The following story is shared by one of my readers. Though his wife did not have MS, his struggles as a caregiver are much like ours.
My Struggle and Experience as My Wife’s Caregiver
by Cameron Von St. James
After my wife Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, I became her caregiver, and experienced all the struggles that go with it. Many times, my wife has tried to bring up the experience, stating she cannot imagine what I had to face, but I’ve only spoken to her about it once. Now I hope to share a bit more on my experience to help others who are facing similar difficult battles with disease.
Our only child Lily was born just three months before my wife’s diagnosis. She was a blessing, and we were so happy to welcome her into our lives. That happiness was cut short when the doctors diagnosed my wife with cancer. I was lost, unsure of how we could ever cope. I felt ready to breakdown and give up, just as the doctors began discussing medical options. That was the first day I remember feeling engulfed by the grief and stress of the situation, but it wouldn’t be the last.
Rage and fear were all I knew after the diagnosis, and I had no idea how to direct it, so I ended up taking it out on others, cursing and shouting. Perhaps it was the knowledge that I needed to remain strong for my family and the desire to not let Heather see my weakness, but I learned to control my anger so I could hide my fears from my wife and let her know she could rely on me.
Every day seemed like an impossible climb. I had to work my regular job, care for my wife, our daughter, our pets and our house. In the beginning, I was sure I would fail. I didn’t know how I would ever succeed, but eventually I learned to prioritize and accept the help that others offered us. Many of our family and friends helped us during this time. Without them, I am sure I would have drowned under the long list of tasks. Even with their help, each day was a battle.
One might think that a bit of time away from Heather and Lily would have been a nice break, but that was the worst time I can remember. Heather had to go to Boston to undergo a risky mesothelioma surgery. We sent Lily to South Dakota to stay with Heather’s parents and then Heather joined her after her surgery to recover and prepare for chemotherapy and radiation. Two months they were gone, and I was alone, as I had to remain behind to work and take care of the house. I managed to visit them only once.
After work one Friday, I drove through the night to reach them. Maybe it was my luck or maybe it was just life, but there was a snowstorm that night as well. I managed to get a few hours of sleep in the car while the plows did their best the clear the roads, but it didn’t help much. I was still exhausted when I arrived Saturday morning. I spent all of Saturday and some of Sunday with Heather and Lily before driving back home to return to work. I hated not being with them for those two months, but it was the right choice at the time. I couldn’t have given Heather and Lily the care that they both needed while working full time.
Everything that happened during this time was a challenge and a struggle but it all had to be done. The struggle taught me to accept help and take comfort in being able to make choices and decisions, even though they were difficult. Through everything, we persevered, and my Heather is still healthy after more than six years. I truly hope that my story can let those who read it and are struggling with cancer find hope.
Heather and I participated in a short video about her cancer experience, and I thought it would make a great follow up to the article of mine that you posted a while back. We’re hoping to use this video to continue to spread hope and awareness to those who need it. If you wouldn’t mind sharing it with your readers, Heather and I would be so grateful. Here is the link to the video: Heather shares about mesothelioma (www.mesothelioma.com/heather)