It is unbelievable how quickly your happiness can be ripped from your life. What should have been the happiest time of my life ended up being the one of the worst. Three months after giving birth to our daughter Lily, my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma. She cried at the diagnosis, and I did my very best not to. I wondered how we would survive this.
Immediately following Heather’s diagnosis, my to-do list got very long. The stress of having to work, take care of my wife, take care of my daughter, care for our home and our pets and everything else in our lives was overwhelming and I snapped. I cursed at the people at church. I cursed at the people in our community. I cursed at everyone. I knew I had to stop, but it was hard. Eventually, however, I was able to get control of my emotions. I knew we had a lot of difficult decisions to make, and they’d be made through a lot of emotions, but anger couldn’t be one of them. I had to be strong for my family.
My wife has no idea how hard this time was for me. We talked about it once, but she still has no idea how difficult it was for me to be her caregiver and to do all that needed doing. The only thing that got me through this overwhelming time was learning that I couldn’t do it all myself. I had to accept the help that our loved ones and friends so graciously offered. It was vital that I swallow my pride and accept their help to keep myself from becoming overwhelmed with all that required my attention. I was still overwhelmed, but their help was invaluable.
Possibly the worst time in my life was the two months after my wife’s surgery. Heather flew from Boston to South Dakota to be with her parents and our daughter while she recovered from her extrapleural pneumonectomy. I couldn’t take the time off of work to care for my wife if I wanted to keep my family’s finances in order. It wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I don’t regret those two months away from my family. I missed them terribly, but I considered myself so fortunate to have in-laws willing to put their lives on hold to take care of my wife and daughter during my wife’s recovery so that I could take care of them financially. Two months is a long time without the people you love.
I saw them once. One Friday after work, I got in the car and drove to South Dakota. There was an awful snowstorm and I had to stop to rest and wait for the roads to be cleared before I could move on. I made it, exhausted, to South Dakota on Saturday morning and spent the day with Heather and Lily. I spent a little time with them on Sunday morning, but I had to be back at work on Monday morning, which meant I had to make the 11 hour drive home that day. It was hard, but seeing them made it worth it.
The most important lesson I learned at this time was to accept the help offered to us. It can be hard for many people to admit that they can’t handle a situation on their own, but when you are a caregiver for a cancer patient, there is no room for pride. You have to accept all the help you can get for both yourself and your loved one. I for one couldn’t have done this without it.
Thank you for this Guest Post by Cameron Von St. James