Saturday, January 12, 2013

In Sickness and in Health

My dear John has been the best husband in both good times and bad. Funny when you say that in your wedding vows you never expect the "bad" part may actually be put to the test one day. How very blessed I have been to have him for my husband. The following is a blog entry written by him to share his perspective as a caregiver:
I've been wanting to share my perspective on the life of a caregiver. The ups and downs are like a wild ride at Disneyland. Many friends and relatives have commented to me about how surprised they were at what a good job I've done and how brave I have been with the day to day challenges that occur. I tell them, "Really? I'm not the brave one here."

The brave one is the one fighting this disease day in and day out while still functioning in their everyday responsibilities and family trials and tribulations. Who knew 5 years ago that this would be an ongoing process or that life would never be the same for us? I feel no kudos are earned and it is an honor to do whatever I can to make my wife comfortable on a day-to-day basis.

I'll start with friends and family. I must admit I was really hurt by some close friends and family that stayed clear of us and had very little or no contact. Rather than dwell on this, I chose to praise and thank God for the many friends and relatives that have stepped up to the plate and bless us every day with the things they do. Erin has mentioned in her blogs of the Friday "chemo day" delivery of flowers from our "flower fairy," dear Lynn, longtime friend and neighbor. I don't know how to ever begin to thank her for her faithfulness, love and support.

The times when I am alone and driving to work seem to be when I have my emotional breakdowns.  I'll think of the time ahead without my Erin.  It seems like a bad dream or a Lifetime movie that is NOT happening to us. Well, it IS!  I feel the minor things I do for Erin is just that -- minor. I am surprised to hear how little many husbands support their wives at the chemo lounge, and how many women drive themselves to and from their treatments. Really?

I'm sure there is a support group for us caregivers, but I've never sought one. I have been fortunate enough to have a dear friend, therapist, and cancer survivor to meet with and air my thoughts. I leave her wiser, stronger, and ready to take on our next challenge.

I feel when Erin is feeling good, I fall back mentally to the days of past where we could just freely shop, dine, and travel. You always hear people saying to cherish those days and do not take them for granted. I would think nothing more of those days, but it being the "norm" rather than a special moment.

We both laugh a lot through the difficult paths that our life has taken us, such as the time we went to the memorial park to pick out our final resting places. It was like watching a "Roseanne" episode! Erin and I were put in a room to choose plot locations, the granite for our markers, and even what font type they would use.

We would giggle like children until the "funeral lady" would reappear. We rode in a golf cart to the plot locations and we were the first in the new neighborhood to pick out the land in which we will be put to rest. Our sons didn't share our excitement or humor when I told them we had bought "real estate" in the O.C. and would be moving!

To see your wife, lover, and best friend in any pain is indescribable. I only wish it was me going through the treatments. I could never imagine I would outlive my wife since her mother is still alive at 96 and going strong! Anxiety sets in when I think of life in the future without Erin. Such a deep pain and sadness that I immediately put it out of my mind.

Erin has prepared many boxes of things for our sons and future grandchildren that will give them a glimpse of their grandmother. She has bought books that she has read to our sons and recorded her voice as she will now be able to read those same stories to our grandchildren. Time.... how lucky are we that she has had this time to prepare things like this.

I remember every day that I'm not alone. So many friends are there waiting to comfort me and help out in any way. When I'm alone, I feel it. I do not feel like any hero or great husband. This is just what one does for someone you love: you care for them. For all you caregivers, I'd like to be your friend, rock, and support. I feel I have a lot to share (good and bad) and I could be a help to you and all the things you are going through. You can contact me at

I have put off writing this blog for fear of expressing myself in a way that would sound too sappy. The words come to mind from one of my favorite movies, "Terms of Endearment:" "IT'S OKAY TO TALK ABOUT THE CANCER!"  I plan to write another entry in the future to share more of my experiences. Please let me know any specific topics you'd like to hear about.

Knowing that all the prayers, love, and support we caregivers get from family and friends, we can also get from each other. I'm here for Erin...... I'm here for you! God bless!

Cancer Doesn't "Win"

In the past few weeks my health has taken a sudden downward turn and although I think we knew it would eventually, things are happening faster than anticipated. Before Christmas I was enjoying lunch with girlfriends, short shopping trips, time revisiting favorite family traditions. A bout with the flu started late Christmas day and was soon compounded with other symptoms that has sent me to my oncologist numerous times as well as a few ER visits.

Before we'd been able to follow up on a possible spread to my spine, it seems the nasty tumor abutting my aorta is causing more trouble. I am so weak and seem to have nosedived so quickly. While a panel of experts reviews my case to recommend next steps, we had "the talk" today with my oncologist and I am working on updating my Advance Healthcare Directive so all my end-of-life wishes are in writing. By the way, I recommend everyone do this, whether healthy or ill, young or old, and discuss it and give copies to your doctors and family members.

I can't help thinking of my friend who has stopped chemo, is receiving palliative care, and joyfully looking forward to meeting her Lord. That sounds pretty good, especially the end of the journey. Some of the potential treatments and procedures I might face sound pretty awful and I have told doctors and family that I don't want to endure torture for only a small hope in buying a few short and miserable weeks or months in this life.

Friends put on their brave faces, pat my hand, and tell me to not give up the fight -- I'm going to be okay. I smile. Yes, I'm going to be just GREAT, but probably not in the way they meant. My physical body will only be able to fight off the cancer for just so long, and then I will joyfully leave this battered shell behind and head for the new home Jesus has been preparing for me.

But when that time comes, I don't want anyone saying that I have "lost my battle with cancer" or that "cancer beat me." CANCER DOES NOT GET THE VICTORY! I am tired of viewing this as a battle, fight, or a curse and I don't think of myself as a warrior or hero. I just did what I had to do while holding firmly to my Savior's Hand.

But cancer doesn't win!

I recently was given a great little booklet by John Piper titled "Don't Waste Your Cancer." What a lot of wonderful little nuggets of wisdom it contains. One article describes the sufferings of disease in this life as "labor pains" of a new creation and that something wonderful is coming!
"For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body." Romans 8:22-23
"Beating cancer" doesn't equate with extending my life in this world. Satan would like me to think so, but the truth is I will be the victor either way, and the greatest victor when I join my Lord: "We are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord." 2 Corinthians 5:8

To God be the glory! Cancer doesn't win!