When there is a rock in our path, we can stumble over it or use it as a stepping stone.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest post from Caregiver

Being a Caregiver Transformed My Life

My life was happy and brimming with excitement in November of 2005.  We had been in the process of adjusting to life with our newborn, Lily, when we received some devastating news.  My wife Heather was diagnosed with pleural malignant mesothelioma on November 21st, and our lives were changed forever.  Heather began fighting cancer, and I became her caregiver, a role I was never prepared for, but I knew I had to learn fast.

Heather and I were both extremely worried at what her diagnosis would bring, and if she would survive the illness or not.  Our doctor informed us about mesothelioma and he gave us choices for Heather’s treatment options.  We could choose between a regional hospital that had an excellent reputation but did not have any experience in dealing with this type of cancer, or we could go to a local university hospital.  The third option was to go to Dr. David Sugarbaker in Boston.  We chose to go to Dr. Sugarbaker for Heather’s treatments because he was a renowned expert in the field of mesothelioma treatment.

When we heard our treatment options for Heather, she nearly came apart.  I could sense her panic and worry and I immediately told our physician we had to get to Boston as quickly as possible to begin making every effort to get Heather better.  I really had to come face-to-face with my own insecurities of whether or not I had it in me to maintain a job, be a dad to Lily and to take care of Heather to the best of my ability.

Luckily, I didn’t have to walk this path alone.  I will forever be grateful to the many friends and family members who went above and beyond to help us out in numerous ways.  We were offered everything from kind words of encouragement to much needed financial support. Without a doubt, we could not have survived without their help.  My strongest advice to anyone in our situation would be to accept every offer of help that comes your way, and don’t be too proud to ask for it.  This will without a doubt be the toughest challenge you’ll ever face, there is no need for you to face it alone.

We are now past all the treatments and Heather was able to defy the odds against her.  She beat mesothelioma, a rare feat accomplished by far too few people.  Its been seven years since her mesothelioma diagnosis, and she remains cancer free to this day.

Two years later, I went back to school to study Information Technology, and I know that my experience being a caregiver gave me the confidence to take on this new chapter in my life. I graduated at the top of my class and had the honor of giving the graduation speech.  I never thought my life would take such drastic turns, but we learned a lot about hope and facing challenges in these past few years.  During my speech, I told my classmates what my wife had taught me – that within each of us is the strength to accomplish the impossible, as long as we never give up hope and always believe in ourselves.

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