I received an email last week from a loving husband by the name of Cameron, who has gone through a long caregiving journey with his beautiful wife, Heather. Heather was diagnosed with a very rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma after the birth of their first and only child. They recently participated in a short video about her cancer experience in order to raise awareness and support for people fighting illness and for the caregivers who fight alongside them.
Watching the video and reviewing their website brought back many memories of the challenges that my own family faced when two of my sisters and both my mother and father were diagnosed with cancer. My father was the first to face this and it threw our family into a tailspin following his terminal diagnosis and over the stressful months that followed. I quit my job at that time to care for him at home with the constant support of my sister who also lives locally. Despite both being nurses, we were not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that comes with watching someone you love go through this process. My father passed away seven months later and I was left with a complete new understanding of what it means to love unconditionally.
My mum was then diagnosed with lung cancer. I stood by helplessly as she went through her own internal struggle of decision making on what her wishes were for her future. Having to let go and not try to control what her ultimate choice was about her own life was painful in its own way. Stepping back and realizing that I could not force her to keep up the fight, but I could just love her and accept what she chose for herself. After several months of wanting to give up, she finally decided she wanted to live, and went through a difficult surgery and miraculously, 16 years later, is still making her own choices at the age of 92.
When my older sister phoned us to let us know she had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer, a different experience was to be faced. When your sibling is grappling with life and death, for me it felt much closer to home. I experienced an enormous amount of fear myself. I learned to listen, not advise or suggest, but just love her to bits, often not through words, but through a quiet, open heart. Eight years later we continue to be grateful to have been blessed with the miracle of her incredible recovery. Three years later, my younger sister was then diagnosed with rectal cancer. As a caregiver for her and her husband and two daughters over many months of treatment, it was only prayer and the belief that miracles are possible that gave us all hope. She was inspiring in her strength and again my process through the journey was so different from hers. I think these life and death challenges bring with them our own unique call to growth. Again, with love all around her, she has recovered and goes on to bring her story to others to give them courage and hope in the face of incredible fear.
I would like to share the link to Cameron and Heather’s story, because one of you might just be in a place where you need to know that life sends messages that give you the faith you need, just when you need it most. I trust it now, because I have seen it, experienced it and been graced by it. If you have a story to share, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Another great website for sharing your own caregiving journey is: www.canadacares.org
The link to Heather and Cameron’s video is: http://can.cr/heather