Friday, March 22, 2013

Guest Writer

Hey guys! This post is actually from a guest writer telling his story of how cancer affected his life. I just anted to write a short blurb before I shared the story saying that Cancer is not an individual disease. When someone is diagnosed with Cancer, their whole family has it. Although the disease is only attacking one body, the family is attacked in different ways. Families have to stress over financial issues, parents internalize driving spouses to drift apart,  siblings have no one to talk to about how they're feeling and may even feel left out or unloved because the parent's attention is on their sick child. Imagine having to watch a family member of your's fighting for their life, it's unhealthy. No one wants to go through that, but way too many people have to. So even though one member is physically sick, the whole family might as well be diagnosed. I'm serious, My Sister's Keeper captures this idea best. Anyways, this is a piece sent to me from the point of view of the caregiver. Enjoy!

Life's Lessons: What Cancer Taught Me as a Caregiver

It was a rough year in 2005, but it had some wonderful beginnings. My family went through an incredible high as my wife Heather and I welcomed our first baby. That was in August. Three months later, Heather was diagnosed with cancer. I learned some tough lessons that year and saw myself grow as a person, but the biggest achievement was learning to be a caregiver for my wife.

No one really tells you how to care for someone who’s sick with cancer. It's a process of learning what works. There are certain things that you have to do, but in those moments when she was overwhelmed by everything, I had to learn the way to help her best. I started learning how to be a caregiver the moment that we went to the doctor together to find out what was wrong. She had been sick for the past few months. Finally, the test results came back. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma. Some people feel numb when they're told that they have a deadly disease, but for my wife, I could feel nothing but overwhelming sadness. We had just built this beautiful life together, and now it was being threatened. We had to make some tough decisions that day to save Heather's life.

After that visit to the doctor, everything fell into an emotional havoc. There were days when I had so many things to do that I was too exhausted to even sleep, simply overcome by my thoughts. My wife was unable to work and we still needed to pay our bills, so in addition to caregiving duties, I also had to go to work as much as I possibly could and think about what I really wanted to be doing. I wanted to be there with my wife and baby. I kept picturing all of our possessions being sold off and losing the house if I didn't work as hard as I possibly could to pay for treatment. There were moments when I completely lost control and broke down in private, but I never let my wife or child know. I had to be the rock for them.

Luckily, we didn’t have to fight this battle alone. Our family, friends and even people we didn't know reached out to us. They offered everything that my family needed from a kind word to flowers to financial assistance to help with medical bills and treatment. Heather's parents were extremely pivotal in that regard. They not only provided a place for Heather to recover after surgery, but they also watched Lily for a time to alleviate some of the stress while we traveled. It was rough, but we made it work together. I will never be able to fully thank those who contributed to my family's happiness in such dark times.

Being a caregiver wasn't an easy road. I know that I made some mistakes along the way. Every day I went through a stream of emotions while still being the rock to my family. It was the toughest thing that I ever had to go through. However, I never really gave up hope that there would come a brighter day and that Heather would make it through this ordeal. Despite all of my fears, she was stronger than I ever could have imagined, and she made me stronger as a person as well.

Years went by, and things finally went back to normal. Heather had to go through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation to get here, but she's here. She fought mesothelioma and won. Even when they told her that she may have 15 months to live, she still managed to gain strength and keep fighting. I hope that I was part of the reason that she was able to do that. After seven years, she is cancer free and we have a happy, healthy family together. I'm so appreciative to all those who have helped us and continue to remind us that we are a strong family because of the challenges that we faced together.

Now, Heather and I hope that by sharing our story of success over this terrible cancer, we can help inspire hope in others who are currently battling disease of their own. Never give up hope, and never stop fighting for the ones you love.

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