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No... you are not crazy

Its been three years and I survived. You will too.

My husband fought a valiant fight against cancer and I was his only caregiver. Hospice was involved the last five months but it was only to administer meds and change his catheter. My role as caregiver was over a ten year span and two seperate cancers . I excelled in some areas and in others I failed. This is what I learned.

You will be better for the experience. You will have grown in ways you can't imagine. You will understand the importance of appreciating each day that you are alive and how precious each day is. You will know love and you will retain the love and the good memories you had with your special loved one who you have been given to care for. Even if the loved one you are caring for does not appear appreciative or is even lashing out at you because you are the one who is in the role of caregiver.

Take care of you! I did not. My health suffered greatly. I was an athlete and in great shape at the age of forty when our cancer journey began. The stress of caregiving is immense. Stress attacks your body. You must find ways to relieve the stress. Walk. Go for walks! Its cheap and it will help you immeasurably. Be determined in the same way you are in caring for your loved one to care for yourself. It is crucial. I ended up in a cardioligist office as a result of not taking care of myself. I made excuses. I could not leave my husband alone. I did not have anyone to stay with him if I walked etc. etc. It was a huge mistake. My hair fell out, I lost the muscles in my legs and arms and I was put on heart medication. You are a better caregiver if you are caring for yourself during this time. Get away from the house. Go get an ice cream, go to the movies, go for a drive. I recommend doing at least two things a day just for you. Take a bubble bath and let the tears out. And .... recognize your angels! God will send them to you. Let them help you.

If the prognosis is death do not "wait" for this to occur. Do not buy into the timeline. The doctors can be wrong. And my late husband was a doctor himself. It was a three month prognosis. No one survives beyond six months. My husband's second cancer was going to take his life. We knew this. But he did not willingly go. He lived for four years after his second cancer. Four years! I spent four years going to bed every night thinking this could be the night my husband dies. He and God had other plans. I allowed the pronosis to dicate my level of fear and stress. Do not do this. Prepare yourself but know that there is no real preparation emotionally for losing your loved one. It will still hurt just as much as if you never knew they were leaving. Let your sorrow out perodically. Cry alone and then cry with others. In the end you will understand you were given this priviledge. To walk the last journey with the one you love.

Finances. A long term illness can reek havoc on your finances. It destroyed ours. This was another major factor in my stress level. There are resources out there. Look for them. Little did I know that the numerous people I had helped in my lifetime would be the ones who saved us over and over. We should not have made it through and yet we made it to the finish line. God was there. We had a roof over our head and food to eat. Have faith in something bigger than you and the problems you are facing. You will make it to see better days. God is merciful and he is faithful. I know this in no uncertain terms.

I even took on another caregiving role a year after my husband died. To a father that was not a very loving Dad in my childhood nor in my adult life. He had major spine surgery and could not walk. The prognosis was poor for him and my sister and brother needed my help. I moved into an assisted living home with him and helped him to ultimately walk on a walker and adjust to losing his independence. I did it because it was the right thing to do and I grew even further. I found out I could forgive and love to depths I did not know were in me without relying on a hopeful return . My Dad is doing as well as we could expect and I am grateful.

I have come to believe that if you are a caregiver it is not by accident. God had faith in your ability to love and respond and to act with a selflessness that is your gift when it is all said and done. It is imperative that you take the steps to restore your strength in this most difficult role. It is not selfish to take time to replenish your strength! It is your responsibility. You can do it! Yes.... you can do it.

Truly,
Jeannie