Friday, January 25, 2013

Today's Special Guest...Cameron

A few weeks back I mentioned that I'd welcome posts from other folks.  My thinking was it'd be good to hear how others deal with cancer. And I know for me, writing this blog has become more and more important for my sanity. I don't always focus on myeloma, nonetheless this is a great release for me. Recently I heard from Cameron. He's a caregiver to his wife, who has mesothelioma. It's not myeloma. It's a cancer typically caused by exposure to asbestos. That's about all I know about it. But I do know that our caregivers are massively importantly. We couldn't do what we do without them. I also think that a cancer diagnosis can be more traumatic and frightening to the caregiver or significant other or family or friends. It's some scary stuff.

I am sincerely touched that I was asked to share this. Humbled and honored, in fact. It's touching and uplifting. Take a read....

Caring for my Wife Through Cancer

I will never forget the day that my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma.  It was November 21, 2005.  It was also the day that I became a caregiver to someone with cancer.  Three months prior to her diagnosis, my wife gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, our daughter Lily. At a time when our lives were so full of happiness and excitement, Heather’s diagnosis ripped the joy away from us and replaced it with fear and despair.

My role as caregiver began the day my wife received her diagnosis. Our doctor was very careful when explaining implications of the diagnosis and what her chances were for survival. He also indicated that she would need to receive care from mesothelioma specialist.  He then gave us three options: a local University Hospital, a very good regional hospital with no mesothelioma program, or a mesothelioma specialist in Boston.  My wife was silent, still shocked and terrified from the news.  I immediately chose option number three on her behalf. She needed the best opportunity for beating this terrible disease.  It was the first of countless tough decisions we’d be asked to make over the following months in the face of emotional turmoil.

After that, our daily routines were shattered.  Neither of us could work full-time. My wife could no longer work at all. In addition to working part-time hours, I tended to all my wife's daily needs as well as made travel arrangements and childcare arrangements for Lily. The to-do list continued to grow and I quickly became overwhelmed. On many occasions I found myself in the kitchen floor, crying, faced with the fear of losing my wife to cancer and ending up a poor widower and single father raising a daughter who would never really know her mother.  But, I somehow pulled it together, never letting her see me in my weak moments.  I knew I needed to be strong for her.

I don't know how we would've made it through this terrible time without the help of friends, family, and even complete strangers who all reached out to us in our time of need. There was an outpouring of help including comforting words, childcare for Lily, and even financial assistance, which we desperately needed. Having these people surround me with love and compassion let me know that I was not alone and gave me the strength to continue.

It took several years for our lives to return to some sort of normalcy again. Against all odds my wife was able to beat this terrible disease, after months of grueling mesothelioma treatment under the care of Dr. Sugarbaker.  Today it has been over seven years since her diagnosis, and she remains cancer free.

In the years since her diagnosis, I have found the most precious gift is time. I discovered that I was stronger than I thought I was, able to accomplish much more than I ever thought possible. I am no longer held hostage by my fears and my emotions, and I’ve learned to never give up hope.  This ordeal has taught me how to use my stubbornness to my advantage and realize that all we have to do is believe in ourselves and we can do anything.


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Berenson Oncology Success Rate

 Some reading about my myeloma specialist's success rate. A press release and an article from Targeted Oncology.