Caregivers Need Care Too

Last week marked the one year “anniversary” of my husband Scott’s last chemotherapy treatment. Since then, blood tests and CT scans indicate he is now CANCER FREE! Whew! It was, to put it mildly, an ordeal getting through that span of time between being diagnosed with colon cancer, which was discovered during a routine colonoscopy on October 18, 2018, and now. He underwent surgery that removed the tumor on November 16, 2018 and began a regimen of 12 bi-weekly chemotherapy treatments in February 12, 2019. There were a few hiccups affecting his treatment schedule along the way I won’t go into here but by the end of August, his course of treatment was complete.

Scott was such a trooper throughout the whole awful experience. As unpleasant as it was, he, without fail, complied with whatever he was told to do, when he was told to do it. He dealt, heroically, I think, with the overwhelming sense of surrender of his fate into the hands of others. It’s a truly humbling experience, being in so little control of your life, your health, your body… But he let himself be cared for and trusted the process. Truly admirable, he.

Scott in the chemo chair for Treatment #4. Feels like last week – and forever ago.

Seeing my Sweetie go through the rigors of chemotherapy was heartbreaking for me. As his care/support giver, I felt an obligation – and strong desire, of course – to be his rock through this time. No matter our existing relationship’s strength and depth, rising to the role of caregiver is above and beyond what I’d ever thought I would – or could do. I was willing to do anything at all for him, yet I wasn’t sure I’d be able to meet the challenge. I felt overwhelmed, lost and alone from the outset. Scott, my rock, was currently unavailable, just as I felt the most vulnerable and needy.

Throughout the course of his treatment, I experienced times of deep despair in which I obsessed about the present and the future; I felt unmoored, drifting toward an unknown destination; without personal control. All I could see some days was CANCER; it blocked every other bit of input, consumed every moment, every thought, every ounce of my concentration and energy. The journey back to “normal” felt endless and harrowing.

As I limped forward, I became aware that I feared I’d break under the weight of these burdens. If that happened, I realized I’d be no good to either of us. I needed to stay strong and resilient to be the same sort of brave warrior as Scott while rising to my own unique challenges as his caregiver. Once I realized that my wellbeing was every bit as important as Scott’s, I took steps to safeguard my mental and physical health. Once I shored myself up, the days became more manageable, and my confidence and sense of optimism increased.

Now that Scott is better and that terrifying chapter of life is behind us, I’ve taken the opportunity to think deeply about how we got through it all. I realized that something important was lacking in the overall care plan… support for me, the caregiver. It’s not that there aren’t services and support groups out there; it’s that they aren’t as accessible and personalized as I needed them to be. There was no one holding out a hand to me, saying, “I know the way through this wilderness. I have a map and I’ll guide you to the other side.”

Boy, I would have jumped at that kind of help! It would have been such a relief not to have to navigate things all by myself and blindly search for the direct help I needed when I needed it.

Knowing how much of a lifeline help like that would have been, I decided to create that support system for caregivers who are traveling the path behind me. I’ve developed a program just for cancer patient caregivers called, The Caregiver’s Path: The Roadmap to Guide You From Overwhelmed to Empowered While Navigating Cancer With a Loved One to fill that gap in a patient’s treatment plan.

Caregivers: You shouldn’t have to look far and wide for the help you need. My program meets you where you are, teaches techniques and provides resources so you don’t have to feel helpless, scared and alone in your crucial role as caregiver. You don’t have to feel like your own life is slipping away as you give your all to your loved one. You don’t have to fall into the depths of anger, sadness and anxiety. Take my hand and let me guide you through. You don’t have to go it alone.

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