Friday, May 30, 2008

Caregivers

I've shared a little with the blogging world about having cancer and how it has changed my daily life. People feel sorry for me and want to hug me all the time. I am not a hugger. One social worker asked what were the best and worst things about having cancer. I said the worst was being hugged all the time. The best, if you'd like to know, is that I will never go through menopause; everything just stopped working.
What I haven't written about is the wear and tear my illness has had on my family and THEIR daily lives. I am single with no children. That is good for me, because I don't have to worry about caring for a household when I am sick. However, it also means I live alone, which worries people when one is sick. My parents live 2 hours away, and my younger sister, my only sibling, lives 15 minutes away. That's great for me, right? Not so much for her! She has a husband, kids, dog and house to take care of! When you have a child, you know you are signing on for life. When you're born a sibling, it gets shoved on you.
I am very lucky that my sister, K, is usually available to go with me to appointments, run errands, and generally help me when needed. But that's not her job, she just does it because that's what family does. It's important to have someone with the patient at the "big" appointments where test results are explained, but for regular appointments I go alone. Oncology appointments can take all day, and she has kids coming home from school.
My BIL's life is also effected by my illness. He has taken days off work when we needed to be at the hospital all day, rearranged meetings so he can be home to put kids on the bus or off, run out for food, all those good things. For a workaholic like him, this is HUGE! I appreciate so much what they both do for me. I've also invaded their home a number of times, coming to stay during potential big snowstorms, when I was let out of the hospital but the doctors said I couldn't be alone, etc. This means that my niece gives up her room, everything has to be cleaned top to bottom, and no one can use the same bathroom I use. So it's a lot on a family with young children.
This has been our life for 5 years now. For Frieda, my niece, she probably can't even remember when Auntie wasn't "sick." It's just the way things are. With the kids getting older, they are now big helpers to me, also. On weekends the boys come over and help with laundry, cleaning, big projects like organizing the basement, all the things I can't do because of breathing difficulties. They sure don't do this at home! When I've been hospitalized suddenly, Frieda helps her mom get a bag together for me in the hospital, and they've cleaned my house and done my laundry while I am in the "lock up" as I like to call it!
The boys put up my new curtains for me last weekend!
Three years ago our mother had a recurrence of breast cancer after 15 years survival. This happened at the same time as preparations for my first bone marrow transplant were beginning. K went to our parents' and stayed with them for several days, knowing that not only the emotional but the physical would be wearing our dad down. Again, she had to reorganize carpools, meals, etc. She may not technically be "sandwiched" in her caregiving, but she's pulled in 3 directions. In addition to these daily and small changes in her life she has missed out on social events, weekends at the lake, and even attempted to cancel vacations with her husband and children when I was having a procedure, much to my horror!
Even though my parents are two hours away, they are here as soon as I need them, day or night. With their wildman dog, by the way! They have been financially and emotionally supportive through all of this, which I know is hard on them at their age, especially my mother who is primary caregiver to my dad (You may know him as the Hoarder from other posts!) who has many mobility and health issues.Family, extended family, friends who treat you like family are all so important when you are really ill. I do what I can to show my appreciation, having the family to dinner, taking the kids for sleepovers so the parents can have a romantic evening, things like that! I also know that I would do the exact same thing if situations were reversed. I can't understand families that don't speak to each other or celebrate holidays, etc. We're not perfect, we're the loudest, fighting-est, disagreeing-est family around. But we know we're a family and that's the way it is, to quote Walter Cronkite!
JUNE IS NATIONAL CAREGIVERS' MONTH!
Appreciate your caregivers, and if YOU are the caregiver, remember to take care of yourself first or you can't take care of anyone else!

86 comments:

Michele said...

Oh my goodness, did your post ever resonate with me!! I'm also single with no kids, and after my accident that left me with the RSDS, our entire family changed. My parents had to take care of me while I lived there, and to this day still drive me places because i can't drive. The support, going to my doctor appointments, watching me go through one painful procedure after another, etc. the list just keeps going on and on. I would have never made it without my parents!!! I don't know what people do who don't have family and good friends. I'm glad that you and I will never have to find out!!!

Michele
luvkittysmeowmail@gmail.com

Marie said...

Firstly, you figured out the 3 column thing. Yey :)

Secondly, what a wonderful post. I'm lucky enough, like you, to have been raised in a family that is really close (I couldn't get much closer to my parents... they're right next door! LOL). I'm thankful for my family every day. They drive me nuts, and keep me sane, all at the same time.

xMx

Sarah said...

What a lovely post! What a blessing to have such amazing family members!
Sarah

Joanne Kennedy said...

Wow! This is the first post where I sat and cried as I read it.

I too am blessed to have family that is always there for me when I need them. They took care of me when I had two neck surgeries. I don't know what I would have done without them. Most of my "friends" who promised to be there just wasn't. As soon as I got better they came back (not the same type of relationship as before though).

Right now my brother is in the hospital from a major stroke and we all make sure to go spend the whole day with him each and everyday. When it is my turn, I truely feel honored to be there with him. He is my brother, my hero and the main man in my life. I love him more then words can say.

For the first time in my life he needs me. I finally have been given the chance to show him how much I love him.

When it's not my days to be there I think of him all day. I miss him so I call just to let him know that I'm thinking of him even when I'm not there.

There is NOTHING like family. I would not walk out on my family for all the money in the world.

I'm so happy you too have a wonderful family to help take care of you in your time of need. They love you and I bet they too are honored to lend you a helping hand.

God bless you and keep you in loving arms.

Joanne

One Woman's Cottage Life said...

I really enjoyed reading this entry and learning about your very giving and self sacrificing sister. She's a a keeper! I'm sorry you are having to go through this ordeal but at the same time I'm glad you have such a wonderful support system:)

I wanted to let you know that you won my Cottage Charm giveaway for Hostesses! Thank you sooo much joining in! When you get a chance, shoot an email to me and let me know what your mail address is and I'll mail your package out this week! Thanks again for playing along!

i'm kelly said...

you are amazing! and it sounds like you have a wonderful family!

Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

Sarah, What a special lady you are. And what a beautiful family. I loved everything.. you had to say about family. I'm so.. glad you have so.. many people that love you so.. much!! I would be one that would want to hug you. I come from a huggie family. We fight and all of the above. But, we love each other more than anything else.

By the way, I love.. your new drapes! Hugs (lol) Terrie

Terrie's Lil' Piece of Serenity said...

OMG!! I was thinking about Sarah, post!! I meant to address this to you, Elizabeth!! That is not funny. I'm 52 everything including my brain is shutting down. lol

Justine said...

What a beautiful post, Elizabeth. I can tell the that the love you have for your family knows no bounds, and theirs the same for you.
I'm so glad you're surrounded by so many helpful, loving people!

Justine :o )

tara @ kidz said...

You, EO, are a saint. A realist. I loved this post. If I could, I would hug you through the screen, but I know how you hate that! ;O)

I worked for nearly ten years on an oncology floor at our local hospital. Because of my many experiences there, I can firmly say that people who get cancer are amazing. I don't know if they were all already that way, or if having cancer, facing something so scary, makes you that way. I would dare say it's a bit of both.

Your family is amazing to care for you and it is incredible that you realize how much it takes for them to be there for you and not simply expect it without consideration.

I am currently a caregiver to my special needs daughter. Like you said, I signed up for this one. Well, I didn't think I was signing up for exactly this situation, but I was in it no matter what. I love my daughter, but I agree with you - I have to be just selfish enouogh to take care of myself first or I don't do a good job taking care of her.

Congrats on being featured at SITS today. We are all a little better because of it!

Elizabeth M Thompson said...

I don't know how people get through the difficulties in life without family. I guess God knew what he was doing when he grouped us the way he did.

It is wonderful that you have been blessed with such a supportive family. Thanks for sharing your story.

BoufMom9 said...

Oh My! You are so very blessed to have such wonderfully loving people in your life. What a wonderful tribute to them :)

Rachel Ann said...

What a wonderful post! Family is important no matter how much yelling may occur behind the scenes...knowing they are there for you all the time is priceless.

mommytoalot said...

Families are our angels in diguise.
God bless
xo

Auds at Barking Mad said...

Such a beautiful post. You really have an amazing spirit and it appears, an amazing family!

I'm looking forward (I know I said this earlier) to reading more!

Astrid said...

Beautiful post...and what a wonderful family you have!

HeatherY said...

You and your family are so blessed to have one another.

Creative Junkie said...

What a wonderful testament to your family! I'm so sorry you have to go through this, but thank God you have a family such as yours to help you through.

randalswife said...

It's always amazing to me what strength family friends can bring to their loved ones in need. I too have been the recipient of such strength when I needed it. I feel so blessed and hope that I can "pay it forward" when i am able. Thank-you for such a feel good post!

What A Card said...

What a beautiful post. I'm sorry that you all are going through this, but am glad that you're family has all found strength in one another.

Brittany said...

Sounds like your family is blessed with a lot of love. It's great to have that unconditional support.

LoraBB said...

Wow, what a strong family! It sounds like you've had your fair share of difficult times, but have managed to find the best that such struggles can offer us - the knowledge and comfort that we're loved.

Columbia Lily said...

It's great that you have such a supportive family. I also live alone 4 hours away from my family and worry about what would happen if I fell or got sick.

Jenners said...

Happy SITS day!

This was a beautiful post and such a loving and warm tribute to your family. You are blessed to have them, and they are blessed to have you. I hope if we faced difficult times in my family like you have faced, we would come together like your family has done.

Amber said...

WOW! What an amazing family you have! You AND they will be in my prayers!
I can only imagine how many hugs you must get- which has got to be awkward!! ;) If I met you in person, I'd give you a high five instead!! B/c you have a great attitude!!!! :)

Reluctant Housewife said...

It's wonderful how you all pull together.

Jamie said...

It sounds like you have a wonderful caring family! Great post...gives me something to think about.

April said...

Sounds like you have an incredible family...one who's always there to love and support each other. How great!

Cammie said...

Thank you for the reminder to tell my family I appriciate them.
Happy SITS day!

Oh2122 said...

My sister (clean from lyphoma 21 months) used to get very upset when people treated her like she was glass.

The best lesson I learned was to go to the book store with her, have lunch, go shoe shopping, and for the love of all that is holy not say CANCER for a couple of hours!

Vickie said...

What a great post about your blessed family. I love it when kids chip in and help the family. If only more kids were like your neices and nephews.

Jerrie said...

What a wonderful, supportive family you have. And how great that the children are growing up to be such great caregivers. I am sure you are as much a blessing to them as they are to you.

Great post...Made me teary!

Jen said...

Caregivers have a special gift. My mother is one of those people who is CONSTANTLY taking care of those around her, but never takes time for herself. Unfortunately, I think she has some life-threatening health issues that she is in denial about. She will sacrifice everything for others, but not herself. I hope that someday I can be as good a caretaker as my mother has been to others. They are such special people...they're a gift from God!

Have a great day! :)

Pink Ink said...

*be sure to laugh today*

Thanks for the thought!

When my dad had cancer (in remission now) I could never get enough hugs. It's still a worry, though, and once in a while, I wish it were full-blown again so I could get another hug.

But I totally understand how that's not your style :-)

Karen said...

This is such a beautiful post, what a great testament to the beauty that is family.

Brandy said...

I'm not a hugger either. I'm getting a little better about it but it's just not what I'm used to so I get that.

As for your sister...she is an angel on Earth and you are lucky to have such a caring family. Besides my husband, I'm probably closest to my lil sis and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Kristy said...

What a beautiful post. You have a wonderful family! Congrats on being featured on SITS today! You so deserve it! Have a great day SITSta!

mommaof4wife2r said...

this is just beautiful. caregivers are a special breed that's for sure. and i'm sooooo glad u have good folks around u for support. thanks for reminding us all to support those who give support.

Jaden Paige said...

This was a wonderful post! It's so important that we take the time to appreciate the wonderful people in our lives :)

Thanks for a great reminder!

Marshmallow Circus said...

For those of us who've never been through this, it is a wonderful reminder of how families should stick together.

Casey's trio said...

What a wonderful family you have. So glad you have and have given support when needed!

Blue Castle said...

Family is such a blessing. I'm glad that you have a good support system around you. God bless you.

Blue Castle said...

Family is such a blessing. I'm glad that you have a good support system around you. God bless you.

Irene said...

All families everywhere should read this. Beautiful tribute to your family, and they are just as blessed to have you.

Congratulations on being featured! I am so happy to found you through SITS!

Katie said...

What an amazing family--that's how it should be!

ScrappinAway said...

I think it is wonderful that you took the time to write your thoughts down and I hope that your family was able to read this. I think is wonderful that you are caring for them, just as much as they are being caregivers for you. This is what family is about, doing for each other and appreciating each other for what they do!

Mimi said...

I have tears from reading about your wonderful family. Blessings to you!

Becky Fowler said...

This is such a great story!

Jaina said...

Your sister sounds like a true God-send. I won't send you virtual hugs...but I will send you lots and lots of prayers. You sound like you have a wonderful family full of angels.

cornnut32 said...

how great it is to have a loving and supportive family. i have four younger siblings. although i don't struggle in the same ways as you, i know that my siblings are there for me no matter what. i know that they would do anything to help me. families are our greatest blessings.

Michele said...

What a wonderful family. I enjoyed taking a peek into your life. Lots of healing vibes your way. And lots of hugs to your family. ( Do they like hugs? ) ;-)

Swirl Girl said...

I won't hug you...but I just wanted to tell you to keep kicking cancer's ass!

and- having been a care giver for family and having needed it myself...I can't tell you how much your post resonates with me!

The Boss Lady said...

You're so lucky to have such a supportive family...and they to have you. :)

blueviolet said...

I'm so happy that you've had such an amazing support system!

hyperactive lu said...

Wow! You do have a great support system.


I had never thought about ppl w/ cancer getting tons of hugs....hmmm... something to remember!

jubilee said...

What a great reminder to appreciate family. I am glad that you have such a giving and supportive family. Happy SITS day.

Dream Girl said...

"When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses" -Joyce Brothers

You have a wonderful understanding and view of family. Keep the faith.

Laurel Plum said...

I just do not know what to say. I am so moved and in awe of you and your family. Wow! What an amazing bunch of people. It sounds like in spite of all of the really hard challenges you are all very blessed to have one another.

Live.Love.Eat said...

I'm glad to know you have such a wonderful family who is there for you, in good and bad times!!!!! I am sure they appreciate that you recognize how your life is not the only one that has changed.

thequeenmommy said...

Wow. This really touched my heart. Caregivers are such important, and often unrecognized people. Thank you for shining the light on them - and on your family. This is how families SHOULD be!

Preston said...

Wow. What an amazing post. Thanks for sharing this with us. You are very lucky to have such a caring and devoted family. :)

Mommy_of_2 said...

Wow! You have such a great family.. something I was not blessed with.. and something that I make every effort to change with my children.

I am sorry for the things you are going through.. it stinks the things that happen to the best people. You are a strong person and I commend you highly for always keeping a piositve attitude and an inspiration voice!

Hairline Fracture said...

This is such a touching post. What a blessing it is to have a family that takes care of each other. I wish you all the best in your situation.

BeckettFan's Tales said...

WoW!!! That was a great post!! It is such a blessing to have a awesome family like that!!
P.S. here from SITS!!
Happy SITS Day!!!

Mannie Vincent said...

I am visiting your blog from your feature on SITS today! This is such a touching post! Thank you so much for sharing your story! ♥Mannie, MVincent.etsy.com

♥spoiled mommy♥ said...

What a wonderful and touching post.

Mommy said...

Visiting from SITS - what a wonderful post. It is often easy to forget the many blessings in our lives...some of which are hidden until they are needed.

Mrs. S said...

What a great family you have!

Louisa said...

It's wonderful of you to honour your family in this post. What a wonderful family they are and what a blessing to you...as no doubt, you are to them too!

Laurel said...

It is wonderful that you are indeed not alone at all during this illness. Such a nice post.

Joy said...

What a beautiful tribute to your family.

lynn said...

Beautiful post. What a wonderful family you have.

Michelle said...

Oh what a lovely post to show your family your gratitude. You're incredibly lucky to have such support, and kudos to you for recognizing that, as well!

Elle MD said...

I am an active Relay for Life captain. Every year we have a dinner for our cancer survivors and their caregivers. And every year, one of the survivors gives the neatest, most sincere 'thank you' presentation to all of the caregivers, reminding us of how much they are so loved.

- a SITSta

becky said...

Wow, it's wonderful to have such a caring family.

april kennedy said...

That was beautiful. Thank you for sharing! And, you are right....that is what family IS all about!

Rhea said...

You have some truly loving and wonderful family members!!

Rachael said...

What a wonderful tribute to your family members. I'm sure it's hard sometimes, but loving someone isn't always convenient. It sounds like you have a great support system, which I'm very happy for!

mrsbear said...

You guys are lucky to have each other. That's love.

Dee from Downunder said...

Thats a lovely post. Your family obviously love and cherish you very much, it is good to see.

Judy Haley said...

awesome to have people you can count on. my dad had cancer and it was really interesting to watch every one around us each had a different way of reacting and dealing with it. For a lot of people, just being able to do something to help actually reduced their stress. Weird how that works.
best wishes

Mamaoftwins said...

Elizabeth, I love this post!! Your family is amazing and so are you. Your so lucky and blessed to have them. As an only child I have no one. No memories of childhood to talk about with someone, no calling a brother or sister and asking "whats up with mom?!" Family takes care of family. Thats my DH motto. And yours gets an A+++ !
Im cracking up about your comment on the hugs. Your too funny!!!

Angie said...

It's so great you have such a wonderful and caring family!

Jewelgirl said...

You know my families story. You are
right Cancer changes everything. Your
caring family really helped you have
a good attitude about life! :)

AnNicole @ OurSuburbanCottage said...

I love this post Elizabeth. It's just so honest. It's so hard to rely on other people and know that they're rearranging their life for you, but at the same time you are so lucky and blessed that your sister and parents wouldn't even give it a second thought. And really, would you if the roles were reversed?

I think you're amazing anyway (very smart, a straight shooter, one funny gal), but the fact that you've survived everything you have just blows me away. You probably don't want to be an inspiration, but you are.

~AnNicole

P.S. If I ever stop by your neck of the woods and say hello I promise I won't try to hug you :).

Anonymous said...

I've been exploring for a little for any high quality articles or weblog posts on this sort of space . Exploring in Yahoo I finally stumbled upon this web site. Studying this info So i'm glad to convey that I've a very just right uncanny feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I so much definitely will make sure to don?t put out of your mind this site and give it a look regularly.

my web site :: leisurecrib.com