Becoming a Caregiver

When your spouse is diagnosed with cancer and requires extensive radiation and chemotherapy, your entire life will change, practically overnight. My wife, Sally, did a lot of the housework, cooking, working and, of course, taking care of me.

Yes, I did help out when I could, but it was her home and wanted to take great care of it. I managed the finances, worked on my own business plus going to various jobs. One of my jobs was to gas up her car. That was a chore she refused to do, and I was ok with that. We made a bet that if she ran out of gas on the highway, I had to let her buy a $1000 worth of clothes. There was one time I almost lost that bet, but in the end, she got the clothes anyway.

In early November of 2016, my wife, Sally, was diagnosed with a type of cancer called vulvar cancer. It’s very rare and occurs on the outer surface of the female genitals. The doctors informed me that it’s one of the most deadly forms of cancer, especially if it gets to advanced stages.

Watching a loved one go through the treatments for cancer is brutal. One of my relatives told me that I was going to be a “caregiver,” and it was going to be very difficult. They weren’t kidding.

From the diagnosis to that fateful day, it was about 7 months. I understand that many people will care for someone else for much longer, and I can honestly say that I have complete admiration for their service, dedication, patience and understanding.

From the beginning of treatments, in addition to working whenever I could, I did all of the household chores. A goodnight sleep became a thing of the past from that point as I had to get up two to four times a night and help her to the restroom. Because the cancer and treatments were focused on the genital area, using the restroom was difficult for her. I had to sit outside the bathroom and talk with my wife to get her to relax. One could only imagine some of the conversations that took place.

Her appetite was almost gone. I had to come up with any kind of simple food dish to get her to eat at all. Her favorite was scrambled eggs, cheese, potatoes and a little bacon mixed in. My sister taught us how to make it, and I got pretty good at preparing it.

To have someone completely dependent on you is a feeling I had never experienced. To be honest, I was willing to do anything to make her comfortable. It’s kind of unusual to say, but sometimes I felt honored to care for the person who made my life so complete.

I was amazed that I didn’t get sick as flu season was in full force. Perhaps I wouldn’t allow my body to shut down because there was no family close by to help out. The stress of the situation brought me close to a nervous breakdown numerous times. But, I somehow managed to hang in there.

I have a new appreciation for caregivers. Their sacrifices are enormous and thank goodness there are people who walk that path, even when they haven’t chosen to do so.

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