Sally Terpsma’s husband of 42 years died less than a year after his mesothelioma diagnosis. In many ways, she became his primary caretaker, nurse, and cheerleader.

Sally Terpsma, originally from west Michigan, was jostled into the support role by an unwelcome visitor: cancer. As her husband Pete battled cancer throughout 2016, she cared for his every need until he passed away at home in April 2017. Pete was the primary provider for 41 of their 42 years of marriage.

Terpsma says that something came over her when Pete became ill. “It was a mode where I would do anything I could to make Pete better,” she says. She kept a journal of every doctor Pete saw to streamline communication between hospitals.

Being Pete’s primary caretaker kept Terpsma busy. She had to learn how to manage the family finances and how to drive a boat. “I had to learn how to be in the club that both my husband and I joined before he died,” she says. “It’s all on me now.”

Pete and I would always try to look at the positives in life, even in the worst of times.

Pete’s last year was spent in their Florida beach house. “It was a blessing that we were in Florida accompanied by our nurse-navigator neighbor who became our friend,” she says. “Imagine if we were battling this in the midst of a Chicago winter.”

Now, her beach days consist of eagerly collecting eye-catching sea shells, stones, and pieces of driftwood for her artistic DIY crafts. And she has this to share with fellow caregivers: “If I were to give advice to someone in this situation, I would say to be patient with yourself, try to stay positive, and to take one day at a time.”


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