By the second day of Ed’s first chemo cycle, Ed and his wife Pattie knew better as to what was happening.
Nurse Lisa greeted them in the waiting area at 9 a.m. and then escorted them back to the infusion room, pausing only long enough to measure Ed’s weight.
Once settled, Nurse Lisa began what would become the standard 20 questions. The revelations were: yes Ed has diarrhea, low grade fever, no appetite, bad taste in his mouth, did not sleep any last night, no body aches or pains. All Ed’s vitals were normal. No, Ed did not eat breakfast, but was very grateful for the hot cup of coffee given him by one of the volunteers.
The volunteers were a necessity and relieved the nurses of the comfort chores. The nurses were constantly busy answering alarms on the infusion pumps which seem to go off from time to time. Though they might go off for no apparent reason, the cause needed verification quickly.
The nurses and the dedicated volunteers were wonderful. Many volunteers were cancer survivors themselves or have been caregivers to loved ones.
Pattie was Ed’s primary caregiver, even though she had job responsibilities as manager of a fragrance store in the local factory outlet mall. She scheduled herself for weekends, and during the week she took the late shift. She even used some of her vacation time to be with Ed as much as she could. He always remembered the sacrifices she made to be near him.
Sometimes Ed would slip and call Pattie his “caretaker” which provoked a rapid vocal response from her. “Caregiver!” she would say. “Caretakers work in Cemeteries.” And sometimes Ed would let it slip out on purpose just to watch his red haired Irish wife erupt.
As Ed became more accustom to the chemicals pumped into his body, the days in the infusion room became shorter, which made it easier on Pattie’s scheduling to be with him the entire time.
, something would happen to unbalance Pattie’s careful planning, so Ed would go to chemo by himself. Sometimes friends and neighbors from church would come and be with Ed during the procedure.
Two of these substitute caregivers, John and Don, were readily available and may God always bless them for the sacrifices they made to become Ed’s companions.
John came down with stomach cancer and eventually died from liver cancer three years later. Ed visited him and encouraged him as much as possible in a way that can only come from a cancer survivor.
Don was also always ready to be with Ed and helped when Ed was having bad days and Pattie could not stay home with him. Even when Ed would uncontrollably drift off into sleep, Don would remain there silently should Ed need something. Don was held in high regard by Ed and Pattie.
Caregiver duty was not without its compensation. The patients and their caregivers were always provided with lunch. Each day, the kitchen at Beebe Hospital was furnished fresh sandwiches. The most acclaimed was their chicken salad sandwich. John would talk about how much he enjoyed them. There was also tuna salad, ham and cheese, turkey breast and even peanut butter and jelly. This was supplemented by a choice if coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, milk or chocolate milk and additional snacks.
The caregivers were essential to hope just as they were essential to cure, comfort, recovery and healing. They were constantly giving compassion, physical and emotional support, sustaining hope and reinforcing the spirit of their prospective charges.