My mother had lung cancer. She decided to fight it with chemo and radiation and she won... at first. The day the doctor told her that her cancer was gone was an incredible day for all of us. My normally reserved mom was so happy that she hugged the doctor and then me. Our family was able then to continue the process of moving to a foreign country with a clean bill of health. What I don't often talk about though is the journey for me as primary caregiver while she was going through the healing process. The stress and worry, the anticipatory grief, the total absorption of my life into fighting this demon called cancer. I think the reason that I don't talk about it is because I don't regret a minute of it but still the stress and heartache of a caregiver needs to be faced and we need support in any way that we can find.
When we got to our destination, my mother slowly started showing signs of not being well but I didn't know if it was because of the after affects of chemo or the new climate or something else. Then one day, she did something totally out of character and had an aggressive outburst after having been slowing down a great deal. I went to see our doctor with her and he looked worried and ordered tests for her. I had a feeling that my caregiver journey was about to start again... and it did.
The cancer had returned and was in her liver and her brain, hence the uncharacteristic outbursts and the weakening that she was experiencing. The doctor said it was incurable. My beloved mother was dying. I was working at the time about two blocks away from our home teaching English as a second language and I would be summoned almost every two hours to her side, running home after every class session to see to her needs. The hardest part was the crying, she hurt and she was scared due to the occasional bouts of senility. I would rub her back and divert her attention by talking about her past, an activity she loved at this stage in her life. We laughed and cried together reminiscing about her life and then after I came along, our life. The people she knew and loved and the funny antics of those closest to us. They were moments of a bittersweet kind of joy that I will never regret. They were also stress-filled, griefy and oh so scary as I accompanied her out of this world.
So, to all the caregivers out there, I honor you and I urge you to seek assistance in the many transitions that you are going through. There are so many great things about having accompaniment and advocacy as you navigate these troubled waters. Venting is good too. To get out your frustrations is wonderful. I do suggest however, that you never say anything that later will haunt you because even though your loved one can't hear you, you can hear yourself and after they are gone, you memories of the excessive anger will be there. Here's a link.
Then there is the need for self-care breaks even if only a matter of minutes every day. If we aren't taking care of ourselves, we will lose or lessen our ability to care for our loved ones. Check out some self-care tips here.
I just want you to know that I am here for you if ever you need a listener or a voice.