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

Find YOUR Refuge

Trees draw us with their comforting branches and gentle whispers.

Trees draw us with their comforting branches and gentle whispers.

I’m linking up with the Five-Minute-Friday group. The word is supplied and we write! This week’s word is “Tree”.

When I was a little girl I found refuge in three things; reading a good book, writing whatever came into my heart and sitting up in our sycamore tree. Sometimes I would take some paper, or a book, and combine my passions to create the best sanctuary.
I used to climb the tree to escape my chores, hoping my mom wouldn’t think to look up and knowing that even if she did, it would take me awhile to climb back down and finish my jobs. From my perch up high I could look all over the neighborhood and sometimes I could see my dad driving home from work long before he neared the house. I climbed up through the shade to soak up the sun and I swayed in the wind pretending I was flying. I daydreamed and practiced conversations and sang solos to which the only the leaves could applaud.
My tree was my haven.

Obviously moving away from home and growing up made my retreat obsolete. But I hung onto my reading and my writing and added music and walking in nature to my “me time.”

One of the hardest parts about being a caregiver to a long-term catastrophically ill patient is that you lose many of your refuge options. I found myself without walking time, unable to concentrate on reading, frozen by my inability to write and with nowhere to sing my heart out. And climbing a tree? Not an option!

After figuring out that I had many of the symptoms for PTSD I set out to reclaim my sanctuaries. I made sure to walk, even when I didn’t feel like I had the time. I played favorite songs and sang out loud in the car. I breathed more deeply when anxiety hit and learned to create my tree-top experience in my own head in whatever environment I found myself.

I don’t climb trees anymore–but I found myself, just the other day, while raking piles and piles of beautifully colored leaves, blessing my Creator for making majestic and sheltering trees. I thank Him for sheltering me in His arms when life gets rough and I’ve learned to rely on Him to soothe my soul, wherever I am located. I’m blessed to be able to recreate the serenity I learned while perched high in the branches of my sycamore tree.

If you’d like to join the FMF fun, click on the button!Five Minute Friday

The Truth About Heroes

Anita Strawn de OjedaI’m linking up with Lisa Jo Baker and the Five-Minute Friday flashmob—our goal? Write for five minutes about the word of the week. I confess that this week, I wrote for a little longer than five minutes.

The Truth About Heroes

I used to have an addiction to People Magazine and Entertainment Tonight. I loved knowing the latest scoop about the heroes of American culture. Movie stars. Sports heroes. Rock stars. Super heroes.

But not any more. While those people may be heroes to some, my definition of a true hero consists of this: a family member who sets aside or delays his or her life goals, aspirations, plans and desires in order to care for a loved one who needs above normal care.

Heroism doesn’t consist simply of a single deed or heroic act. True heroism lies in daily doing for someone else what they can no longer do for themselves. The truth is, our American culture doesn’t recognize those who plod along, daily doing for others.

It’s not sexy like a movie star to change a loved-one’s Depends throughout the day. There is no jubilation like a touchdown at the end of the day for a mother who has to quit her job to take care of her adult daughter who suffers from a traumatic brain injury. No one pays big bucks like a rock concert to read about the quotidian life of a caregiver who cares for a spouse with Alzheimer’s. While masses of people line up to buy tickets to the latest movie about super heroes, it wouldn’t occur to them to think about the super heroes living next door or down the street.

Our country has designated November as “National Family Caregivers Month.” What will you do to show your appreciation for a family caregiver? The truth is, caregiving often overwhelms the caregiver because of isolation and despair (a loved one with Alzheimer’s or a special needs child often don’t understand the simple act of thanking those who care for them).

You don’t have to give a family caregiver a free trip to Florida to show that you appreciate all that they do for their loved one. Try one of these simple, low cost ideas for showing your appreciation to a true hero that you might know:

-Send them an encouraging message (on Facebook, in the mail, via text).
-Buy them a gift card to Starbucks and offer to take over the care for an hour or two.
-Bring a meal to the house.
-Offer to run errands.
-Buy them a funny movie (because laughter is good for caregivers, too).
-Make a habit of checking in with a caregiver once a week and listen to them.
-Ask them how you can help.

If you’re a caregiver, please comment on ways that you would appreciate help (everyone is different). If you know a caregiver (if you’re not sure of the definition of caregiver, click here), leave a comment about your commitment to do something for a true hero this month.
If you’d like to join the flash mob, click on the button! Five Minute Friday

Living In Between

Living In Between My daughter will stand in between Pedro and I in exactly nine days and when the pastor asks, “Who gives this woman in marriage?” we will say, “We do!”

Meanwhile, in the days that march inexorably towards July 7,  I struggle in between joy, frantic worry that I’ll never finish everything on time, and a deep sense of gratitude that our oldest baby will have BOTH parents at her wedding…

The dress is in between what it was when I made it and what it will become for my daughter’s wedding.

It almost didn’t happen.  Twelve years ago, Pedro’s non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma relapsed (he’d only been in remission for a few weeks) with a vengeance–this time, it crossed the blood-brain barrier and entered his spinal fluids.  He lost forty pounds in two weeks.  He had excruciating headaches and the muscles in his face froze.  For the next five months, his life hung in the balance as doctors pumped him full of ‘rescue chemo’ and I traveled in between Bozeman, MT and San Francisco, CA each time he started ‘circling the drain’.

Each time, God intervened.

And so I set aside my worries (will I finish remodeling the wedding dress before we leave tomorrow?  How will two college students survive on tiny incomes during their last two quarters of college? What will we forget as we load the van for the trip?) and pause to speak my gratitude to God who brought our little family through the trial–different from what we were before, but stronger, more faithful and definitely more grateful than we had been.

I've lived in between diagnosis and deliverance. I can wait patiently for what God brings next. Click To Tweet

God is good.
Five Minute Friday