right hand holding his. I feel his heart stop. My head falls to his chest. What did I just witness. What on earth just happened. I just sit there with my head on his chest and weep. I refuse to leave for an hour or so, not until his hand is cold and I can feel that he’s not with us anymore. Just to make sure his soul has left so he’s not going to be lonely when I go. I’m in shock, disbelief. Cont below…

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“I’m torn in half, I have to let him go, I know that escaping his body and leaving this suffering behind him is what’s best for Kurt.

“I have my left hand on his chest. My right hand holding his. I feel his heart stop. My head falls to his chest. What did I just witness.

“What on earth just happened. I just sit there with my head on his chest and weep.

“I refuse to leave for an hour or so, not until his hand is cold and I can feel that he’s not with us anymore.

“Just to make sure his soul has left so he’s not going to be lonely when I go. I’m in shock, disbelief.”

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(7/7) I throw myself into planning Kurts farewell (I still can’t use the word funeral) in meticulous detail. In a cruel twist, I see him lying in state for the first time on our wedding anniversary, he’s wearing his custom made wedding suit, shoes, even the tie he wore when we were married, and as I stand there and look at him in his casket, I realise that on that hour, exactly four years prior, I was standing before him, admiring him in exactly the same clothing as we exchanged our vows. As the realisation hits me, I’m overwhelmed, and I feel him walk up behind me and put his big reassuring arms around me – there was no mistaking it. His farewell is perfect, his casket is solid oak as he once told me if he were a tree he would be an oak tree. The flowers are sunset – his favourite colour. The venue overlooks the Orakei basin – on the other side of it is our home. I don’t arrange an officiate, one of his closest friends MC’s (he also MC’d our wedding). I stand up in front of hundreds and give the final farewell, I felt so strong and honoured, I’m sure Kurt was reinforcing me in every way possible. Kurts cousins call the casket out with a spine tingling haka – a fitting last nod to our fallen warrior. It was Kurts wishes to be cremated and to come home and hang out with Sage and I for a while. So his urn sits on his bedside table next to his photo and I still kiss him goodnight every night before bed. #nakedgrief #grief #vulnerability #fuckcancer

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Following Kurt’s death, Janelle revealed the grief was “all consuming and at times disabling”.

Explaining she threw herself into planning Kurt’s farewell, Janelle said: “As I stand there and look at him in his casket, I realise that on that hour, exactly four years prior, I was standing before him, admiring him in exactly the same clothing as we exchanged our vows.

“As the realisation hits me, I’m overwhelmed, and I feel him walk up behind me and put his big reassuring arms around me – there was no mistaking it.”

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This week I maybe, just maybe mastered or am on the way to mastering one of my soul lessons!!! I STOOD UP FOR MYSELF… TO A BULLY! I’ve spoken about my history of being on the receiving end of some pretty nasty bullying in the past, over numerous times in my life … and I never confronted them about it. I would always ‘rise above’ or try and ‘kill them with kindness’. But this week, I didn’t. I stood up for myself and set a clear boundary that a line had been crossed. Evolve or repeat I guess and after the hell that I’ve recently been through I’m not going to let anybody treat me less than I deserve ever again. Also, behind me is an amazing piece of artwork that makes my soul light up every time I see it – it’s dedicated to Kurt and by the unbelievably talented @carolinagruner and it’s called ‘always by your side’ Xx #gratitude #stopbullying #kindness #LOVE #weareone

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Four months on, Janelle urges others to “stop and take a minute”.

“Are you truly happy?” She wrote.

“What are the things that make your eyes sparkle & your heart smile? Do those, with your special humans, every day, do those.

“Because one day… well one day, you’ll have so many beautiful memories to reminisce upon together in those inevitable final days.”


Earlier this week, we told you about the woman whose fiance donated her a kidney.

We also revealed one mum’s urgent warning after her healthy 13-week-old baby dies just hours after family photo was taken

And we told you about the woman who married the love of her life just five hours before he died from liver cancer aged 20.

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