Those of you who regularly read this blog, or at least read it whenever there is a new posting, Patti and I are not alone in fighting cancer. There are numerous success stories all around the globe. The following story is from a friend Cameron, about his caregiving efforts around his wife, Heather’s, fight with mesothelioma.  Read on:

Holding On to Hope as a Caregiver

On November 21, 2005, my wife, Heather, and I learned that she had a type of cancer called malignant pleural mesothelioma.  From that day, I started my new role as Heather’s caregiver.  Only three months before learning of my wife’s disease, we had become parents for the first time.  At the time of the diagnosis, we were looking forward to enjoying the holidays with our beloved daughter, Lily.  On that November day, however, our lives changed completely.

During the initial visit with the doctor, we learned as much as we could about my wife’s cancer.  The first two treatment options our doctor suggested, a university hospital and a regional hospital, didn’t offer a thorough program for my wife’s cancer.  The final option was a program run by an experienced mesothelioma specialist in Boston named Dr. David Sugarbaker.  During this conversation, my wife was silent.  She was shocked and terrified, and the look on her face screamed for help.  I knew that if we had any chance of beating this disease, Heather would need the best care possible.  I turned to the doctor and said, “Get us to Boston!”

After that initial meeting with our local doctor, our lives took a number of difficult turns.  Our daily routines no longer existed.  My wife had to leave her full-time job to focus on her health.  Although I continued to work at my job, I had to reduce my hours in order to be there for Heather and Lily.  I spent most of my time attending appointments and making travel arrangements.  When I wasn’t focused on Heather, I directed my energy completely to Lily.  At times, I felt total fear and anxiety as I pondered the future.  Although I broke down on occasion, I never let my wife see me when I was upset. I knew she needed me to be strong, and I wasn’t about to let her down.

Fortunately, we had numerous relatives and friends who were more than willing to help us.  Our loved ones gave us comforting advice and even offered much needed financial help.  With the knowledge that we had an entire army of supporters, I was able to keep going as the caregiver for my wife.  If you find yourself in a caregiver role, don’t be too proud to accept help of any kind.  I learned this the hard way, but after I did, a weight was lifted from my shoulders.  

Our lives didn’t return to normal for years, but our hard work and persistence paid off in the end.  After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, my wife was able to defeat her disease.  From our experience, we learned how to appreciate every precious moment on this earth.  Two years after my wife’s mesothelioma diagnosis, I returned to school to pursue a degree in information technology.  My time as a caregiver taught me the strength and the courage to pursue this dream of mine, and the knowledge that I gained in stress and time management helped me to succeed at school.  After successfully completing my coursework, I graduated with honors, and the school invited me to speak at the graduation ceremony.  During my speech, I shared my story about standing by my wife through cancer, and all of the lessons that I learned as her caregiver.  I told my fellow graduates that within each of us is the strength to accomplish incredible things, if we only just believe in ourselves, never give up hope, and always keep fighting for the ones we love.