This is a guest post by Cameron Von St. James, who shares some thoughts on the effect of illness on the caregivers. Thanks, Cameron.
My life was wonderful. My wife and I had just welcomed our daughter into the world, and we were filled with so much happiness and joy. It didn’t seem that anything could make life any better. In fact, nothing could make life any better. However, something could make life much, much worse. My wife, a mere three months after giving birth, was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Watching her cry at her doctor’s words, I wondered how we would manage to make it through this.
Our daughter, Lily was only three months old when Heather was diagnosed. As a caregiver, I had to take care of both of them, my job, our home, and our lives. I was overwhelmed. My anger got the best of me most days, and I spent a fair amount of time yelling profanities at people who were only trying to help, including the people at church. I quickly realized that I had to get myself together. I had a lot of medical decisions to make with my wife. They were already being made with a lot of emotion to consider, and I didn’t need my anger clouding that. I had to be strong for my girls.
With so much to do, I was overwhelmed. There were so many doctor appointments and travel arrangements. I was struggling. I learned that I had to prioritize everything on my list of things to do if I wanted to make it work. I did, but it was still overwhelming. It was then that I decided I needed to start accepting the offers of help that our loved ones were offering. I was overwhelmed at how kind and generous they were, and how much help they really were. I couldn’t have made it through this time without them.
Despite the difficulty we faced after her diagnosis, the hardest part of my wife’s diagnosis was the two months I had to spend away from her after her surgery in Boston. She and Lily went to South Dakota to stay with her parents so they could care for her and the baby while she recovered and prepared for her next round of mesothelioma treaments. The decision to stay behind and continue to work was a difficult decision, but it was a necessary decision. I had to keep us afloat, and there was no way I could do that and care for my wife and daughter at the same time.
During that time, I was able to see my family only once. I left Friday after work and had to be home Monday morning for work again. I drove 11 hours each way in a snowstorm to see my family for a little more than 24 hours. It was completely worth every second in the car. It only made me realize that I was fortunate to have the people in my life to help me make this period in our lives easier on us.
My wife doesn’t know how difficult this time was for me, though we talked about it once. This might give her an idea of how I felt after her diagnosis. Being a caregiver can be an overwhelming experience, but those who are caregivers would do anything to help their loved ones who are suffering. I hope that my story might be a source of hope and comfort for those currently battling disease.