Monday, 1 April 2013

My Caregiving Experience: A Journey of Love

Hello, today's post isn't going to be from me, or even about me! Today I'm handing over to a guest blogger from the US, called Cameron Von St.James, who's agreed to give his story of caring for his wife while she underwent treatment for a rare type of cancer called mesothelioma. I'll let him continue from here.

My Caregiving Experience: A Journey of Love

The worst day of my life was November 21, 2005. My wife Heather was diagnosed with a type of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma. Almost immediately, I had to adapt to a new role, and I quickly found out how difficult it really is to be a caregiver. Previously, I was ignorant of what this type of work required from a person. Three months before the terrifying diagnosis, Heather gave birth to Lily, our only child. These two events contrasted so dramatically, and the joy we had experienced at the birth of our only child was ripped away from us by this news. Instead of celebrating the approaching holidays as planned, we began down a long, difficult road to beat cancer.

During the initial diagnosis, Heather’s doctor informed us that we needed a mesothelioma specialist, and we only had two choices: Either we could go to one of two nearby hospitals, or a mesothelioma doctor in Boston. As I looked at Heather for any sign of interest in a possible treatment, I realized that she was shocked and terrified, and her eyes pleaded with me for help. Immediately, I knew where we needed to be.

I made arrangements for us to go to Boston. During this time, our financial situation began to deteriorate. Heather was unable to continue working full-time, and I had to scale back to part-time in order to care for her and Lily. I needed the extra time to arrange our traveling accommodations, to accompany Heather to her appointments and to care for Lily. After a while, these responsibilities began to take a toll on my resolve, and dark fears started to occupy most of my waking hours. On more than one occasion, I broke down in tears. I feared losing Heather more than anything else.

The support we needed came from a variety of places, and some of them were unexpected.  Family, friends and even total strangers leant helping hands, and I learned to accept their help over time.  If I had one piece of advice to give to any other caregivers out there, it would be to accept every offer of help, big or small.  It will be one less thing to worry about, and will remind you that you aren’t alone. 

After months of harsh surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Heather was able to beat the odds against her and survive mesothelioma. Its been over seven years since her mesothelioma diagnosis, and she remains cancer-free to this day. We received so much support during our fight, and now wish to return some of that to others going through a similar situation.  We hope that by sharing our story of success over cancer, we can help inspire all those cancer fighters and their caregivers who are still battling today, to never give up and never stop fighting for the ones they love.