Saturday, February 2, 2013

Guest Blogger :)

A couple of weeks ago a fellow blogger contacted me about having a guest post on my blog. His wife survived mesothelioma and they are both active in the blogging community. The following is Cameron's story of being a caretaker. His wife does not have NMO however being a caretaker can be a challenge no matter what the issue is.

The Struggles and Silver Linings of Caring for a Cancer Patient.

November 21, 2005: It is a day my wife and I will never forget. It’s the day Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma. On that day I became her caregiver; a job I wasn’t prepared for to say the least. Just three months earlier, we celebrated the birth of our only daughter, Lily. We thought we would be spending this time of year celebrating parenthood and preparing for Lily’s first Christmas. Life had other plans.

The reality of being a caregiver of someone diagnosed with cancer solidified before we even left the Doctor’s office. Our doctor told us about the disease and treatment options. He gave us three choices: the local university hospital, an otherwise amazing regional hospital that lacked a developed mesothelioma program, or Dr. David Sugarbaker-- a Boston mesothelioma expert. I looked over at my wife. She was silent. The look on her face was one of incredulity, saying “Oh God, please help me!” I looked at our doctor. “Get us to Boston!” It was the first of many tough decisions to come.

The next two months were ruled by chaos. We had both held full time jobs. Now I was down to part time and she was out of work altogether. My time was needed elsewhere: at doctor’s appointments, making travel arrangements and traveling to Boston, and taking care of Lily. The list went on and on. My mind played out the worst possible scenarios. Heather dying. Losing all our money to futilely combat the disease. My daughter and I, out on the street. Alone. More than once, I found myself on the kitchen floor balling my eyes out. I wanted it all to go away. But I couldn’t let Heather see my pain. I needed to be her rock; I needed to be strong for her. 

We were blessed though. We had such a strong support system. Everything from comforting words to financial assistance was offered. We can never fully thank all those who helped us. One of the few bits of advice I can offer to other cancer patients and caregivers is that if someone offers help, take it. It will remind you that you are not alone, and it is at the very least a small weight off your shoulders.  There is no room for pride when your or a loved one’s life is on the line. There are others who care about you; people who want to help lighten the load. Let them.

Being a caregiver of a cancer patient is difficult. There is no getting around it. You’re going to have chaos and stress. It will be the toughest test of your life. Unlike the rest of the “real world” you can’t walk away. Don’t be a prisoner to your fear and anger. Allow yourself to have bad days, but never give up hope.

It took years for the chaos to settle down. Heather has gone through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy fighting mesothelioma. She beat the odds, and thankfully is completely cancer free to this day, over seven years later.

This ordeal reminded me that time is precious. So two years after Heather‘s diagnosis, while working full time and caring for Heather and Lily, I went back to school full time studying Information Technology.

The stresses of school were nothing compared to what I went through. I excelled. I graduated with high honors and was the student speaker for my class. I remember my graduation speech well. It was about Heather and our struggle. I would have never predicted I would be on that stage, giving that speech. I gave them the most valuable lesson I learned during our struggle: never give up hope. Realize that, within each of us, there is someone capable of accomplishing amazing things. You just have to believe.

If you would like to get in contact with either Cameron or his wife Heather you can check out their blogs... links below.

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