Welcome to Blessed (but Stressed)!
We write to know that we are not alone-we hope you find that YOU are not alone, either. The caregiver’s journey often seems interminable, lonely and uncontrollable. There IS hope. Join us as we share our stories and our experiences with you.
Anita Strawn de Ojeda
On a cold February morning, two months after her husband’s miraculous recovery from Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma with central nervous system (CNS) involvement, Anita found herself scarcely able to roll out of bed. She craved the quiet comfort of her pillow and a dark room, and couldn’t understand why everything seemed so difficult. After all, God had watched over her and her family during their darkest hours, when doctors had little hope that Pedro would recover. Why couldn’t she bounce out of bed like a blessed believer?
When Pedro received his initial diagnosis of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, Anita, like any other person faced with a new role as primary caregiver, threw herself into caring for Pedro. Franticly researching treatment options, learning an entire new vocabulary, living at the hospital—all while trying to maintain her job and take care of her kids. During the course of her husband’s eight-month battle with cancer, she traded weight with him, shooting up to 185 lbs. while he sank to 130 lbs. at the worst point of his illness. But that extra weight seemed like a small thing compared to gaining her husband back.
Knowing that her daughters and husband still needed her helped Anita get up each morning, but she knew something had gone terribly awry. After all, God had blessed her family with Pedro’s successful fight with cancer, a good job and a supportive family and community. Those extra fifty-five pounds would eventually go away, wouldn’t they? Day after day, as her husband convalesced, people assured her that God had blessed them. If anyone asked her how SHE was doing, Anita would glowingly gush, “Just great!” All the while feeling resentful, and then mad at herself for her resentment. It seemed like a maze with no exit.
Since that bleak February day, Anita has come to understand that she suffered from mild depression and severe stress. Her caregiver’s journey stretched past the healing of the one she cared for, and turned into a personal quest to find balance and good health in her own life. She invites you into her experience as a caregiver, and hopes you’ll see her as a companion in YOUR journey—whether you’re a caregiver for a cancer patient or an aging parent or a special-needs child.
Carol Bovee’s secret dread even before she had children had been, “What if I can’t handle something happening to my child?”
In the terrifying hours between taking her four-year-old son to the doctor’s to investigate his bruises and arriving at a Children’s hospital in another city, Carol determined she was going to fight hard, but most importantly, she was going to show God’s love and grace, cling to His promises that everything would be okay (whether her son lived or died) and hold the family together no matter what.
Within the first few weeks of her son’s Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia diagnosis, she heard phrases like, “You are handling this so well!” “Your faith in God is incredible.” And Carol gradually came to realize that indeed, God can get us through more than we can imagine.
And carry her it did. Right up until the time a year and a half later that Andrew began to get his hair back. People pronounced him better, but Carol and her husband knew there was a year and a half of chemotherapy left, and they were already beginning to see symptoms of chemotherapy damage in a growing boy.
Carol ignored the sleeplessness, the anxiety, the feelings of being overwhelmed, the weight gain – everything. She concentrated on keeping close to God, continuing her job of teaching, uniting her family and caring for the health of her boy.
While attending a conference on “Educating the Child with Cancer,” Carol tiredly looked over a list of symptoms of PTSD in cancer patients; then blinked awake when she noted that she had 90% of the symptoms. What? No. A strong woman of faith believes that God’s will triumphs, that if we follow His plan we’ll be okay, that He won’t give us more than we can handle!
But there it was; more than Carol could handle. What followed were months of what she finally realized was depression and anxiety, symptoms that still like to cling to the corners of her life. Carol’s journey through cancer caregiving (and out the other side) has given her an intense appreciation for letting God get you through and for sharing with other travelers; both make the going easier. Our journeys are not all alike; but the similarities remind us we’re human, it’s okay to look for help, and it is good to laugh and cry with someone else!
If you’re looking for comfort for your caregiving journey, check out 31 Days of Comfort for Caregivers.
We have stories and advice in our Cancer Caregiving 101 posts.
If you have a family member or a friend who struggles with a mental illness, you might want to check out this series.