Middle aged woman on a beach

Life’s Unforeseen Turns: A Journey of Love, Loss, and Resilience

3 minutes to read
Shona Hurndell

Shona Hurndell

(Mindfulness Coach, Tapping-Emotional Freedom Technique facilitator, Reiki Master, Psych K Facilitator, Eden Healing Energy Work)

We all have a story, and my story has changed the direction of my life. Some events in life can change our lives, as events just simply take over and we have no choice.

The story begins when I met a gorgeous Cook Island man at Training College when we were both 19 years of age. We went out once with a group of others and did not see each other for another 27 years. 

When we bumped into one another again, it was in a school staff room and he was a maths teacher, while I had a business then working in Secondary Schools. He reminded me that we had met once before when we were young, back in 1978. A year later I returned to the school and we fell in love.

We were married in 2009. Steve had been married before and had two wonderful children. This was my first time being married at 50 years old.

Life was great. Steve was moving into leadership roles in schools and making a difference in young people’s lives and my business was busy and rewarding. Our life was full of love, and adventures.

We planned a trip to New York, and we did all the things you do in “the city that never sleeps”. 

Several weeks after coming home Steve was not well. He felt he had been hit by a bus. This was not unusual for Steve, as a child he had Rheumatic Fever and had two valve replacements when he was a young man. He often picked up a cold from school or had a chest infection. 

This time was different. He had become hot, cold, and delirious, so I called an ambulance. It was two days before Christmas, I remember the ambulance putting its siren on as we navigated the traffic along the motorway, suddenly things had become scary. 

After a couple of days of tests, we had the results. Steve had a blood infection. The challenge was to stop the infection going to his heart. After weeks of antibiotics, a procedure was carried out to check his heart. 

Unfortunately, our worst-case scenario was now real, the infection was in his heart. We were then faced with him needing open heart surgery and more valve replacements.  

The day came for his surgery, we all gathered before he went in. All you can say are words of love to the person you hold dearest to your heart, their life now is in someone’s else’s hands. 

An unexpected twist of fate as the anaesthetist was a young man that Steve had taught maths to many years before. 

The long wait begins. 

After 10 hours of surgery the phone rings. The surgeon said it was tough, the infection had caused an ulcer at the top of his aorta. He was not out of the woods. Steve was now in the ICU linked up to beeping machines and monitored closely by the amazing staff.

Following the operation, every day Steve became stronger. He passed all the tests the doctors gave him. Steve was able to transition from ICU into a heart ward. 

He moved his body by listening to Micheal Jackson on his headphones dancing down the hallways. Other heart patients in the ward said they want to be like him. He had a renewed energy. He knew the risks and he was alive. 

Every day Steve was getting stronger. He had just become Principal in a school and was having staff meetings in his hospital room ensuring things were ready for the new school year ahead.

The day came for Steve to be allowed home. He loved home, it was one of his favourite places. We had just had a beautiful pacific garden designed and the gardenias were out, he loved the scent that filled the air. 

We were now home to heal, get stronger and reconnect with life again.

After just two nights at home Steve had a lovely meal and went to bed early. During the night he was a little uncomfortable, however, he shrugged it off. 

When I woke the following morning Steve had passed away in his sleep. He was 57 years old. We had been married for just 7 years.

I often think back to that night. Why? Why when life was so good was Steve’s time to leave. He was doing so well. 

I find comfort knowing that he was at home. We were together. He was not in pain or scared. I wonder if his heart had had enough and just let go.

When you lose a life partner your entire life changes. Everything that was normal is now empty. 

We all manage the journey of grief in different ways. Mine was to keep busy working as this routine was normal. I think I hid away too as sometimes conversations are difficult. 

Sometimes people make comments without thinking, and small talk seems irrelevant. You are trying to make sense of what has happened, as you replay events in your mind.

Two years had passed, and life had a new rhythm. It’s not the same however, there is a new normal. 

I went for a routine mammogram. I did not think much more of it as the previous mammogram had been fine. 

Then you get the phone call. 

The call you never want. Something has been found and you will need to come in.

You sit there in a wraparound gown with other ladies trying to be distracted, all looking at their phones.

A call into a room; the mammogram on a computer screen – you are told that a biopsy will need to be done. This is all moving very fast. What else can you do? Just take the advice from those that know this world. 

My mum had called. She was also having tests at the hospital. I did not tell her I was having a biopsy.

On the day of the meeting with the surgeon, a friend comes with me for support. The diagnosis is clear. 

It’s cancer. 

I remember coming out into the carpark and phoning another friend. It’s cancer! The overwhelming cry! All the grief of losing Steve and trying to be strong and now a cancer diagnosis had all come together.

Mum was also diagnosed with cancer on the same day. She was given 3 months to live and passed away after 8 weeks.

Little did I know that this was going to be the beginning of a new journey that would change my life again.

Shona has been involved in education firstly as a teacher, becoming a lecturer at the tertiary level before establishing a training business. Today, she continues to work in the corporate sector facilitating a wide range of workshops…

If you would like to learn more about Shona, see Expert: Shona Hurndell.

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