Thursday, April 4, 2013

Asbestos Awareness Week!! Post from a new friend / caregiver

I have been holding on to this for awhile now. This journey is about Zack, why would I post something for someone I've never even met? Because they asked! Part of why "we" are here, is to share and if one person can benefit from this, then they will find his post. Cameron, this is for you, your wife and precious daughter!!

Caring for My Wife Through Her Cancer Journey

On the 21st of November, 2005, my wife Heather and I received a devastating piece of news that has affected our family to this day.  I will always remember the fact that I learned that I would become responsible for the safety, comfort and security of a person who was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Just prior to the diagnosis, Heather and I had our first and only child, Lily, and were preparing to celebrate the holidays with our family.  All of the joy and excitement that came with our holiday preparations for our daughter’s first Christmas was ripped away when we found out that my wife had cancer.

The weight of caregiver status began even before Heather and I left the doctor's office where she was first diagnosed. During the initial discussion, our family physician informed us about mesothelioma and the treatment options that were available. Our physician gave us three choices: a local university hospital, a regional hospital that had a great program but not a mesothelioma specialist, and a mesothelioma program in Boston that had a world-renowned specialist – Dr. David Sugarbaker. After we learned of our options, I waited silently for my wife to say something, but I quickly realized that she was still paralyzed with shock and fear.  I looked back to our doctor and said, “Get us to Boston!”

During the following two months, our lives swiftly dissolved into chaos, and our daily routines were quickly shattered. Heather and I had previously both worked full time, but now Heather would no longer be able to work, and I had to scale back my hours in order to provide Heather with the care that she needed. As a full-time project, I took over my wife's health care and worked hard to ensure flights were booked for appointments in Boston, hotels were secure, and our daughter had someone to take care of her while Heather and I were gone, all on top of trying to provide for my family with my job.

Heather and I traveled to Boston shortly after the holidays for the first real leg of her treatment: a radical and invasive procedure called an extrapleural pneumonectomy.  The surgery went smoothly, and as soon as she was well enough to travel, we left Boston and Heather went to South Dakota to stay with her parents while she recovered and prepared for the next phase of treatment, chemotherapy and radiation. I returned home to go back to work, as the bills didn’t stop once the cancer arrived.  Unfortunately, we would have to remain apart for two full months while she recovered.

After our encounter with asbestos, it took my wife Heather and I years to overcome our situation and return to a normal life. We quickly learned how to deal with stress, fight cancer and balance the most important things in our lives. Shortly after my wife's cancer diagnosis, I would never have guessed that I would be in the happy situation that I am in today. I also learned the power of hope, and that everything is possible with belief. As a result of our experience with asbestos and mesothelioma, my wife and I have forged a stronger bond and created a loving home for our young daughter.  We hope that our story can be a source of hope and comfort to all those currently battling cancer today.

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