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Nov 30, 2012 11:11AM
Howdy all -- I was caretaker for a year to my (wonderful) 83-yr-old Dad through his esophogeal cancer (chemo/radiation/surgeries) from fall of 2011 through the summer of 2012. He came through all that remarkably well -- the oncologist praised him as being the one-out-of-ten who surpassed all expectations of maintaining his weight and his health through chemo.
The key (for us) was keeping enough protein in him and maintaining his nutrition, despite the fact that he had little appetite -- aggravated by his spot-radiation: aimed directly at his esophogus, making swallowing painful.
'Ensure' was our God send. (We put it in a blender with extra protein/fiber powder since he was unable to eat much else).
And although I sometimes had to push him to drink it-- OK -- Yes, I was firm -- I would deliver it and stand there until he drank at least a little -- then back in 10-15 minutes to encourage him to take another drink... and again, and again. But the oncologist said THAT was why Dad fared so well. We kept up his strength, and helped him do what he must.
To celebrate coming through the radiation/chemo -- we planned a trip... a drive to the SW touring (by car) 7 National Parks. It is WONDERFUL for both the patient and caretaker to have something to look forward to. It keeps up the spirits. That trip was so great (both planning and actually taking it) that we planned and took another (this time to Maine, where my 60-year-old sister married her E-Harmony honey of 3 years. My father walked her down the aisle!)
Those trips are priceless memories now that Dad is gone. A week after the second trip he had a seizure, and they discovered a stage-four brain tumor. We went straight to Hospice -- I stayed with him there for the month he had left.
The reason I am writing here now is that what I thought (selfishly) would be a tragic life-changing event for me (the loss of my wonderful father -- my favorite person on earth) -- actually became the largest blessing I have ever experienced. It not only changed my life -- it brought me epiphany after epiphany, and an opportunity to know my father and myself on an entirely new level, far deeper than any connection to 'Truth' I had ever experienced before.
I had the honor of helping my father say his goodbyes to this earth and to the people he loved. I had the amazingly beautiful opportunity to talk to him about God and Death and Life and help him consider new possibilities about what might be coming next for him. Those conversations at 2 am (as I lay on the cot in his room at hospice) were POWERFUL. I found (and believe that he did, too) a peace and acceptance in what was unfolding.
Anyway -- my hat's off to each and every one of you wonderful loved ones who care-take your BC patient.
My message is a large one.
My message is that you will find when this is over -- that you are a newly blessed human for having helped with this journey. Your view of the world will be broader -- your view of human strength expanded. Your connection to God and Truth and Possiblity will be opened -- if you allow all this to flow through you and don't turn away from these powerful painful times. You will find peace and acceptance in helping your loved one find the same. You will grow together and when they pass (as we all eventually will) you will find that the bond isn't over. They aren't "gone" -- they are 'altered' but still very much with you in almost tactile ways.
I see my father now in every gorgeous mountain vista. I see him in every magnificent sun set. I talk with him often -- as if he were here -- because in what I have come to view as a reasonable possibility of Afterlife -- he IS still here with me. Even time I think of him -- i conjure him -- and he is happy to come visit me here.... share the beautiful sun set, the appreciation of nature. Our conversation and our connection has changed me forever.
Last May I myself was diagnosed with cancer. That is why I am now here on this website-- had my dbl masectomy and stage one DIEP recon just 3 weeks ago.
What I learned by 'being there' for my Dad last year -- has paved the way for a whole new acceptance of (and appreciation for) what is now happening in my own life.
And I know that, just as Dad's passing held a million revelations and blessings -- so will this breast cancer journey.
Dad helped me prepare for this. He showed me how to be strong and honest in the face of cancer and eventual death. He showed me how to live in the moment and how to love this life, this place, and the people connected to us at full tilt -- right to the end. I am SO blessed to have been his caretaker.
Now I have learned to accept help, too. The man in my photo is my angel of support. I met him through E-Harmony, as I lay in Dad's room in Hospice, that last month of his life. At one point in my last conversations with Dad -- I told him that, once he got to heaven -- if he was ever bored -- I would appreciate his help -- Could he send me a trully good man? (I never made those choices very well on my own). Les quickly rose to the top of heap of men I was communicating with -- and it is SO easy for me to see him as Dad's choice for me. :)
The most important man in my life left this earth, and that created a space for the new most important man in my life to arrive. And this man comes as a partner complete. Every day he helps me adjust to what this BC journey brings.
Anyway -- long post -- Sorry. I just wanted to let each of you know that even if you think that what you do is 'for them' -- in the end -- it is all also for YOU. No matter how hard parts of this may be -- You are BLESSED with this opportunity to help, love, and grow with and for your loved one -- and for yourself.
On the other side of the eventuality of all this -- You wil go on -- more deeply connected to the ongoing-ness of your loved one -- who will remain in spirit by your side. But even more -- you will evolve through this with a much deeper connection to all humanity, yourself, and to this beautiful world.
Try to grow yourself through the hard times. This is an incredible opportunity to shine with light and love... for the rest of your existence.
My father shared his last days of life -- and then even his death -- as a gift. "Helping him" brought forth a new stronger, more peaceful me.
Dx IDC 5/30/12. LumpX 8/24/12 (1 of 2 nodes + for BC) DCIS/tumors in margins. BMX + DIEP recon 11-6-2012. (11 more nodes x’d/none +). Began Letrozole 12-3-2012 (NO SE's so far!). Cording/pain/limited ROM in node-removed arm- but PT helping a lot!
5/30/2012, IDC, <1cm, Stage II, Grade 1, 1/13 nodes, ER+/PR+, HER2-
08/24/2012 Lumpectomy (Left); Lymph Node Removal: Sentinel Lymph Node Dissection (Left)
11/06/2012 Mastectomy (Both); Lymph Node Removal: Axillary Lymph Node Dissection (Left); Prophylactic Mastectomy (Right); Reconstruction: DIEP flap (Both)