Tuesday, 13 November 2012

"A caregiver's perspective" - from a reader

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Today I am posting a blog sent in to me from a reader, Cameron Von St James.
I have often said to friends...." I had morphine 5 times a day to help me through my cancer, but my poor husband had to cope with me, the emotional well being of our children and my mom while holding down his job and coping with all the bills and doctors.

Here is a valuable article written from that perspective...enjoy!

Thank you Cameron for sharing this with all of us!
 One Caregiver's Perspective of a Cancer Diagnosis

My wife, Heather has said several times that she cannot imagine how I managed to deal with her mesothelioma diagnosis. I spoke with her once about it, but I’d like to share more in the hopes that it might help others currently struggling through cancer.  

Prior to her diagnosis, our first daughter, Lily, was born. We were overjoyed with her birth, but the diagnosis soon after lead to feelings of fear and uncertainty. When the doctor said the word mesothelioma, I looked into my wife’s tear-filled eyes and wondered how we would cope with the diagnosis.

When I heard, I was overwhelmed and had feelings of despair. Then, I heard the doctor’s questions about my wife’s future medical care, and I was brought back to reality. This was the beginning of many days that I would feel overwhelmed, but I still had to help my wife decide the best course of action for her medical care.

After her diagnosis I had feelings of rage, fear and anger, and controlling these feelings was a major issue. These bouts of anger were often accompanied by profane language. However, I quickly recognized the need to be a source of strength and stability for my wife and daughter.  I knew that the last thing they needed was to know just how scared I really was. This is why I learned to control my emotions. I succeeded most days. On my weak days, I remembered why I needed to remain strong, optimistic and stable, but it wasn’t always easy.

My to-do list of responsibilities grew immensely following the diagnosis. My tasks ranged from work to travel arrangements for my wife’s medical care, taking care of our home, Lily, our pets; the list seemed endless. I had to prioritize my daily tasks to reduce my feelings of being overwhelmed. I also learned to accept help from the many generous members of our community, friends and family. Their unbelievable outpouring of support helped us understand that we were not alone in this fight.

After Heather’s surgery, there was a two-month period when I could not see her or Lily because they both were in South Dakota with Heather’s parents. Lily had been staying there during the operation, and Heather flew down following the surgery in order to recover and prepare for the next round of mesothelioma treatment: radiation and chemotherapy. I had to remain behind in order to work and take care of our home, and because of this I was able to see my family only once during those long two months.

I drove 11 hours one night on a Friday after work, in the middle of an unexpected snowstorm to see them for the weekend. I was able to sleep for a few hours in my car while the plows cleared the roads, and I arrived, exhausted, on Saturday morning. I spent a day and a half with them before making the 11-hour drive back home to be at work Monday morning.  It was a lot of grueling travel for just a few precious hours with my family, but it was worth every second. My brief separation from my wife and daughter was difficult, but it was necessary given our circumstances.


I learned through this ordeal that while many of the decisions we were forced to make were difficult, I had to be able to take comfort in the fact that we were able to make any decisions at all.  Our ability to choose a course of action gave us some sense of control over a situation that oftentimes seemed to dominate our lives.
I am so grateful Heather is alive and healthy six years later, and I hope our story will be a source of hope and inspiration to those currently battling cancer.
Cameron Von St. James
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance


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