An email arrived recently from a friend — her grandfather died, and a week and a half later, her grandmother was diagnosed with late stage cancer.
“My grandma went through such a long, rough time being a caregiver for my grandpa,” wrote this young woman, “… and now this.”
Being a caregiver was one of the most challenging and sweetest roles I’ve ever held. The challenging part was in the beginning, when terminal cancer was dropped on us from a high-flying bomber we didn’t see coming.
A year later, after Gary finally admitted his feelings of failure as a man, we sorted things out, determined to live more fully, found ways to give back, and made more fun and memories. That was the thunderous, sweet, majestic part.
If given the assignment to share tips from my cancer caregiving years, and if the assignment required an alphabetized list …
… it would look something like this:
Ralph Waldo Emerson said this:
No member of a crew is praised for the rugged individuality of his rowing.
That’s because a crew needs to be in synch; to pull together at equal strength. Connected. Coordinated.
When Tyler Henderson was diagnosed with brain cancer, Marni brought their two sons home for online schooling so they could spend as much time together as a family while they still had the hours, the weeks, the months.
Turns out, they only had fifteen more months together. Which wasn’t nearly enough time.
Tyler and Marni
Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball player ever to fly the planet, had this to say about success:
I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.
When Katie Strumpf was diagnosed with leukemia, there were no online resources or publications to offer guidance to a 10-year-old kid dealing with cancer. She endured chemo, spinal taps, and bone marrow aspirations.
While still going through treatment, Katie told her mom that someday she would write a book for children with cancer, offering encouragement and practical advice from someone who’s put up with doctors and medications and hair loss.
We were at my husband’s final oncology consultation—the one where he said, No more chemo—at which point the oncologist said he’d like to make a referral to hospice. I was incredulous. Seriously? Does Gary look like he’s on his last legs?!
“Up until this point,” the oncologist said to my husband, “all the care has been focused on you.” He pointed at me: “But who’s taking care of her?” My eyes welled up. I’d never considered that thought.
You’ll find me with my knitting posse most Monday evenings at Barnes & Noble. Back when my husband, Gary, was fighting cancer, they were part of my cancer caregiver support network. And now in widowhood, they’ve got my back.
My fellow knitters didn’t sign up for either of these extra assignments. But by virtue of showing up every Monday and bringing their exquisite, fuzzy projects and sharing their stories and asking about my week, they’re a significant addition to my support system.