A little over 6 months later, she is dead.
Predictable, because 60 percent of lung cancer victims are dead within a year of diagnosis, 85 percent die within 5 years.
Less researched, but very much a factor, is the effect of stress and emotional turmoil on the body. Scientists don't have firm numbers, but the world is full of examples of people who die immediately after a spouse passes. I wrote about the health effects of a "broken heart" several months ago, and I am a total believer that mood, stress and events play a major role in our health. Most know the long-term effects of high blood pressure, for example. But little research has been done about the short-term effects of the vacuum left after a death or break-up.
In 1983, my grandfather died in a tractor accident at the young age of 57. My grandmother, who was a little older than he, suffered immediate health issues caused by the stress of his passing, and lived only 10 more years. In the last 2, she whithered away to nothing, and her official cause of death was "failure to thrive." She had slowly starved herself to death.
On the other hand, I've seen people diagnosed with cancer, but who possess a real zeal and love for life, who far outlive their diagnosis. I have no research to prove it, but I believe it has something to do with having a positive attitude and the will to live.
There are countless examples of perfectly healthy people who lose a spouse, then themselves die only days later. When the value of life dips below a threshhold, it's possible to simply "will yourself" to death.
There is little hard evidence, but I believe that had something to do with Dana Reeve's death. I know it did with my grandmother. Cause of death: broken heart.
Dana Reeve, 1961-2006