Lynn Devlin

cancer widow

A nurse practitioner and her husband navigate the health care system after his diagnosis of stage four cancer

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table of contents

  • Chapter 1. widow lady
    We lived in a small town in New Hampshire where my husband, Kevin, knew half the people in town, and I knew everyone else. A few weeks after his death, I stopped at our local grocery store.
  • Chapter 2. missed diagnosis
    “I’m fine. My doctor says I have allergies,” Kevin said after seeing his family physician. He’d taken a half day at work and driven straight home after the appointment.
  • Chapter 3: holding hands
    I was dating a boy named Bob and attending classes at Northeastern University in Boston. One late September weekend, Bob asked me to return early from a weekend visiting family in Rhode Island.
  • Chapter 4: to work
    “I ’m an engineer,” Kevin said shortly after his diagnosis. “I don’t really understand this medical thing. You handle that..
  • Chapter 5: treatment
    And so it started. Our lives evaporated instantly into a round of appointments, sometimes several a day. We met with our local oncologist
  • Chapter 6: who is this man?
    Dealing with a guy who has cancer is hard. The treatment quickly started taking its toll. Kevin felt bad, so he became cranky and irritable.
  • Chapter 7: gradual decline
    I don’t remember exactly when we stopped laughing. But from the moment Kevin was diagnosed to the day he died in March, I don’t remember laughing much
  • Chapter 8: planning a funeral
    In January, Kevin got really sick. I saw his blood reports every day, and his white blood cell count was far too low.
  • Chapter 9: reconnection
    I worked as long as I could, until I couldn’t stand it anymore. While I longed to be with Kevin, I wanted to be as far away from the sickness as possible.
  • Chapter 10: is this a love story?
    I don’t know if ours was a love story. We had a great time. We had a real marriage, made up of arguments, fun, daily moments of connection, and physical touch.
  • Chapter 11: the final weekend
    “This is all going to be over by Wednesday.” It was Friday morning while we each made our beds.
  • Chapter 12: saying goodbye
    On Monday, my brother-in-law called the oncologist’s office. “Hi,” he said. “Kevin Devlin won’t be coming in. He doesn’t need your services anymore.”
  • Chapter 13: the soggy year
    So many people attended the funeral. The business types shook my hand, mumbled something about being sorry for my loss, and said, “Call if there’s anything I can do.”
  • Chapter 14: alone
    I dealt with the busywork. Lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, workmen. After I visited the cancer center one last time, I sent the staff a pretty arrangement of cut fruit
  • Chapter 15: waking up
    About nine months into widowhood, I started thinking about how to spend the anniversary of Kevin’s death.
  • Chapter 16: just five more minutes
    Helping people with their advance directives or health care directives is a big part of what palliative care clinicians do. Once a patient is diagnosed with a life-limiting illness, I sit down and talk to them about what life-saving measures they want or don’t want in the event that they can’t speak for themselves.

A Journey through the World of Cancer

According to the National Cancer Institute, one in every two men and one in every three women in America will be diagnosed with cancer.

Fifteen hundred Americans die of this disease every day. The media often covers stories about extraordinary survivors and their families. This is a story for everyone else.

  • Read More
    Lynn Devlin was married to her husband, Kevin, for twenty-four years. In November 2006, Kevin was diagnosed with stage four cancer. He died after sixteen weeks of aggressive medical therapy. This is one couple’s harrowing journey through the world of cancer. It’s the story of a marriage in crisis and a relationship redeemed. It’s about a woman who faces raising two children alone. Finally, it is about grief. Lynn shows what happens when the funeral is over. She reveals how she ultimately made the triumphant decision to choose life, every day. Lynn is a family nurse practitioner who specializes in hospice and palliative care. She shares research-based information everyone needs to know long before cancer affects their families

about The author


Lynn Kelly Devlin is a nationally board-certified Hospice and Palliative Care nurse practitioner who lives and works in New Hampshire. She often speaks to health care professionals, corporate audiences, students, and small groups about end-of-life issues.

Hire Lynn for Speaking

About Co-author Jacquelyn B. Fletcher

rave reviews from readers and publishers

“Reading Cancer Widow is like walking, step by step, beside a good friend as she moves through the process of losing her husband to a horrific disease....
The immediacy and vivid detail of the narrative are riveting....
I admire her courage, and I am grateful for the education.”

— Johanna Rian, PhD, Center for Humanities in Medicine, Mayo Clinic

“When Lynn Devlin asks, ‘How could this have happened at my house?’ the answer is that it can happen in anyone’s house. She expertly guides us through her personal journey of love, terminal illness, and loss, sharing wisdom and the lessons learned on the path to widowhood.”

C. Andrew Martin, MSN, RN, CHPN, author of Reflections of a Loving Partner: Caregiving at the End of Life

“Cancer Widow is powerful and painful.
It should be read by anyone who loves another human being.”

—Patrick L. Clary, MD, author of Dying For Beginners


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