Ida's story

March 20, 2023

Ida's story

Try to understand what’s going on with your partner. The life that you share should be worthwhile. Enjoy every day you are together, and be grateful for the moments you can share.

My name is Ida Verbunt, and I am Harry Verbunt’s wife and carer. I am 56 years old, and I’ve known Harry since childhood. We grew up in the same neighbourhood, and one of my brothers was Harry’s friend. When we were in our twenties, we met for a date; since then, we’ve been a couple. This year we will celebrate being married for 30 years. We have a son, Tristan, who is 27 years old, and a daughter, Elise, who is 24 years old.


I first heard the news when Harry and Elise returned from the hospital. We all thought that it was nothing complicated, that Harry would get some medicine to solve the problems he was having with swallowing food. I immediately noticed something wrong when they walked from the car to the front door. Harry started to cry, fell into my arms, and told me that the specialist had told him he had cancer. My world turned upside down at that moment, and it felt like the floor under my feet had disappeared. This was so unreal that I couldn’t believe it. After a few minutes of crying with Harry and Elise, we started to talk about what was said and the prognoses. At that time, nothing was sure, and we had to wait for a CT scan to know what next steps to take.


My biggest concern was losing my mate, friend, partner, and father of my children. Losing him would be a significant loss for the children and me. What would life be without Harry? I’ve known him so long, and we are so very close. How could I do everything without him?

My biggest concerns now are still losing him and making sure that his quality of life is as best as possible. I support him in any way I can.


Harry is very proactive, and I supported him in the search for treatment. We are doing this entirely together, and as long as Harry has the energy to search himself, I will let him do this as he likes, to have control as much as possible. We had meetings with specialists; the most important was the meeting with Professor Bob Pinedo. He advised us to go to the Dutch Cancer Institute, which is at the front line of new trials. Thanks to him, we are in a new trial with excellent results. The last three CT scans resulted in no visible tumour spots anymore.


Through the challenges of being a carer, I try to be myself and go with the flow. That means that I consider every day a new day and see what needs to be done that day. Harry’s condition varies per day, and I adapt to his pace. That gives me the best feeling and makes me keep going day by day. I don’t plan long term, but only short term. Together with Harry, we plan day by day. Sometimes it’s a very easy-going day when Harry is tired, and sometimes we go for a short walk or shopping. I don’t miss any support as I concentrate on caring for Harry. I care for myself by being myself and talking with friends to share my feelings.


My message for other carers on this journey is to accept the diagnosis as soon as possible. Listen very carefully to your partner, and make sure to stay in close contact with them. Be there unconditionally for your partner, who is on this rollercoaster. Try to understand what’s going on with your partner. The life that you share should be worthwhile. Enjoy every day you are together, and be grateful for the moments you can share. Try to gather as many moments as you can. No big steps, but the most simple things could be the most valuable. A smile on your face, laughing about a joke you hear, enjoying a meal etc. We don’t have a bucket list. We already did what we wanted to do, and we appreciate every moment we shared. Appreciate all little things and cherish them.

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