Notes from a caregiver
There is nothing that can ever prepare you for hearing the word “cancer” with reference to a loved one.
And not just any loved one, but THE loved one. Here was the other half of me, wrapped around my arm and sobbing into my shoulder while a doctor calmly explained the diagnosis.
I didn’t cry at first. I can’t even say that I was scared. I was in shock probably, and emotionally blocked by disbelief. How could this happen to us? We’re healthy, active people. How could this extremely rare disease happen to find its way to Dalene? What happens now?
All I could think about was that we had to get back to Canada. I started organizing and making phone calls. I found strength that I didn’t know I had, and thankfully so, as it would have to last me for many months to come.
The real fear hit during the first couple of weeks back in Calgary. In a matter of just a few days, we both had given over the control we had over our lives. I couldn’t fix this. My faith was put into the hands of the healthcare system. All I could do was sit and watch.
Early on in the treatment, Dalene became almost fully unresponsive for several days. My concern was not only the steady stream of treatments they were pumping into her via IV, but that I knew she just felt so awful. Mouth sores prevented her from speaking, and she often didn’t even have the energy to lift her head. I was afraid that she was losing hope.
I sat by her bed all day and as late as I could each night. I wished it was me instead of her. When I finally left on those crucial days, her Mom and I could barely speak a word to each other. The drives to and from the hospital were long and quiet. We were both so scared. Words didn’t need to be said.
Sleeping at night was out of the question.
But she pulled through. And I pulled through. Not on my own, by any means, for I was greatly bolstered by the community that surrounded me. For one, Dalene’s mom never left our sides; she was a true blessing to both of us. I could not have coped without her.
We would take turns to ensure that Dalene was never left alone, which allowed me even to take care of myself a bit. I tried to keep up a routine of running, breathing exercises, and enabling myself to eat properly. I found time to just let my emotions go when I needed to.
Work was a helpful distraction. (Was it EVER. For all the positives of us being entrepreneurs and running our own businesses, when one half of us is out of commission, it proved to be a big struggle.) Thankfully we had extremely understanding clients and a strong, caring team who picked up our slack.
Help and support came in vigorous waves from everywhere. Friends and acquaintances rallied around us in Calgary, my brother and his family made many trips from Leduc to be by my side, which brought us closer together than ever. Gifts, cards, and messages poured in from around the globe for Dalene and many also cared enough to also send their support to me. I need no further proof that the world is full of compassionate and nurturing people. I only hope that we can pay it forward someday.
And now here we are. After eight years of living nomadically, we have a home. In the last few years I had often suggested getting a base but we could never come to a firm decision on it. Dalene was always much more reluctant than me, so I admit that I am taking this change much easier than she is. I like the balance.
Dalene is very strong-willed and doesn’t like being forced into a decision, so I understand the struggle. There are many layers to her emotions resulting from the whirlwind of these last several months – from nearly dying to dealing with ongoing side effects and also adjusting to a complete change in our lifestyle. I do my best to empathize but know that I can’t always. I just try to give her whatever she needs.
She’ll get there. I believe in her strength to pull through this and whatever else we have to face. And I’m also ready to pack my bag on a moment’s notice for a quick escape to help get us through.