Archive for malignant pleural mesothelioma

“My Caregiving Experience”

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The following guest post comes from Cameron, who wrote to me about his experience as a caregiver when his wife had cancer. Unfortunately, Cameron did not know about The Healing Codes at the time. If he had, he says, it certainly "would have been a huge aide" to help him navigate the dark places, where he had to deal with emotions like fear and anger. I post his story to encourage you that, as Cameron learned, we are capable of more than we think–whether we're the caregiver of the recipient of care giving.

The most devastating moment of my life occurred on November 21, 2005. Heather, my wife, received a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Without any preparation, I was transformed into a caregiver in a moment. Only a few months earlier, we were blessed with the birth a baby girl, and we named her Lily.  We could not have been happier to be new parents. We were entering the holiday season, but instead of celebrating, we were beginning down a long, difficult path to beat cancer.

The process began in the doctor's office.  We both knew very little about mesothelioma, and we were given a choice of locations to find a specialist. However, Heather's silence spoke volumes; she was in shock and unable to make this decision. We had to choose between two nearby hospitals, which had no discernible programs for mesothelioma, and a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. His name was Dr. David Sugarbaker. I knew that if Heather had any chance of beating this disease, she would need the best care possible.  I told the doctor, "Get us to Boston!"

Over the next few months, a whirlwind of chaotic activity ensued. Our lives were completely transformed. Instead of being a two-income household, Heather stopped working altogether, and I scaled back to part time in order to keep up with my new responsibilities. I accompanied Heather to her medical appointments, made our travel arrangements to Boston and took charge of caring for Lily.

I tried to be strong for my family, but I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and exhausted. I also feared losing my wife and becoming a homeless single parent. The stress and pressure caused me to dissolve into tears on several occasions.  However, even in these moments of weakness I never let Heather see me down.  I knew she needed me to be strong for her, and that's exactly what I intended to be.

Over the following months, Heather underwent mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments in an effort to beat this terrible disease.  Under the care of Dr. Sugarbaker, she underwent a surgery called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, in which one of her lungs was completely removed. It was incredibly difficult on Heather, physically, and me emotionally to watch her go through this pain.  However, she fought through and against all odds, she was eventually able to beat this terrible disease. Today, seven years after her mesothelioma diagnosis, she remains healthy and cancer free.

To all those who are currently fighting cancer, or caring for someone fighting cancer, the strongest advice that I could give would be to accept every offer of help that comes your way.  Throughout our journey, family, friends and even strangers came forward with offers of help.  We received everything from kind words of encouragement to much needed financial assistance, and this support helped us get through.  My biggest obstacle was learning to let go of my pride and accept these generous offers.  Take it from someone who has been there before, there is no room for pride in a battle with cancer.  Your community will be there to help you if you let them.  Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Being a caregiver is hard.  It will likely be the most difficult challenge you will ever face, but it can also be the most rewarding one.  You will likely have bad days like I did, and this is inevitable and natural during such a stressful situation.  You must simply remember to never, ever give up hope for a better future for your family. 

I decided to return to school two years after the diagnosis.  My time as a caregiver gave me the courage to pursue this dream of mine. I graduated with honors and was given the opportunity to speak at the ceremony. I never dreamed that such a devastating experience could help me change my priorities, manage my time and enhance the quality of my closest relationships. During my speech, I told my fellow graduates what my wife's journey had taught me – that 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.
 

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