To Be a Caregiver for My Husband


When I was my husband's caregiver, I tried to make things comfortable, but I'm not sure if the drugs and bedpans could ever make it right.

Image of a caregiver with a patient with cancer.

A Notch on Your Life Belt

Just into June and already

you are counting days

whittling down the size

of your life

cinching it up like

you’d take in a notch on your belt

squeezing life down

from 75 or 74 or 73

to wondering if you’ll even make it

to 72, only a few weeks away.

I want to push you towards peace

since I do not pray.

I can help you wash up,

I can scrub the bedside toilet

fetch your clean clothes

and your toothbrush

but I cannot evoke any gods

I believe could save you.

That’s all on you, your head

clearing out enough to see the truth,

the cancer and a bad heart

brought together on one playing field

and nothing is in place yet

that can be relied on to save you.

Drugs and a Bedpan

What I am doing

while you are dying

looks a lot like scrambling

to cover the rough edges

jostling to make sure

it is all in place,

the comfort,

the meds,

urinals and bedpans.

Funny how these things

become the comfort,

things that let you

lie yourself down

without worry, let me

feel like I am doing something,

really, however stupid it feels

to think drugs and a bedpan

could ever make it right.

The Simple of Ordinary

I woke up this morning

without you to face,

without your illness to care for.

Now only the mundane

shapes my day. I can do dishes,

find a place to put the flowers

they sent in your name.

I can clean the toilet, put away

the sheets we used

on the hospital bed you died on.

I can do this simple of ordinary

for as long as it holds me

to this earth. Otherwise, I am

untethered, let go of

by the gravity that had held us

together for so long.

My husband received a cancer diagnosis of esophageal cancer in spring 2022, which was complicated by a long-term heart condition. Over a period of years, starting in 2001, he’d had three heart attacks, open heart surgery and an internal defibrillator, all of which complicated and modified some of the treatment he was receiving for his cancer.They had to cut his chemotherapy treatments short because it was just too hard on his heart. “A Notch on Your Life Belt” is a reflection of the conflicts we went through, balancing his cancer and its treatments, the drugs it took to keep him in remission, the constant need to tend to his heart and the medications it required. “Drugs and a Bedpan” tells the story of how I was learning to be his caretaker through this period of time and “The Simple of Ordinary written soon after my husband died, in July 2023. It is basically a reflection on how I would cope without him to take care of anymore.

This post was written and submitted by Mary Sexson. The article reflects the views of Sexson and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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