Saturday, December 12, 2015
• We also, have milder ones like a tear drop camper ornament. That’s kinda cute, actually.
My father-in-law got into the act for a few years and gave me…
• A big bull frog ornament dressed up like a fly fisherman
• A Turkey dressed up like a hunter. Get it? Turkey hunter? Yeah, he’s funny that way.
• And another weird turkey hunting themed ornament.
Don’t get me wrong, we have plenty of the “normal” Christmassy themed ornaments, but they just seem to fade in comparison to the “other” ornaments on the tree. I mean, how can you calmly settle your brains and have dreams of sugar plums when you know such things as a…
• Flying Angel Armadillo,
• a Spooky Druid Claus made out of a birch branch with cardinals nested in knot holes in the abdomen of his branch body,
• Or a bizarre Drum with spindly legs and arms and very strange face coming out of the side of the drum,
…are out there hanging on your tree, waiting to turn your peaceful Christmas slumber into something akin to a drug induced nightmare?
Sunday, May 17, 2015
There is something I realized lately and feel it would be good to share and/or talk about. My wife Gayle and I, she being the patient, are now in the post treatment and recovery stage of her cancer. It’s great. It is behind us for the most part. Time to get on with life now, she to work and me to????? Yeah, that’s the problem. Me to what? For the last 16 months, I have devoted myself to her as she got totally put through the meat grinder of Cancer treatment, involving three major surgeries, countless procedures, radiation treatments and months of chemotherapy. It was a brutal time for both of us. I helped her, encouraged her, nursed her, changed dressings, cleaned her and other things that don’t need to be mentioned. And I worried about her. I laid awake at nights listening for her and what she may need or what complication may come next.
I was her coach. I encouraged her when even my own hope was waning. I also fed her. Have you ever tried to cook for and feed a person who would vomit even at a smell sometimes or just because of the Chemo coursing through her veins. And even if the nausea had subsided, she had no appetite at all. Then, there were the times when she did like something and that was her fallback sustenance until that one day I would fix it for her and she couldn’t stomach it ever again. Yeah it was a fun time.
Prolonged hospital stays. Unexpected complications. Going to Mayo Clinic when doctors in a major metropolitan area threw up their hands. Dealing with Doctors and hospitals when she was too weak to speak up. Just being her advocate out to and against the world. And I did it well.
Yes, I did it well…or as well as I or anyone I know could have…as well as anyone who was also being affected by the trauma could do. And yes, she/we made it through it. She now has a clean bill of health which in a cancer patient’s life means all is clear, but you will have lingering effects of the surgeries and chemo, and you will have continued exams and scans for years to come. But yes she is healthy again and back to work and getting back to her life.
I have been trying to get back to my life lately and it doesn’t seem to be working for me as well as it is for her. I’ve tried to figure it out. For nearly a year and a half, I have left much of my life behind because of this. Much of my regular activity and even man stuff around the house and yard were let go. I kept up the house, cleaning wise, along with the help of our adult children, but lawn maintenance, house maintenance and upkeep, and a number of other things that are a part of my regular life and routine were laid aside. Hobbies and interests were put aside too. Nothing got totally out of hand but nothing was really under control either. Why, because my life was her and her cancer, period. And now, all of a sudden—it seems like all of a sudden to me—it’s over. She’s well and I don’t have to hover and nurse and take care and listen for pain or breathing or groans. I don’t have to hold her hand and comfort or encourage her, or even take her temperature. I don’t have to go to sleep wondering if it’s another trip back to the ER. I don’t have to go to sleep wondering if I will wake to a morning without her.
And that’s all good. It’s great! But I’m left feeling lost and purposeless and empty. It was so intense and all consuming that I was fully given over to it and now it’s over. I wondered at this feeling for quite a while until it finally seemed to dawn on me. I have what seems to be a combination of a type of PTSD and Empty Nest Syndrome. I am left emotionally wacked by the experience while at the same time, my baby has left the nest. Her need for me has changed. We have a good relationship and realize our mutual need for each other, but that complete helpless dependency that was there is no longer and leaving it behind and shifting gears back to regular life seems hard for me. Like a parent, this is who I was and what I was about for a significant amount of time. “This is who I was.” Now I’m not. And I’m not sure what to do about it. I’ve found it hard to resume regular activities. She is doing a good job of reminding me that she doesn’t need that kind of help any more when I do start to hover, but in some ways I’m lost for the time being.
I suppose it will just take time to rediscover myself post-cancer caregiver. I suppose it will be a “recovery” type process for me. Maybe a little bit at a time my purpose, meaning and identity will recover and I will not feel empty but whole, complete, and myself again. With that, our relationship will hopefully recover, as well, from caregiver/patient to husband and wife partners. That would be cool.
Maybe what I need is a new hobby.