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:
I walked beside my husband, Gary, with late stage prostate cancer for ten courage-filled years. The experience taught us to pay attention to life and its simple pleasures and the astonishing people who surrounded us in love.
There are numerous folks dealing with cancer who have suggested it is a gift … and countless others who would never refer to it that way. “Would you re-gift it?” someone once asked sarcastically.
But consider this thought from one of my cancer-fighting friends …
In her book, Bittersweet, author Shauna Niequist wrote that people often say the wrong thing when something bad happens:
But there’s something worse than the things people say. It’s much worse, I think, when people say nothing.
A kindly palliative care physician stopped by my husband’s hospital room to help him complete a Physicians Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. “What most concerns you?” he asked my husband.
Gary pointed at me and said, “Leaving her.”
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.
My young friend, Charity, is a world-changer. But she doesn’t know it.
Charity is facing the one-year anniversary of the day her husband and young son were swept out to sea by a sneaker wave on the Oregon coast. January 15. But wait until you hear what she’s accomplished, despite dealing with the most horrific experience of her life.
My world-changing friend, Charity
This is my favorite time of year. Nearby mountains cloaked in winter white, gaggles of geese discussing where to winter, family and friends gathering and giving thanks and eating way too much pie and lighting menorah candles and decking the halls and welcoming in a New Year.