Every week I show up for chemo. This endless process! My chemo is supposed to continue until next summer. Give me strength!
I look around at the people. There are the “regulars”; those that come the same time I do every week. We are friendly and ask each other how we are doing and encourage each other. We wave hello and good bye.
On this day I really pay attention to the other people. Not the patients, like myself, or the medical staff; but the “caregivers” that accompany the patients to these treatments; people like my husband, Monty; who sits by my side week after week, and month after month while I listen to the babble of hopeless doctors and fill my veins with toxins. We do it because we believe it is part of the cure and a necessary part of my fight for life.
These caregivers sit there while someone they love is suffering. Many of us have lost our beautiful hair and skin and vibrant personalities. We all hope it’s temporary and so we endure it together. But these caregivers know there is little they can do to ward off the suffering. Yet they show up again and again, and hold our hands and fetch us water and unplug our machines so we can shuffle to the bathroom occasionally. I imagine they do what Monty does at home and pick up prescriptions, do the shopping, cook and clean. And I imagine they never complain either.
I think about Monty. He runs a big company and has so much responsibility. Yet he comes home every night and hollers “Hey, it’s your only friend!” It’s a joke with us since I am rather isolated much of the time due to dangerous blood counts, so I wait for him to come home and be my friend. Every night we play Settlers of Katan/Cities and Knights and every night he beats me – OK, sometimes I win, but not enough.
I have had to force him to play golf on Friday afternoons, but he inevitable calls me from the ninth hole just to see how I am.
Friends and family shower me with cards, gifts, calls and e-mails (oh that I had the wits to respond! Someday…) They have come from all over the country to share a treatment with me, lift my spirits and share some special moments; Vicki from Hawaii, Suze from New Jersey, Gayle from California, Jean from Texas, and so on. Next month an old friend from Minnesota is expected and the stream of loving people will continue I am sure. I feel completely loved and cared for, and abundantly nurtured. I couldn’t deserve this much care!
But I think about these cancer patient caregivers – these people that are in the trenches with us 24 hours a day. They are care worn for sure. Their own lives are threatened by the possibility of loosing someone they love and care about. Who is showering them with love and support? They all look tired to me. They are juggling work, home chores, family needs, and emotional issues too.
When I sleep I sometimes feel Monty pulling my little sleeping cap (not attractive!) back down over my head (it can get so cold at night without hair!), or patting me on the arm when he turns over. He has yet to leave a room without turning to me and asking if there is anything I need.
Every now and then I wake up in the night in pain. It hurts a lot sometimes. I get up, take a pill and go back to bed to wait for the medicine to kick in. In the meantime I often cry and let go of some of the stress. I try to be very quiet and not disturb Monty, but he sleeps lighter these days; and if he feels a quiver from me he will reach over and gather me up and let me cry more earnestly for a few minutes (Why is it when someone reaches out to you the flood gates open?). So we have this ritual of caring; of hanging on to each other in the middle of the painful nights, and we rarely speak. It just happens and we know when it is over, and we both sleep better, and tomorrow is a new day.
So tonight I am going to make a lovely dinner for us. I don’t care if it takes all day. I want to do something nurturing for Monty. He gives and gives, like all those other people that show up with the other cancer patients in the chemo lab. He never complains or asks for anything for himself. He has shown up for my hour of need as well as any man could. I do feel loved. My cup runneth over actually. If love can heal a person than I believe I can get well.
I have a prayer in my heart that caregivers everywhere will be loved and strengthened.
They are angels on earth.