A few weeks ago I received an email from Cameron Von St. James who found my blog and wanted to contribute an article that my readers might find interesting. He has been caring for his wife for many years now and wanted to share his story of hope. I am grateful for his perspective and happy that my blog is helping others dealing with cancer to cope. The following is his contribution. Hope you all enjoy the read!
Learning to Deal: Caring for Someone with Cancer
November 21st, 2005 is an infamous day for my family. It was the moment when our lives changed, and my wife Heather began her journey with cancer. She was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly form of cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It was also the moment my role as a husband and father changed to caregiver for someone with cancer. This wasn’t a position that I had ever expected for myself but it was something that I had to learn fast if I was going to be able to help my wife beat this awful disease. We had only just celebrated the birth of Lily, our first and only child, three months prior to the diagnosis, and now her mother was beginning a fight for her life.
I remember going to the doctor’s office and feeling panicked even before I heard the news. I didn’t know what was going on, but I was going to be there for Heather. I sat with her, holding her hand, as the doctor spoke about her cancer. It just didn’t seem real. All of a sudden we were faced with treatment options. I was just letting it set in that there was something deadly growing inside of my wife. He suggested a few hospitals in the area, but none of these had a good program for mesothelioma. He also told us that we could travel to Boston to see a mesothelioma specialist. I knew that if my wife had any chance of beating this, she needed the best care possible. I immediately told the doctor that we would seek treatment in Boston.
After that initial doctor’s visit, everything changed for my family. We had both worked before, but now I was the only one who could work. I wasn’t upset that I was now a caregiver. It was just difficult to be at work knowing that I had so many things going on and not enough time in the day to really handle all of my new responsibilities. I quickly became overwhelmed, and frequently broke down under the strain and pressure of it all. I knew my wife needed me to be strong, so I did my best to put on a brave face in her presence.
Heather’s family had always been there for us, and they came through with support at a very dark time. They provided a place for my wife to recuperate after her surgery in Boston and they took care of Lily during her treatment as well. I worked as hard as I could during these times, but they also helped us with the medical bills that were piling up. It was just this support that saved my family and myself from really troubling times.
Over the next few months, Heather would undergo a myriad of cancer treatments, involving mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Despite the grim odds facing her, she was able to defy them and beat this awful disease. She has now been cancer free for six years. Being a caregiver taught me a lot about myself and my family. The most important thing I learned is the strength that every person has within them. If we just believe in ourselves and never give up hope, we can achieve incredible things. Heather and I now hope that by sharing our story of triumph over cancer, we can help all those currently battling today.