Sharing our stories…

One of the wonderful things about having cancer (and yes there are some good things) is the opportunity to meet people who otherwise would have gone unknown. People who have, or have had, cancer form a kind of family or club of fellow fighters. While it is not the club I would have joined voluntarily, I am very blessed by many of it’s members. So many people have shared their cancer stories with me. I am encouraged and  honored to join with them as we celebrate the victories, support the ongoing battle, and lift each other up.

One story I have heard recently comes from Cameron Von St. James. He shared with me the story of his wife’s battle with mesothelioma and his role as her caregiver. I had never heard of mesothelioma and was saddened to learn of this form of cancer. He asked if he could share his story on my blog and I am happy to help him get the word out. Here it is:

Learning to Accept Help as a Caregiver

My wife knows that her treatment of mesothelioma was extremely difficult for me.  She’s said that she cannot imagine what I went through, and I really haven’t talked about that time with anyone.  However, I hope that I can help others by sharing that experience now.

It was supposed to be the happiest time of our lives.  Our daughter Lily was only three months old when my wife was diagnosed with this very deadly disease.  I still remember the first time I heard the doctors say the dreaded word.  I remember my wife and I looking at each other through our tears as we tried to comprehend the news and understand what our futures might hold.

My wife was silently crying, and I was sitting there trying to choke back the tears.  When the doctors started talking about future medical options, I knew I had to come back to the present and deal with the situation.  I loved my wife, and the news shattered me emotionally.  I was overwhelmed and scared, but I knew I needed to pull it together to help my wife make the difficult decisions that were awaiting us.

After the diagnosis, I was filled with rage at the unfairness of it.  There were times when the only words I seemed to know were too profane for polite company.  While my language seemed outside of my control, I was able to take charge of my emotions.  I knew that I had to be strong for Lily and Heather.  I tried to break down only when I was alone, so my wife wouldn’t be burdened with my pain.  I was determined to be a source of strength and comfort for her.

My life seemed impossibly busy after the diagnosis.  In addition to working to support the family, I also had travel arrangements for her care, I needed to figure out who would watch the pets and make arrangements for Lily.  It was incredibly overwhelming initially, but I soon learned how to prioritize the important tasks and let the rest go.  I also learned how to accept help from others.  We are blessed with many caring family members and friends who were happy to help us.  I don’t know what I would have done without them, and yet I still wasn’t sure how I would get through that impossible time.

There was one two-month period when Heather had no idea what I had gone through.  Lily was staying with her parents in South Dakota, and she had gone to Boston for her surgery.  After her surgery, she flew out to her parents to recover and prepare for the coming round of chemotherapy and radiation, the next steps in her mesothelioma treatment.  I was out of my mind without my family around, and I only saw them once during that entire long period.

I looked forward anxiously to the visit.  I left immediately after work one Friday, driving through the long night and a snowstorm.  It was eleven hours of misery, and I slept a few hours in the car while I waited for plows to clear the road. Arriving Saturday morning, I was exhausted.  I spent a precious day and a half with my family before driving back home on Sunday afternoon.

I refuse to view this time as an unhappy loss in my life.  I know that it was the best choice for my family.  I wouldn’t have been able to care for Lily, and keep up with my job.  It was one of those impossible choices we had to make in order to save Heather and keep our family whole.  I had to let go of the desire to do it all myself, and I will always appreciate my in-laws for being willing to take care of Lily and Heather.  My family is still here as a result, and I will always be thankful for that.

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11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Presents of Presence
    Jan 10, 2013 @ 14:55:16

    Yes, we are all members of a club we never volunteered to join, but I agree that it helps to know how much we support eachother. Caregivers have such a difficult time of coping as well ~ so happy you included his view! ❤

    Reply

  2. a_seed
    Jan 10, 2013 @ 16:04:31

    This is another worthwhile sharing, thank you Erin.

    Reply

  3. Jenayu
    Jan 11, 2013 @ 02:45:48

    Wow. This is such an amazing story. I cannot imagine. It’s so incredibly amazing what God can help us through. Thank you for sharing!
    In His name,
    Jenayu
    “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7 NLT)

    Reply

  4. Terra
    Jan 11, 2013 @ 22:54:45

    While I surely will be praying for Heather and her family, I will continue to lift you up. Believe it or not Erin but you have been on my mind for a while and for some reason I could not find your blog. The Lord knows all and I believe my prayers were heard for you!

    You have been an extended love line in Christ as you endure your own medical issues. What an act of selflessness….. wow. I am so encouraged and blessed by your heart for others because you have taken a hardship and turned it into a platform to show the love of Christ to many that you meet. I pray that the seeds you plant take root and harvest because we need salvation and we need Jesus! God is our Solid Rock on which we stand. We can stand the storms as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him. I’m hopeful because our God is faithful!

    Blessings to you my dear! I am so thankful that I seen this post. I recognized your face so that says a lot about you!

    Reply

    • erinambrose
      Jan 13, 2013 @ 04:29:01

      Terra,
      Your comments brought tears to me eyes. My prayer has been with this blog to reach and encourage others with the reality of God’s love. He is able to strengthen us through any storm. I am so glad to hear you are praying for the seeds I scatter to produce a harvest. Thank you!!!
      Blessings and hugs to you,
      ~Erin

      Reply

  5. thoughtsfromanamericanwoman
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 01:44:05

    The caregivers are the silent victims, always there for us giving unselfishly to those they love. At one time I thought my husband was indifferent to my own cancer diagnoses. He did take care of me, the house and went to work. So many times he would slip silently to bed as not to wake me, always asking what needed done around the house, but it seemed he was just doing what needed done. It was not till years later that I realized he suffered in silence not wanting to burden me anymore than necessary. I am thankful for the man I married and the peace he gave me during my treatments. Thank you for sharing this gentleman’s story, I think I will give my husband a hug –

    Reply

  6. erinambrose
    Jan 13, 2013 @ 04:32:09

    Patty,
    You are so right. The caregivers are the unsung heros. I am so grateful for my family and friends who have walked with me and carried me through. I am glad you had your husband to lean on and give you peace.
    Blessings,
    Erin

    Reply

  7. Trackback: Sharing our stories…Hear one Caregiver’s Story | yourhappinessblog

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