Caring For a Loved One With Cancer
Note from Dr. P:
Caregiving is one of the most stressful jobs that someone can take on. I often see the long term health effects of caregiving on the caregiver only after their loved one has passed on. This is a selfless job that can be extremely intense and depleting. The caregiver selflessly gives of their vital energy and life force to physically and emotionally support their loved one endlessly around the clock. Since most of the focus is on the sick patient, there has been a lack of awareness on the role of caregiver and how support is essential for them to continue on in this role.
The contributor of this blog post, Cameron, reached out to me asking if he could share his story with all of you. His goal is to increase awareness and let caregivers know that they are not alone. It just goes to show that in every storm cloud there is a sliver lining to be found.
-Be Healthy, Happy, and Holistic
Caring For a Loved One With Cancer
By: Cameron Von St. James
I will never forget the events of November 21, 2005. That was the day my wife Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. I had never been a caregiver before, and I felt woefully unprepared for my new role. A few months before the cancer diagnosis, our daughter Lily was born. Instead of spending the next few months celebrating our first holiday season together, we would have to face one difficult challenge after another.
I experienced the responsibility that comes with being a caregiver almost immediately. After the diagnosis, our doctor told us that we had three treatment options. We could receive care at the local university hospital, a regional hospital, or a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. My wife sat silently, her expression revealing her feelings of helplessness. I knew she needed help, and I told the doctor that we would go to Boston to seek the best treatment option available. I could only pray that there was someone there who would be able to help my wife.
Over the next two months, our lives were torn apart. Heather had to quit her job, and I could only manage to work part time. When I wasn’t working, I was taking care of our baby, planning trips to Boston, and going with my wife to her doctor’s appointments. On top of my busy schedule, I felt overwhelmed with fear that Heather would not survive her illness. Though I stayed strong in front of her, I was terrified that I would end up with no wife, no money, and a young daughter to care for all on my own.
My wife and I will never forget the aid we received from friends, family, and strangers during the most taxing time of our lives. Caring for someone with cancer is physically and emotionally draining, and our loving support network was one of the main things that helped me through it. With their help, I was able to maintain control over the negative emotions that I felt on a regular basis. No one can be perfect during something as difficult as cancer, but staying hopeful is crucial.
Over the next few months, Heather underwent a grueling round of treatments for mesothelioma, including surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. It was difficult on her, and on our whole family while she suffered through it. However, in the end it paid off. Heather was able to defy the odds and beat this terrible form of cancer.
Today, Heather is healthy and cancer free. My experiences during her treatment taught me to stay resolute under even the worst of circumstances. They also reminded me that our time on this earth is valuable. I went back to school two years after her diagnosis. My time as a caregiver gave me the strength and the courage to pursue this dream of mine. It also gave me the skills to be successful, and I graduated with high honors a few years later, even being offered the opportunity to be the student speaker at graduation. During my speech, I explained that I had no idea five years earlier that I would end up there, a college graduate with a happy family. Within each of us is the strength to accomplish incredible things, if we only just believe in ourselves and never give up hope for a better tomorrow.