Please see “Guest Post by J.O.B. – Caregiver Part I” if you need to catch up or need the link to J.O.B.’s blog.
Christmas was coming. My Uncle Chuck and Aunt Cindy (Mom’s Brother & Sister-in-law) were coming for the holidays. Mom still had her days. Sometimes she was perfectly fine. Goofing around. No fever. No nausea. Other days were bad. Consistent vomiting followed by tears. Sometimes she just laid on the couch moaning in pain. That was most days. At the time, I had no idea what radiology took out of a person. No one did. There was no computer. There was no Web MD. It was a guessing game. And my Mother and I lost most of those games
But Christmas was coming and that was all that mattered to Mom. She was definitely a Winter person. She loved the cold. She loved the snow even more. I remember having to do my homework in the Dining room so that she could look out the window. As a Family, we were all preparing. I remember my Mother saying, “We have to find someone to make the desserts, because Dinner is mine”. I remember decorating the house with her. I remember shopping for all the baked goods with her. I distinctly remember driving her which pissed her off something fierce. During the second week of December, the good state of Illinois decided to revoke my Mother’s driving privileges. Her anger quickly shifted to helplessness. A very independent woman who was no longer allowed to drive. It had something to do with the amount of radiation she was receiving, and driving seemed to be her last bastion of independence.
As Christmas drew near, she was a defeated shell of her former self. However she was determined to make this the best Christmas ever. And she succeeded. No matter what was going on with her and her life, she was not about to let cancer take this holiday from her. Three days before Christmas, my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins arrived.
Our house was full, and I remember numerous smiles on Mom’s face. Since I was on Winter break I was designated to help Mom with just about all preparations. After taking Mom shopping the day before Christmas Eve, we sat up that night playing cards. Out of nowhere she began to weep. I asked her, “What’s wrong?”. To which she replied, “Honey, I am so sorry, but with everything going on, I forgot to ask you what you wanted for Christmas”. After some quick thought, I told her, “Dad asked me and I think he’s taking care of it”. Of course this wasn’t true. After all, Dad had been working sixteen hours a day so that he could pay for the medical bills, but Mom didn’t need to know that.
We played cards for a while longer, and then she decided to go to bed. At this point of her life, I was helping her to bed which I could tell, killed her. After Mom was in bed I went upstairs and just laid in my bed. I couldn’t make too much noise because my cousin’s were sleeping in the room next to me. I laid there for a couple of hours waiting for my Father to come home. I remember just laying in silence waiting to hear his truck. I heard his truck come up the driveway around 2:00. I gently made my way down the stairs. I was careful to not wake my Aunt and Uncle who were in the guest room directly under the stairs. I hurried to the back porch to meet him. As he walked up he saw me, “What’s wrong!”, he asked. “SHHHHHHH”, I said. “Is Mom okay?”, he asked. “She’s fine”, I said.
“You have to get me a present this year”, I said. “Of Course we’ll get you a gift Jonathon, you don’t need to worry about that”, he replied. “You have to get it Dad. Ma is too worried about having everything ready for Christmas. She felt bad that she couldn’t buy me a gift”, I said. “I’ll take care of it Buddy. You just get to bed”, he replied.
Come Christmas Day, Mom was in high spirits. She was preparing the whole meal. She refused to let anyone prepare this Diner other than her. She did however let Aunt Cindy make the red velvet cake and pecan pie, which she did wonderfully. To be honest, as sick as Mom was, this was the best holiday ever. So much family filled our small Cape Cod, it was unreal. And I especially remember Ma being in the highest of spirits. It is a Christmas that will forever be in my memory. It was the only Christmas in my life that all living O’Brien’s and all living Robertson’s were together in one house.
Uncle Chuck, Aunt Cindy, Brad, and Todd left for home (Kentucky) on New Years Eve. I remember playing Monopoly with Mom that night while Dad and Bill worked. Mom was in high spirits that night, but she was still throwing up. And quite violently I might add. But other than that, she didn’t seem to be in much pain or discomfort. We talked about the new year. Mostly, she talked. After all, her baby was going to be turning seventeen and she was super excited. I could not have ever imagined how dark the year would start out………………………
There are a myriad of definitions for “caregiver.” I would like to share a little about my caregiver after I was diagnosed with cervical cancer in Sept. 2012. I was in a difficult position because the communist cancer cells had escaped and spread to all lymph nodes on the left side, lungs and, one spot on my liver. Having shared that background, please let me introduce my caregiver — my husband person.
Here are a couple of examples of the things my caregiver gave to me …
Lessons in fighting
My caregiver has had to fight to survive on several occasions and I had never had to do that. There were only two occasions when he really ‘busted my chops.’ The first was shortly before beginning chemo. I was sitting on the couch, shoulders rounded, sad-looking – you know, kind of like the proverbial lump. He spoke very forcefully and basically ordered me to ‘sit up, throw your shoulders back and, hold your head high.’ I did what he said and it worked.
Second example was when I went in for my 4th treatment and after the blood work, it was discovered that my red cell count was in the dumper. I was sitting in the recliner dealie for treatment and right as the nurse walked away from telling me, I started to slump in my chair and cry out of frustration. In that same forceful (and loud) voice, my caregiver said, ‘sit up, hold your head high and find out what the next steps are.’ I sat up, put my head up and when the nurse returned I found out I needed 2 units of blood. Got it and got the 4th treatment as a result.
A new mindset
I was not able to deal with the diagnosis because of the word “cancer.” It was so depressing. I felt doomed for a time. I had even expressed that perhaps I would not do anything about it. Again, prior to my first chemo treatment I was lying down in bed and my caregiver came in to chat. I looked up at one point and said, ‘but I have never been really sick my whole life.’ He looked me straight in the eye and said, “You aren’t sick now. You have cancer.” Big revelation to yours truly.
From that statement I realized that I may not be able to fight cancer, but I could fight and kill cancer cells. And that was my approach. I was a 4 bagger. The 3rd and 4th contained the good schtuff. When they were started, I would talk to the schtuff as it was starting into my system and order my sword yielding samurai to kill cancer cells! (My caregiver would send in marksmen.)
Gratitude to Caregivers
My husband person became very tired. He still worked full-time (quite a blessing for him to get out of the house). He did so much of the housework because, frankly, I was asleep for most of the day and night the first week after treatment. And I wasn’t very perky at all the rest of the time.
I cannot say too much about caregivers. From my perspective, they appear at times to be almost ignored. Most folks, naturally, are focused on the patient.
So to my caregiver and caregivers everywhere … thank you. You are indispensable to your loved ones.
Note: This is the first in a series of posts about my adventure.
I welcome all your comments and questions. If not comfortable answering a Q, I will say so.
And finally, I do not have full memory from the time I started chemo to about a month after the 6th one (that was February of this year). Some of what I post will be based upon input from my caregiver over the last 7 months.
Thanx for visiting.