Breast Cancer Awareness, Day 26

I wanted to be sure to include a piece from the perspective of caregiver. Too often, the people taking care of the patients are forgotten, but their lives are upside down as well – between worry (stress), added responsibilities around the house/transportation/etc. (stress), plus just the absence of their usual partner/family member/friend in the normal way.

The Big Man was gracious enough to write a little piece, but I want just to point out – this is his experience with me as a patient. Your patient might be different. It is important to find out from the person you’re caring for what they need. That is the only one-size-fits-all advice.

Let me introduce myself – I am Tom, Heat’s husband. She refers to me as The Big Man in her blog. She wanted me to share a bit about being a caregiver during her bout with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. It was almost five years ago, but many of the memories remain vivid.

When she was diagnosed, it was a shock to both of us, but Heat did not waste a lot of time on tears and resentment about her situation. She was very positive about being cured from the very beginning of her treatment, but I have to admit that for a time I thought that she was not being “realistic” enough, even though chances were very high that she would be cured. I wish now that I had bought into her positive attitude sooner, and better supported her in her thinking right away. Sometimes “realism” is a good thing, but it was her fight, and she needed to fight it her way.

I also wish that I would have responded better in the amount of time I spent with her. There were times that I should have left work earlier and been home sooner. I feel badly about this to this day. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I was a failure as a caregiver, but I could have done better. She was in a fight for her life, and she needed me to be with her as much as I could be. Even in situations where someone else that we love is obviously in need of presence and care, it can be very easy to think of oneself first.

Enough of the confessions. So much of what I was able to do for Heat was based in simply being present. She did not want to be treated as a “sick person” and tried to live as normal a life as possible. To be with her, to share her fears and hopes, was a great blessing. Her positive attitude did make it much easier for me to help care for her, and in the times that she was down in spirit, I felt it my job to be reassuring and encouraging in my words and actions with her. Most of the time, it was not difficult to be of service. Whether in fixing dinner or going with her to her chemotherapy sessions, I felt good about helping and knew that she appreciated it.

Loving each other, of course, was key.

Heat is a fighter, and I learned much from her example about how to deal with a deadly disease. I am glad that I was able to help her during her struggle, albeit imperfectly. We knew that Hodgkin’s had a high cure rate, and that gave us a lot of hope. That hope has come to fruition in Heat’s recovery, remission and cure.

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