Widow Becomes Nurse After Losing Husband to Cancer

After losing her 35-year-old husband, Spiro Pina, to glioblastoma multiforme, the worst kind of brain cancer, in 2009, Meritxell Mondejar Pont changed careers to become an oncology nurse.

“It was hard at the beginning, because it was so close to my own loss,” the Minneapolis resident and Barcelona native said. “But helping others in the same situation Spiro and I were in definitely helped me heal.”

Spiro, in fact, had encouraged Meritxell to explore what became essential in returning her to wholeness. Broken, but repaired. Missing what she had, while focusing on what she still has.

“Over five years, we had been in so many hospitals and in contact with so many nurses,” Meritxell said. “They had taught me how to take care of my husband, how to give him medication, how to put him in and out of bed, toward the end, when his mobility was compromised by the brain tumor.

“One day I said to Spiro, ‘I think I have to become a nurse.’ I remember he said, ‘Why? You are a teacher.’ I said, ‘I can become a nurse and take care of people like you. I think I can do a good job because I am a teacher and a caregiver.’ He said, ‘Well, then you have to do it.’”

But neither Spiro nor Meritxell could have imagined that the new nurse’s first assignment would be on 7C&D at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, the floors where Spiro had received treatment over the course of his illness.

And where the young couple had proudly showed off at the nurse’s station their newborn daughter, Eulalia, now 11. Happy news of their baby-to-be had come at the very start of Spiro’s cancer journey.

Meritxell and Spiro with daughter, Eulalia, who is named for the patron saint of Meritxell’s native Barcelona.

Meritxell worried she could not handle the assignment. “I’m going to be in the same rooms where my husband had chemotherapy, and where he had seizures,” she told her nursing instructor. “The teacher looked at me and said, ‘You can do it, and you have to do it for your own healing.’”

And she did. Eight years after Spiro’s death, healing continues for Meritxell, as she raises Eulalia, who has her dad’s dimpled chin and walk, in his honor, and his spirit.

A two-time Olympic athlete for Greece, in luge, Spiro spoke six languages, wrote beautifully, and was an amazing spouse, sibling, son and father. He did not deserve a brain cancer diagnosis. No one does.

But from the pain Meritxell thought might kill her, as well as help from Spiro’s parents, and brothers, who walk beside her to this day, emerged lessons Spiro would want to be shared, in hope of helping others.

“I learned a lot about myself, about Spiro, about our wonderful families and friends, and the community we had around us,” she said. “We saw all the ways people reach out to help when you’re suffering … and that makes you grow. We are better people from what we went through with Spiro.”

Watch Meritxell’s Video

Comments (6)

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Julia Papenbrok Aug 09, 2019 8:00pm
A beautiful story of love, loss and courage! Thank uou
A Jun 23, 2019 10:55am
This story is inspirational. I recently lost my husband after 36 years of marriage to a glioblastoma stage IV. I am now trying to put the pieces of my next journey together as one. He left two beautiful sons and did not make it to see his the first of two sons take a beautiful wife. However, this story may push me to go forward in re-inventing my career which I have put on hold for the last 19 months. i thank you for that. My first goal is to get the word out at the company i work for to acknowledge Glioblastoma Day on July 17th. The NBTS went to the senate an had the day passed.
Gary L Smith Mar 13, 2019 1:10pm
I also am battling a brain tumor. Doctors here are too stupid to do anything other than take MRI every 6 months but I have stopped doing that, $13.000.00 a year is too much so I told them no more MRI's... Pissed off the brain surgeon but I told him he wasn't doing anything but putting more money in his bank account... I get severe head aches every 3 days that puts me in Bed for the day. One coming tomorrow. I have a very understanding Wife and yes I adore her. My only Son died from a bad Heart and my Daughter died from Cancer. Parents are gone and my only Brother died from copd. Now that you know my history lets talk about something good or funny ok ? All have a great day with Gods blessing.
Joyce E Worley May 24, 2018 1:16pm
Thank you for sharing this uplifting and truly inspirational story. Your journey was hard but from your pain and loss, the dedication to help others was created. We never get over our loss - it is too great - but we can get through it, day by day, and you have found your way. And I know your patients and their families thank you.
Fjgarcia Nov 19, 2017 6:25pm
What a beautiful history, I enjoy it.
Barbi Byers Sep 27, 2017 12:26am
The love of friends and family plus the skill and care of nurses and doctors can sustain a patient and family members. I'm also grateful that Caring Bridge was the invisible thread connecting and updating our hearts and minds (far away and near) throughout the journey. Together, hundreds of us shared and learned SO much on this path with Spiro, Meritxell, and their families.
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