Peggy Thomas writes nonfiction books for children and is a happy empty-nester with her husband (and cancer survivor), Francis. Her most recent book is "Thomas Jefferson Grows a Nation."
Give yourself and your caregivers the gift of health.
I’m mixing myself a drink because I got one of my Christmas presents early this year. I pour my first glass of polyethylene glycol (sounds like the stuff you put in a car radiator) and water. Splash in the Gatorade and lots of ice (tips on the Internet say that it is better cold).
I give a toast to my husband Fran for his thoughtful gift — a colonoscopy.
Recently, we were both rocked by the news that a friend had died. We had met Beth in the lymphoma clinic where her husband Dennis and my Fran were being treated. Dennis was a month ahead of Fran in his treatments, and we looked forward to updates on what to expect. Both men had bone marrow transplants, and both were doing well, but apparently, silently, Beth had been riddled with cancer herself. Less than a month after her diagnosis, she was gone. Heartbreaking. Another couple we knew suffered a similar fate.
Statistics show that caring for others takes a toll on the caregiver’s emotional and physical health. It’s natural. All the time that Fran was sick, I thought about nothing other than getting him well again. Every time a reminder postcard came from the dentist’s office I ignored it, and making an appointment for my annual physical was the last thing I wanted to do when I was driving an hour to and from the chemo clinic several times a week. But that’s where I went wrong. Ignoring my health wouldn’t have helped Fran or the family. If I had fallen sick, our kids would have had to pick up the slack, and the stress would have spread exponentially.
I knew all this. I had read the caregiver brochures they handed out at the hospital that said to take time for myself and accept help from others. And I did. Sort of. But I also gained 15 pounds and hadn’t seen a doctor in two years. Don’t do what I did.
Take care of yourself!
If you are a caregiver, pick up the phone right now and make that long overdue appointment with your doctor. Or, like my husband, make an appointment for your caregiver. There is nothing that says “I love you” better than a gift-wrapped colonoscopy for Christmas and a mammogram for the New Year.
Give each other the greatest gift of all — another year together.