Celebrate the Victories (no matter the size)

Never underestimate the power of small, or large, medical victories!

Never underestimate the power of small, or large, medical victories!

We cannot discount the simplest and most appreciated blessing during any prolonged medical fight!  This (posted above) sort-of-poem-but-mostly-celebratory journal entry was the first time Andrew achieved the status of remission.  It was a chemo induced remission and came after about a month of the fight with leukemia.  That first month was hell.  This journal entry was victory.  It signaled that the three and a half year battle could now begin.

Caregivers and loved ones of caregivers – take every moment and every chance to celebrate victories along the way. (tweet this)

-the ability to eat food instead of a feeding tube

-an hour off the breathing tube

-the first step in physical therapy

-the first week clean from drugs

-the first trip home

-the first word spoken

-the first smile

Celebrate.  It’s a huge, unexpected blessing to let go, to smile, to laugh and to celebrate!

Celebrate the victories, it makes the battle easier! #write31days #caregiving via @caregivermom Click To Tweet

Check out the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving!

Love – It Means Everything (especially when caregiving)

Just when you think you can't handle this caregiving stuff...your kids show you the way.

Just when you think you can’t handle this caregiving stuff…your kids show you the way.

In this series of 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving, I’m reviewing our days, weeks, months and years of cancer caregiving and all it’s repercussions.  I’m looking for specifics, for blessings and things I never understood before.  In searching my journal I sometimes come across a moment so beautiful I wrote it down to treasure and I’m so thankful.  Here is a moment of unexpected blessing I treasure.  No moral of the story, no lecture – just pure love!

Both of my daughters were there when Andrew cried bloody tears, and both girls experienced the shock of a cancer diagnosis, when anemia or just about anything else was expected!  My girls were introduced to medical care for their brother at a young age.

My children don’t always get along and let’s face it, Andrew is “the little brother” and he can be obnoxious sometimes.  But it sort of evens out in the end, because Larissa can be a little bossy and Karina can be just a tad whiny!

But you know what?  Maybe my children are pretty cool, too.  Maybe they fight, but they also stick up for each other at times, and the girls’ ability to put up with this whole leukemia situation has been pretty amazing.

Three days after diagnosis, we were already pretty sick of the hospital and Andrew was thoroughly missing his sisters although he wasn’t quite ready to admit it.  Whenever I talked to them on the phone, though, he would struggle up and hold out his hand for the phone.

That evening I held the phone up to Andrew’s ear because both his hands and arms were sore from needles and/or filled with tubes. He told them all about his “pokes” and how it didn’t seem fair, but he was OK.  He described to them the “squeeze thing” (blood pressure cuff) that “really hurts, but doesn’t REALLY hurt.”  Suddenly I saw his face light up. He closed his eyes as though savoring the best ice cream in the whole world, sighed gently, smiled and said softly into the phone, “I love you, too.”

Love - It means everything! #write31days #caregivercomfort via @caregivermom Click To Tweet

TRUST (in the middle of caregiving)

Is fear a lack of trust?

Is fear a lack of trust?

This five-minute-Friday link up has been all day in the works.  I invented lots of excuses to not write today; it’s my birthday, I needed to run errands for my kids, this is a hard subject, I had a lot to do and I wasn’t feeling well.

The truth however, is a little more tough, and the word trust is going to take a little more than the five-minute prompt instructs us to take.  Sorry, Kate Mataung, I did not follow directions!

Trust is a big deal to me.

I’m an honest person, ask anyone who knows me.  I don’t play games with the truth and if I say something, it is to the best of my knowledge, the truth.  I am trustworthy in that if I promise something, I’ll do my very best to follow through.  I live a life that allows for others to trust me (at least I try to).  And, I trust those around me unless they prove themselves to be untrustworthy.

I also have chosen to live my life trusting in my heavenly Father.  I was blessed to be taught and shown that type of love and trust through my parents and siblings and have chosen to pass that on to my children.  I firmly believe that God works so that ALL things work together for the good of those who love the Lord.

Here’s the tough part that caused me to pause my writing and clean my house instead.  Because here is more truth about me.

When my son was diagnosed with cancer I was scared.

I worried about his prognosis.

I rode the doctors about medications and had to know every little detail of his treatment protocol.

I fretted about time away from my girls.

I feared the effects of the nasty drugs in my son’s life.

I trembled at the thought of losing my precious boy.

I cried when his beautiful red hair fell out.

I was aghast at the length of treatment.

I felt sick to my stomach every single morning that we got up early to go in for chemotherapy.

I couldn’t sleep any longer at night.

I was distressed when he lost so much weight and threw up all the time.

I was dismayed at all the time he had to spend in isolation.

I panicked about germs and checked constantly for temperature and things that would cause infection.

I obsessed over his medications and his doctor appointments and pretty much freaked out if we missed or even were late to either one.

I lived in a constant state of anxiety over the well-being of my entire family being rocked by a three and a half year treatment plan (once we got through the first year that said we might HAVE three and a half years).

I got the jitters when any conversation would turn to cancer or chemotherapy (OK, full-disclosure…I still kind of do that).

Does this sound like a lady who ACTUALLY trusts in God?  I felt like I was failing miserably in the trust department because people told me to “let go and give it all to God.”  How could I obsess over laundry and medicine and still claim to be trusting?  How could I worry and still believe in God?  How could I have so much anxiety if I truly, absolutely and completely trusted?

Had I failed as a Christian when I was tested?  And, what’s more, why am I writing this under the title of Unexpected Blessings when I’ve just torn myself inside out and shown what a lack of faith and trust I had in Jesus.

Can you see why I wondered?

Because at the same time all these thoughts were in my head, people told me my faith was inspiring.  That our rock solid behavior was admirable and that we were “handling this whole cancer thing SO WELL.”  Really.  We were told that.

So who had a skewed version of life?  The observers, who thought I had faith and trusted in the Lord, or me, who worried about all the details?

It’s been ten years, and I’m writing this today, because of the conclusion I’ve come to about my faith and my trust and my fears and my doubts.

In spite of the list of anxieties listed above, through EVERY MOMENT of my son’s illness, and I mean EVERY-MOMENT, I trusted that God had a plan and that my boy and my family were in His hands.  I knew God could say “Yes, your boy can live,” or God could say, “No, your boy needs to be laid to rest.”  I trusted implicitly that God held us.  And truly, I was okay with that.

What I feared was myself.  Could I handle losing my boy?  Could I handle life if I had not done every single little thing that I could to help my family?  Could I trust my own confidence?

My greatest fear in life, before my son’s diagnosis, was that I could not handle anything happening to my children.  That fear was so very great in my life that I almost chose to not even have children.  I’m not good with medical emergencies.  Well, actually, I am, but then I fall apart afterwards.  So how could I ever handle something happening to my children?

And this, my friends, is my unexpected blessing.  It’s a blessing so huge that I could not write about it all day long and while I am typing, I have tears streaming down my face.  God was with us, every step of the way.  I screwed up many times.  My husband wasn’t perfect.  My children were bratty and emotional and wonderful and loving.  We’ve walked through the valley of the shadow of death and I WORRIED.  But I worried about the details.  I did not worry so much about the outcome, as the details,

God has given me a HUGE sense of trust.  Life hurts – often.  Kids do their thing instead of mine – it’s a guarantee.  My husband still isn’t perfect.  I still screw up.  But I KNOW.  I know that there is nothing that God cannot get me through.  I know that He will be with me when my brain is too fried to remember Bible verses of comfort and when the thought of reading a devotional makes me want to scream.  I know that He will send friends to help and He will supply my needs.  I know that He will take care of my children.

The war is already won.  Our future is with God for all of eternity.  He holds us in the palms of His loving hands.  And that, my friends, you can TRUST.

Am I trusting in God if I'm worried and scared? #write31days #FMF via @caregivermom Click To Tweet

There are more stories in the series 31 Days of Unexpected Blessings from Caregiving

Family: the Biggest Blessing to Caregivers

Family, in times of crisis, extends well beyond those related by blood. Our family was blessed by so many!

Family, in times of crisis, extends well beyond those related by blood. Our family was blessed by so many!

This has to be the easiest Five-Minute Friday prompt we’ve ever had AND it ties into my #write31days theme of unexpected blessings during caregiving.  I’m supposed to only write for five minutes, but I’ve had so many years of stocking up precious moments. Ready?  Set?  Go!

Family: the Biggest Blessing to Caregivers

Family has to be one of the biggest blessings one can count when it comes time to tally the number of blessings God has bestowed in the midst of the crisis of a catastrophic situation.

Family who visited or sent gifts, who donated blood in my child’s honor, who read books and watched stupid movies with a four-year-old needing entertainment.  Family who cleaned my house or did my laundry, who took care of the kids NOT being treated for leukemia or fed the dog when we were gone too long.

Family who sent money from over-time checks and who cooked meals designed to entice a nauseous boy.  Family who prayed unceasingly and asked about not only the sick one’s health, but about the health of the rest of us as well.

Family who covered a day of work, bought a gas gift card or took us out to eat in the hospital cafeteria. Family who kicked us out of the hospital room for a shopping trip while they settled in to play games with the patient or who sat quietly by, drinking hospital coffee and passing the time during a 9 hours chemo treatment.

Family who called every Friday, without fail, to see how I was handling things and family who went on walks and listened to my fears and took pictures when I was afraid to immortalize those scary medical moments.

Family who cared, comforted, loved, laughed and lived with us through the whole entire process of caregiving and family who STILL ask us how things are going and who STILL lift us up in prayer and who even read our blog posts to see how life is going.

You’ve guessed it.  Our family isn’t all blood related, but those kin and friend ties that are cemented during a time of crisis (especially a long term medical fight) are FAMILY!

And FAMILY is the biggest, best-est, amazing-est blessing to a scared, tired and stressed out caregiver!

Family are those that support caregivers! #fiveminutefriday #write31days @caregivermom Click To Tweet

The Shocking Truth About My Neck and Calves

Living with distortions

Dealing with Distortions

I have a huge, thick, gargantuan neck. When I wear something with a rounded collar, my face doubles in width and takes on a moon-like glow. Ever since I noticed this amazing propensity of necklines to change the proportions of my face, I’ve avoided athletic t-shirts and turtlenecks.

My legs resemble those of a chicken’s. I remember reading an article in Glamour magazine back in the dark ages—I think I had started my freshman year of college—where the authors detailed how to measure your legs to see if they had perfect proportions. Mine came pretty close, according to my measuring tape and my best friend (who envied my lanky legs and my comely calves).

“But you have a nice neck and a tiny waist,” I pointed out (my theory was that women have either a waist or nice ankles and calves—but very few have both). Later that same year, my friend confessed that she’d stopped at a bakery and purchased a dozen chocolate chip cookies—and eaten the whole box.

I shrugged. “That sounds good,” I said, “although I can’t imagine eating 12 cookies.” It wasn’t until years later that my friend confessed to me that she struggled with bulimia. Her tiny waist came at a great cost to her mental and physical health.

The Sinister Role of Food

Food has played a sinister role in my life as well. I discovered its self-medicating properties when the world seemed scary. During Pedro’s bout with cancer, he dropped to 130 (five pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight) and I blossomed to 185 (his pre-cancer weight). The only known photo of me during this time is on my school ID card—I couldn’t avoid having my photo taken. My neck looks even larger than normal—but I consoled myself that my calves and ankles still looked pretty good.Dealing with distortions

Two years before my fortieth birthday I decided that I didn’t want to be a ‘fair, fat and forty’ statistic and end up with gallbladder problems. I wanted to have energy to keep up with my almost teenage daughters. Maybe they would even take pride in their mommy. I went on a low-carb diet and over the course of ten months I slowly returned to my pre-pregnancy weight.

The negative thoughts about my weight remained. In fact, I hate having my photo taken because I want to live up to my ideal image of what I should look like. All too often the photos that others take don’t meet my expectations. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t spend hours in front of the mirror putting on make up (I got too lazy to wear that stuff about six years ago). My daily hair routine involves running a wide-toothed comb through my curls . That’s it. I have no feelings about my looks—unless someone snaps a photo that I deem ‘horrible.’ It’s possible that I’ve asked my children to erase photos of me that they took on their phones.

Accountability Solution?

The struggle with food didn’t end with my initial weight loss, though. I will never have the metabolism of a hummingbird. Food will always sound the siren call of comfort when I feel stress and pressure building in my life.  In January, after an extremely stressful year, I realized that I had slowly gained back twenty of those 55 pounds I had worked so hard to lose.

I decided I needed accountability, so I bought a FitBit and started keeping track of what I ate on the FitBit app on my phone. A few of my blogging friends have FitBits as well, so we challenge each other to keep moving during the week and on the weekends. My employer’s health program gives rewards for weight loss and exercise, and so I decided to enter my stats in their database as an additional form of accountability.

About the third time I entered my stats, I came to the shocking realization that the measurement for my calves is THE SAME as the measurement for my neck. All these years I’ve lived with the distorted belief that my neck is gargantuan and my calves are slim.

The possibility that the two areas shared a circumference never occurred to me. I passed judgment on my calves and ankles years ago and consoled myself about my giant neck and thick waist by putting down other women’s cankles.I passed judgment on my neck and consoled myself by putting down other women's cankles. Click To Tweet

Good Advice from a Good Book

Dr. David Burns, author of Feeling Good: the New Mood Therapy, would call my distortion “Labeling and Mislabeling.” I don’t need anyone else to put me down. I do a fine job of it myself, thank you very much. It’s time to give up the idol I’ve built on my dimensions and just accept myself for who I am. Dr. Burns also says, “Only one person in this world has the power to put you down—and you are that person, no one else!”

I’m ready for more accountability, so snap away—I promise to never ask you to delete a photo from your camera or your phone (it might take me awhile to view the photos without wrinkling my nose, though). My neck and calves measure the same—and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My neck and calves measure the same--and I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Click To TweetMy job is to keep my mind on positive things and my body as healthy as possible.

That Glamour article promised perfection if my legs measured up. But I’d rather have perfection in my relationship with God and with my fellow travelers.

How about you? Do you have any distortions that you’ve discovered and are ready to let go of?

Tales from the Border Tell Two Sides of a Story

Every story has two sides
The Beggar’s Face Again

I sat quietly on the steps of the farmacia on the corner, fanning off flies, vendors, and heat.

Almost directly in front of me, young soldiers guarded the square dusty space between the town and the border crossing; the gateway to my own country waiting to welcome me back.

To my left lay the town—the town that tourists don’t see. The shops that the locals frequent. The shops without air-conditioning; flypaper hanging in the doorway and globs of cement forming steps. The part of town where houses cram indiscriminately between the street and the businesses. Houses that may or may not have running water or electricity.

To my right stretched the street that was designed for me to see. Fancy tilework and nice storefronts invite one in to shop –into the air-conditioning and out of the stifling heat of the dusty street. Vendor stalls lined up in front of the stores and the hierarchy was clear: Air-conditioned stores first, vendor stalls second, vendors on foot third and of course, beggars last.

I’ve known that for years—it’s true of most countries or cultures around the world.

But this day, because I had lost my family, I had a different view.

Neither a tourist nor a local, once I waved away the on-foot vendors, I became invisible while sitting on that fake marble stairway.

And the clash and the mesh of the different worlds kept me captivated.

The children, the ones with the professional beggar faces? I watched as they approached other tourists with the same sad faces and slumped demeanor. But I also got to watch as they ran back by me, giggling and poking each other to rest in the shade I had found. They stood around and laughed and joked until someone new came from beyond the crossing. One little boy poked the other, “It’s your turn.” A new little girl was prodded into activity. “What is it again? Twelve for one dollar?” Eyes rolled as they went through the prices again for her and off she went, to look sad and helpless and try to sell some visiting Meester her quota of chicles. The waiting children spoke of school and their families and which street vendor would be most likely to give up some taquitos.

The street vendors bustled back and forth trading freely with each other according to who needed what. “Hey, I got a lady who wants a dress in purple…hurry!”

“Fine, then bring me back a green.”

They brought lunch or maybe a water bottle to one another.

One street vendor ran into the farmacia where I sat and a moment later burst out the door and ran over to an over-dressed couple who waited in the street. He handed them what they wanted, and I wondered how much he made on the 15 steps he took to sell it to them.

I almost laughed aloud one moment, listening to a vendor bargaining with a tourist. They hassled and harangued and jostled back and forth with the vendor whining about feeding his family and the tourist declaring she only had so much money with her. The lady walked away happy with her deal and the vendor turned down my street to check his iPhone for messages.

I loved it every time one of the vendors would dash into the farmacia for something, because the air conditioning from inside would blast out onto the dusty street, cooling me as it went by.

The two faces of a poor border town. The beggars with smart phones and the well dressed store workers walking around the corner to have lunch in their electricity-less houses.

Every story has two sides, right? So often we judge on the side that we see and forget there might be another view, or more information.

Earlier on, before I misplaced my family, we had passed an old woman, sitting pitifully on the sidewalk, waving her Styrofoam cup at passersby. She called out in a pathetic voice for change, for money, for help. After seeing the one guy whip out his smart phone, my son turned to me and asked, “Do you really think that old lady needs the money, or will she go around the corner to her luxury car?”

It’s a valid question, but I think I may have given a valid answer. “For whatever reason, she has the temerity and the stamina to SIT on that concrete sidewalk for at least the 3 hours that we’ve seen – I would say she needs the money. And we don’t know the rest of her story.”

I ended up sitting on those steps after that conversation with my son. One of the boys selling chicles raced by and a clerk stepped out of the farmacia. He called the boy over and asked him what he was eating. The boy replied and told a story about the taco he had been given. The man asked sternly, “Did you ask for it?”

“No, Papi, I didn’t ask for it. She offered!”

“Did you pay for it?”

Eyes widened in innocence, “No, Papi, she said I could have it, she couldn’t sell it.”

He shook his head, “Ok then, but don’t you be asking for food. You should earn that. You could trade gum for tacos.”

Two sides–the sad face to sell, but maintaining the pride of not begging. There’s always more to the story.

Having a child fighting cancer and on chemotherapy for three years provided many opportunities of growth for me as a mother. It also seemed to provide many opportunities of judgement from others; people who assumed we did not discipline him, people who assumed he was well when his hair grew back and people who had not one clue as to what we dealt with at home and hospital. Two sides of a story: the reality side and the viewable side.

I’ve had students with autism, with hearing loss or vision loss, students with real life struggles that I watched be judged. On those rare occasions where I could explain, I would watch faces and attitudes change because the listener heard the rest of story.

I’m sure each of you readers has a similar story you could share about being misunderstood, or feeling that you had another side to your story. What do YOU wish people had done differently? That’s what it takes—if each of us assumes there is more to the story, maybe each of our stories could be more beautiful!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

I found inspiration for my Monday at #inspirememondays. Join us! (tweet this)

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

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My Salute to a Different Kind of Warrior

12-years post transplant

After two days in the hospital and a handful of pokes and a pesky IV line constantly attached to my right arm, I’ve come to a sobering realization. I jokingly whine and complain a little about the inconvenience of it all. The size 3XL standard issue pants, for example, along with the sexy, open-backed gown that wraps me from shin to chin. The lack of rest one has at night on uncomfortable hospital beds with nurses coming in every four hours to check your vitals. The quotidian routine, broken only by soft knocks on the door when someone wants a sample of this or a sample of that.

I am a wimp: A true, homebody, an I-don’t-like-to-have-to-ask-for-everything-and-I’d-rather-do-it-myself wimp. And so today, I stand in awe of the warrior my husband and the father of our children was for nine long months during 2002 and early 2003 when he fought daily to stay with us.

He made a promise to the first doctor he saw that he would be compliant—he would take any medicine, agree to any procedure, do whatever they asked—in order to get well. And he did. He suffered through four surgeries, countless kilos of IV fluids and morphine and enough toxic junk to kill a lesser man.

He put up with intubations, open hospital gowns, quotidian routines (although, when he felt well enough, he did play a prank or two), spinal taps, bone marrow biopsies, radiation, transfusions, infections, depression, loss of appetite, torturous walks around the hospital ward (they wanted him to walk at least a mile a day) with me or his brother pushing his IV pole for him because he didn’t have the strength to do it himself.

Stand Up to Cancer

Every warrior needs reasons to fight.

Pedro is a fighter and it’s only now, after spending a measly two days in the hospital, that I appreciate how hard he fought so that one day he could watch our girls graduate from high school. He’s even walked our oldest down the aisle and given her hand in marriage to a wonderful young man. He’s been there for Laura’s college graduation, and God willing, he plans on being around for Katrina’s graduation and wedding one of these days.

All because he stood up to cancer and agreed to fight. To put up with the indignities and the idiosyncrasies of hospitals and their staff (one day, I may tell the story of ‘Catheter-training Nurse Lisa’) so that he could attend recitals, cheer at tournaments, go on father-daughter dates, give his wise counsel and love unconditionally through every challenge that arose.

Not all warriors fight on battlefields, and their deeds of bravery need to be acknowledged. Click To Tweet

I salute you, Pedro, for the warrior that you are. Thank you for your sacrifice and your sense of humor. You inspire me. I raise my emesis basin to you—Here’s to another 26 years!

Do you know a warrior who fights without complaint or recognition for his or her family day after day?  Salute them in the comments section!

Inspire Me Monday Instructions

What’s your inspirational story? Link up below, and don’t forget the 1-2-3s of building community:

1. Link up your most inspirational post from the previous week (just ONE, please).

2. Vist TWO other contributors (especially the person who linked up right before you) and leave an encouraging comment.

3. Spread the cheer THREE ways! Tweet something from a post you read, share a post on your Facebook page, stumble upon it, pin it or whatever social media outlet you prefer–just do it!

Please link back to this week’s post or add the button to your post so that we can spread the inspirational cheer :).

So, go ahead! Take the plunge and share your most inspiring post with us!

Take a moment to visit the other hostess, Angie, too!

 

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How to Care for a Woman After Surgery

After Surgery Care

Ten Post-Op Caregiver Tips for Men

Women tend to stay home with sick kids and ailing husbands, so what’s a man to do when his wife or girlfriend suddenly needs care after a surgical procedure? When a person is sick, it’s not easy to articulate what one needs or wants—and with a woman, it’s often tricky because she’s accustomed to giving care, not receiving it.

If your sweetheart ever needs your caregiving skills, remember these tips.

1. Communication. Ask her beforehand what level of care she thinks she will want. Does she expect you to take a day or two off work and hang out around the house with her? Does she prefer to be in the house by herself and have you check in by phone, text or in person? Figure this out before she has surgery—and she’ll feel loved because you asked.

Tip #1: Communication is key to #caregiving. Explore expectations ahead of time. Click To Tweet

2. Solidarity. My honey refrained from eating or drinking in my presence during the tortuous hours before my surgery.

3. Photos. It today’s world, we tend to snap and post every event in our lives. Check with her before posting a pre-op or post-op photo on your social media channels—especially if it’s embarrassing.

4. Bring supplies. You’ll want to have salty, bland snacks on hand (the hospital soda crackers can instantly suck all the moisture out of an already dehydrated post-op body). You’ll want bottled water for the drive home. Bring things to keep yourself occupied during surgery—doctors always give estimated times, but procedures and recovery often take longer than expected.

5. Take notes. The surgeon will come out and talk to you when s/he finishes the procedures. Take notes. Your sweetie most likely won’t see the surgeon again until the post-op follow up visit (often 10 days or more later), and she’ll be curious about what the surgeon said after surgery.

6. Drive carefully. If you’re the designated driver, drive very carefully all the way home. If your sweetie feels nauseous, she’s likely to toss her cookies if you take the corners too quickly. Carry an emesis bag or basin in the car—sometimes, even the most tender driving won’t prevent post-op mishaps. Be willing to empty the bag or basin, too.

7. Choose your words carefully. If you happen upon your sweetheart kneeling on the floor with her forehead to the ground and her derriere in the air because she’s having problems with post-op regularity, it’s probably not the time to tell her she needs to ‘deal with the pain.’ Instead, use this situation as an opportunity to use your empathy skills. Offer soothing words such as, ‘That’s terrible!” and “I’m so sorry you’re having problems.” Offer to bring her milk of magnesia, prunes or fiber pills. Stand by and hold her hand while she downs the cures—it takes bravery to consume any of them.

Tip #7: Choose your words carefully when #caregiving. Click To Tweet

8. Know her love language. My honey went out and bought the newly released Beauty and the Beast video when our first child was born. He even watched it with me.

9. Encourage her to take it easy AND pick up the slack. If the doctor says ‘no lifting for six weeks,’ than make sure she has no occasion to lift anything. Vacuum, sweep, go grocery shopping, do the laundry—or hire someone to come in and do it. Not following the doctor’s orders can result in a second surgery down the road—not to mention prolonging the recovery time.

10. Make a point to cheer her up. If a woman feels blue after a surgery, it’s because she had surgery—not because of hormones. Anesthesia is hard on the body, and it will take time to recover. During recovery, it’s likely that your sweetheart will feel out of sorts and depressed—a natural reaction to having routines and activities interrupted by illness.

How about you?  Have you ever been the recipient of care after surgery or during a long illness?  What helped you the most? What do you wish the person caring for you knew but were afraid to tell them?

The Gift of Your Presence is a Beautiful Present

giftofpresenceHer voice came over the phone line, “You let me KNOW next time Andrew’s in the hospital and I’ll come sit with you!”

I thanked her sincerely and hung up. Knowing that she’d never come. We’d been at this chemotherapy for a year and a half already and most people had moved on, forgetting that we still dealt with unending hours in the hospital with my five-year-old somewhere between bored, uncomfortable, drugged sleepy and yet wide-awake—a combination only someone who’s been through childhood cancer can understand.

But the next week, the day before the spinal tap, I emailed my husband’s cousin, as requested, and let her know we’d be in the hospital in her town for about nine hours. I got no response. I expected none.

Driving through pre-dawn to arrive at the hospital for the 6:15 spinal tap, the weight of my son’s life settled on my shoulders and that “I’m all alone” feeling dogged again. Post-op we settled into a room with Dora the Explorer keeping a dopey boy occupied at twice the volume I wanted, but one that seemed to delight my boy. I tried to read but couldn’t focus. The nurse came in with Andrew’s breakfast tray and a cup of coffee for me. She smiled, “You look like you need this!”

I smiled, but didn’t touch the cup on the tray. I hate coffee. I closed my eyes, hearing the chant, “Backpack, backpack!” in the background. Goodness I hate Dora.

Suddenly, I heard a giggle. “You ready for me?” My cousin stood in the doorway with a bright smile wrapped around her face. How does she do that at eight in the morning? She blew on into the room and cracked a joke. We laughed and joked for a bit and her eyes kept drifting to Andrew’s breakfast tray. I encouraged him to eat, but her eyes weren’t looking at his food. Finally she blurted, “Are you going to drink that coffee?” I assured her I wasn’t and she grabbed it and amidst many more jokes, downed my cup of coffee. A few hours later she swept back out of the room – “Places to go, people to see.” she said.

“Call me next time you’re in for a long day. I’ll come by for your coffee!”

I didn’t think she would. It’s pretty boring sitting in there for hours. But she did. I would call, she would come, drink my free parent-coffee, crack jokes, tell stories and keep Andrew and I entertained for a couple of hours.

She moved to the other side of the country before we were done with chemo, but every time the hospital sent in my cup of coffee, I smiled. Free cup of coffee with my sister-cousin in the hospital. What a gift!

The gift of your presence is a beautiful present. #fmfparty #caregiver via @caregivermom Click To Tweet

Has someone ever gifted you with their presence?

What Happens When You Believe in Teamwork

A cord of three strandsThis week I’m writing on my friend Holley Gerth’s prompt: Who in your life lives these words: “I don’t have it all together. But I believe we’re better together.”
The weekly prompts for Holley’s Coffee for Your Heart link up celebrate the publication of her newest book You’re Loved No Matter What: Freeing Your Heart From the Need to be Perfect.

Take two second-born children who value independence and self-sufficiency, add a little stubbornness and a lot of strong opinion and mix it with adversity and what do you have? For most people, a recipe for disaster. But with God as the Master Chef, the result has been Team Ojeda.

Twenty-six and a half years ago, Pedro and I said, “I do,” to the pastor’s question about pledging our lives to each other in sickness and health, in poverty or in wealth—and let me tell you, it seems like there’s been more sickness and poverty than health and wealth.

I’ve learned over the years that I married a man who fiercely believes in the power of teamwork. He doesn’t claim to have it all together (that’s usually my façade), but he always draws me back and reminds me that together we can face each crisis—especially if we ask God to be the captain of our team.

When our daughters came along, we developed a system of tag teaming responsibilities—especially on weekends—so that we could both have free time. Other people (we lived in a community where mens’ and womens’ roles were very traditional) looked askance at our division of labor—but our decision laid the foundation for a strong relationship between Pedro and our daughters.

When our girls were two and four, we made the decision to move to a different state so that Pedro could go back to school at night and pursue his dream to become a teacher. The decision meant that he would be the stay-at-home dad and I would work. Once again, he willingly stepped outside of the ‘normal’ role in order to do what would be long-term best for the team.

We learned in those early years that we each had strengths and weaknesses—but that we could help each other out and work together rather than work at odds with each other. He was the more consistent parent by nature—and he helped me see the value of learning to be consistent.

More than once, I felt misunderstood and maligned (looking back now—I never had a really good reason to feel that way) and secretly entertained thoughts of getting out. Thoughts of “I do all the work anyway, so I might as well do it alone” and “We’ll never work this issue out.” I never actually voiced these thoughts out loud, but Pedro always seemed to sense them and he would quietly remind me that we didn’t get married to get divorced. We got married for forever.

From Pedro, I have learned that team members step in for each other in times of weakness and crisis—but that they also need to step back and allow the other team member back in the game once the crisis has passed. In order to have a healthy team, we have to know that we need each other—God gave us to each other to nurture and build each other up so that together we could do more for him.

God gave us to each other to nurture and build each other up so that together we could do more for him. Click To Tweet

All too often, I charge in and try to be the hero on the field because I think I have it all together—the ball hog jock, you could say. Pedro gently reminds me that if we work together, we won’t feel frustrated by our lack of progress or angry at the results of our efforts.

If we work together, we won’t feel frustrated by our lack of progress or angry at the results of our efforts. Click To Tweet

Some days (weeks, months, years), Pedro has been the key player because I’m not operating at full capacity. This week, it’s my turn to step it up and carry more weight whilst Pedro recovers from a mountain bike crash. The doctors predict that he’ll feel much better after a minor surgery to put a plate on his clavicle to hold together all the broken pieces. If you’re a praying person, we’d appreciate your prayers for a simple and successful surgery today!

How about you?  Do you know someone who believes that teamwork can change attitude and produce amazing results?