Saturday, May 4, 2013

Learning to be a Caregiver in the Midst of Hardship

I am honored to post a story from Cameron, a reader who would like to share his experience taking care of loved ones with difficult medical conditions, which is becoming more common for all of us - elderly parents, children with cancer, relatives with addiction. Please share your experiences or leave questions for Cameron in the comment section.

Learning to be a Caregiver in the Midst of Hardship

November of 2005 found my wife, Heather, and I confronted with the worst news of our lives.  This news came at a time when we were just enjoying being brand new parents to our lovely three-month-old daughter, Lily.  But on the fated day of November 21st, Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. When we received the diagnosis we were in shock at what we would do next.  As I felt my life begin to rapidly change in front of me, I knew immediately that I had to take on the role of caregiver to ensure that my wife received everything she needed to fight the disease.

We had three choices for Heather’s treatment, one of which included going to an experienced doctor who specialized in mesothelioma in Boston.  This doctor’s name was Doctor Sugarbaker, and while we also had other options that were closer to home, we chose Doctor Sugarbaker due to the extensive experience he had with this particular type of disease. I knew that in order to survive this, my wife would need the best care possible.

After going into caregiver mode and deciding upon a treatment plan for Heather, I started having occasions where I felt overwhelmed with the disease we faced and the overload of my schedule.  One time, I simply collapsed and cried on the kitchen floor, afraid of what the future might bring.  I could only picture the worst case scenario, Heather passing away and leaving me to raise our daughter on my own.  However, even with these moments of weakness I never let Heather see my fears.  I knew she needed me to be strong, no matter what I was going through on the inside.

Being a caregiver is not an easy task, especially when you are providing nearly round-the-clock care for someone you love.  One piece of advice I have for anyone who is faced with being a caregiver is to accept help when it is offered.  I really do not know how Heather and I would have made it through her ordeal if it had not been for the loving and supportive help of her parents and many other people in our community.

Over the following months, Heather would undergo difficult treatment, involving mesothelioma chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation.  Despite the odds against her, she eventually came through her treatment cancer free, and remains so to this day, over seven years after her diagnosis.

I am so thankful that my wife will be okay, and our lives are in the process of returning to normal and getting back on a productive track.  Providing non-stop care for Heather taught me many things.  I learned the importance of finding balance and maintaining priorities at all time.  We now hope that by sharing some of our experiences, we can help others currently battling through their own cancer journeys today.

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