Cancer Survivors Must Sometimes Become Caregivers

A cancer survivor explains how he had to flip the script and become a caregiver for his wife when she was injured, and how it affected him.

The cancer journey is also a caregiver’s journey, and sometimes we survivors must take the lead decisively.

Case in point: My wife suffered a concussion on Father’s Day last year. I was used to being on the receiving end of a loving caregiver who has stood by my side since my cancer diagnosis in 2014. But this time, I needed to step up to the plate.

Serious Complications

We never imagined how a bang on the head in a household accident could be so debilitating. My wife’s CT scan showed no brain damage, but that was little comfort for the many health complications that she is still facing to this very day.

For starters, she was off work for three months, as she suffered from double vision, migraine headaches and ultra-sensitivity to sound and light. During her convalescence, she went to multiple doctors’ appointments, including a neurologist for her headaches and an optometrist specializing in visual rehabilitation.

Because of the nature of her injury, she was not always able to express herself fully. I filled in the gaps for her at medical appointments, taking extensive notes during these crucial evaluations.

‘Devoted Advocate’

I became her devoted advocate, especially when the short-term disability company began pushing hard for her return to work. Politely, but firmly, we insisted she was not ready to return until she could adjust to the new, more powerful lenses in her glasses.

Between appointments, we were forced to find new routines to fill our days, and that’s where my caregiving role also came into play. Naturally, I drove her to her appointments and everywhere else she needed to be, as she couldn’t get behind the wheel just yet. I also helped to prepare meals and led her on twice-daily walks in the neighborhood for our exercise and to keep up her spirits.

I was her cheerleader and tried to lighten up our atmosphere at home. One of our routines was to watch comedy specials on YouTube and Netflix. Maybe, I reasoned, we could laugh our way through this — at least for a few moments!

Compassion in Action

It’s not easy being trapped in a brain that doesn’t work as well as it used to. I have great compassion for her, just as she has felt for me during my seven-year journey with the “Big C.”

Now that she is better, I have learned an important lesson: Cancer truly sucks, yes, but it is not the singular most important thing going on in my life.

My wife was there when the doctor shocked my core and told me I had cancer. She was there when I worried myself sick awaiting the results of a bone and CT scans to determine the cancer’s initial spread. She was there when the cancer did in fact come back, and when I cried my eyes out during hormone therapy.

I will be here for her when she returns to the neurologist for a medication adjustment. I will be here when she goes for a follow-up visit to the specialized optometrist. And I will be here when she wants to watch the next Netflix standup comedy special.

‘Never-ending Cycle’

We have learned that in marriage, the shoe can be on the other foot in an instant, just like it was that fateful Father’s Day. From caregiver to cared-for and back again, it’s a never-ending cycle and we would not have it any other way!

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