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Noelle’s “Soul” Purpose

Noelle Britte

Read Time: 2 minutes
Author: Noelle Britte

Noelle Britte is a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council at Huntsman Cancer Institute. In this heartfelt blog post, she opens up about her journey as a glioblastoma advocate, shedding light on the comfort and strength she found while supporting her husband through his treatment and eventual passing.

From time to time, Huntsman Cancer Institute invites guest commentary from our community. The views reflected in these commentaries are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official views of Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Noelle Britte (second from the right) and her husband with their three children
Noelle Britte (second from the right) and her husband with their three children

Sometimes I read back over journal entries and social media posts I wrote during my husband Michel’s years with glioblastoma, and I realize that if someone not familiar with our story reads them, they may wonder which one of us was the one with brain cancer.

I refer to “our” decisions, “our” appointments, and the treatments “we” were receiving. I wrote about how “we” felt. As a caregiving spouse, I became one with my husband. A true soulmate. I don’t think that, as a married couple, we were ever more on the same page as we were when we faced his mortality.

Our sole purpose became our “soul” purpose. We assessed the life we had created, who we had become, what we had accomplished, and what we had done for our family and others. It’s probably not all that uncommon for a terminal diagnosis within a marriage or partnership to provoke these types of feelings and experiences.

During Michel’s illness, I felt the desire to learn as much about glioblastoma as I possibly could. Not out of spite or anger, and not in search of a cure, but instead out of an effort to be the best advocate I could be for him. I read about surgeries, treatments, and new clinical trials. I learned about brain anatomy, tumor characteristics, and pesky microscopic tentacles of cells. I became proficient at reading MRI reports and absorbed the lingo. 

“I discovered the power of community—the strength that comes from people who are facing the unimaginable.”

But what was most valuable to me was connecting with other individuals who were facing the same diagnosis or who were going through it with a spouse or partner. I loved hearing and reading people’s stories and found validation and support in creating friendships and associations with those who understood. I discovered the power of community—the strength that comes from people who are facing the unimaginable.

Now, nearly two years after Michel’s passing, my thoughts still center around the bond that was created between us and how we lived with such a singular purpose. I joke that after all we had been going through together, we were so rudely interrupted by his death. I felt like it was rude of him. Although I was, and still am, grateful for the growth and learning of this experience, it has me feeling like he left me in the middle of an unfinished story, craving a satisfying ending that wasn’t meant to be.

As my grief and healing evolve, I have found that maintaining a connection to the local glioblastoma community has helped me preserve that bond I felt with Michel—to keep his story going somehow, with me still in it, even if in a different way. I continue to seek opportunities to connect with others and place priority on creating opportunities for people to meet, share, and support while on this road and in the aftermath. I look for ways to volunteer in glioblastoma advocacy groups, either in person or online, by sharing my experiences and giving others a platform to share theirs. It comforts me.

Michel always said that if something good can come from his story or if his story helps others, then it will all have been worth it.

Cancer touches all of us.