Saturday, June 29, 2013

Guest Post - Cameron - My Cancer Journey as a Caregiver for My Wife

In life, we often come across individuals who have been through incredible things.  Some of the stories are exciting, laughable, memorable while some are sad, frightening, heartbreaking.  Through this blog, I have hoped my journey provides people with a whole venue of emotions, ranging from laughter to inspiring.  A few months ago, I was contacted by someone who had come across my blog.  He shared the journey he has been through and its one that I am greatly touched by.  You see, being the patient/survivor is tough, but I think being the caregiver is even tougher and one that I am so grateful for in my own life.  I find it hard to put into words what it means to me to be surrounded by so much love, support and encouragement as I recovered from my brain tumor.  I will never understand what they each went through during those first few hours, days & weeks while my future seemed so uncertain.  I can think of five words to say: Thank You & I Love You! 

Here's Cameron's article below.  


My Cancer Journey as a Caregiver for My Wife

I will never forget November 21, 2005. This was the date of my wife, Heather's cancer diagnosis. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma, a very rare and extremely deadly form of cancer. I became her caregiver during this time, and I never expected to learn any of the lessons that came with it. Just when we thought everything was perfect for our family, things changed in an instant. Her diagnosis came only three months after the birth of our first and only child, Lily.

Becoming a caregiver began right when I learned of Heather's illness. We went to the doctor's office together. She had been feeling ill for many weeks, but we had no idea that this was going to be the result. When the doctor said mesothelioma, Heather simply froze. I didn't know what to do either, but I wasn't going to let my wife's treatment wait. As the doctor told me about our options, I knew the only way that Heather was going to beat this thing was with someone who know more about mesothelioma than anyone else. There was a specialist in Boston named Dr. David Sugarbaker. I could only hope that this man would be able to help Heather, as I turned to the doctor and told him to get us to Boston.

After her diagnosis, nothing was the same. Our plans for Lily’s first Christmas went out the window, and we began focusing on helping Heather heal. It was too difficult to be happy knowing that something so violent was happening inside of Heather's body. I did the best that I could on most days to help her. I was also working and taking care of Lily. She was still a newborn. My fears overwhelmed me thinking of what could happen to my family. I was afraid of losing everything and becoming widowed and homeless with my daughter. However, none of this was going to go away. I had to face what was coming and be strong for Heather. Even though I had breakdowns and moments of doubt, I knew I had to be strong for my family.

Help could not have come any sooner. Family, friends and people we didn't even know started to help us. I have never been able to fully thank all of the people who reached out to us during this difficult time. If someone offers to help, let them help you. This was one of the greatest lessons that I had to learn. I couldn't take on everything on my own, and had to let go of my stubborn pride. There were many people out there who wanted to contribute to Heather getting well.

There's nothing easy about being a caregiver for someone with cancer. A caregiver experiences so many emotions at once while also showing nothing on the outside but love and tenderness. For me, it was the toughest challenge that I have had yet in my journey. In life, you can walk away from a job or school, but when someone close to you is hurting, when they reach out for help, no matter what you are feeling, no matter how bad it gets, you have to be there. When I had bad days filled with doubts and when things fell into havoc, I sometimes found it hard to go on. I never gave up though, and that is another important lesson. You don't give up on your family or the hope that there will be a better day to come.

Those were the darkest times, but even in that darkness, I remembered a dream shared with my wife of holding our child together and raising her as the good parents we all try to be. Heather has been through so much. Her surgery, treatment and recovery have been shared with me. She is the strongest woman I know, and in the end she was able to defy the odds and beat this terrible disease. Today, over seven years since her heartbreaking mesothelioma diagnosis, we have a happy, healthy family. Now, we hope that by sharing our story of success over this terrible cancer, we can help inspire others in their own battles today.

Please feel free to visit to see a video they have made in Heather's own words.

Thank you Heather & Cameron for sharing your story with me, I am truly touched.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

How to be a Friend to a Friend in Crisis -Guest Post

Guest Post:

My treasured friend Bekah wrote this article on her blog and I was so touched by it that I wanted to share it. I love the helpful hints she offers as she is standing on the front lines COURAGEOUSLY fighting for her daughter Keira.  On her blog she shares her journey to understanding and accepting the diagnosis of CMV on her beautiful little girl.  I hope you gleam perspective from what she has shared and I know she'd welcome you to her blog so that you too can be an advocate for CMV. You can find her blog at
Her posts are incredible and I find myself blessed to call this incredibly strong woman my friend.  Be Blessed.

How to be a Friend to a Friend in Crisis: Preliminary thoughts and an invitation to discuss

Over the past nine months, I’ve been initiated into a whole new way of being. As author Emily Rapp said, I immediately had the sense that I needed to “make my world big” for the sake of my daughter and myself. The befuddling question of what to say or not say, do or not do when someone you know faces a tragedy is something we all face at one time or another. By experiencing the comforts that the community has provided and, in return, making myself available to others in times of need, this is what I have learned:

1.     Let them know how what they are going through affects you.
I have been surprised to find that the most uplifting thing has been simply being made aware that other people are thinking about us, want to know what’s going on, and feel connected to us in some way. Do not underestimate the value in that. A quick note or call saying that you’ve heard what’s happened and are wondering what it’s like and how things are going can go a long way in helping someone feel more secure.

2.     Be specific about how you can help.
In crisis, finding help and delegating people to help satisfy basic needs can be a full time job in itself. Resist the fear of offering something “silly” and make known what you’re actually willing to do. I can’t tell you how many times that’s helped me. For example: watch the kids, pick up my dry cleaning, pay for a week’s groceries, fill my gas tank, clean my toilets, fold my laundry, watch my dog, make some phone calls, let me take a nap, bring me a meal, etc. I’m much more likely to take you up on a specific offer than, for example, ask you to do my laundry if you’ve simply said, “Call me if you need anything.” Also, let me know the level of your availability and/or commitment. For example: Thursday afternoon, every Thursday afternoon, 6-8 am, next weekend, etc.

3.     Be there when the “crisis” is over.
The first few days and weeks are bubbling and exciting, always waiting for new progress and information to arise. However, the adjustment lasts far longer than the initial commotion. Let me know you’re there, even after 3 months, 6 months, when the help seems to be dissipating, but may still be needed.

4.     Don’t err on the side of caution
Too many friends have been so afraid to say “the wrong thing” that they say nothing. This, cumulatively, feels lonely. The most heartfelt and thoughtful messages I have received in the past months have been from distant relatives, friends, and acquaintances who are watching from afar.

5.     Ask questions.
I’m dying to talk about what’s happening in my new world. But I worry that you’re sick of hearing about it. When you ask the basic, “How are you?” or “How’s Keira?” I don’t know if you’re just being polite, or if you are interested to know about how I haven’t been sleeping well lately, or that I’m feeling bogged down by the minutiae of K’s therapies. Ask me what it’s like. What I need. How things have changed. How you can be involved.

6.     Tell me about you.
I do not want my world to close in and be narrow. In fact, I fear that. I want to hear what’s happening in your life. Too many friends resist telling me their news because “it’s nothing compared to what you’re going through.” Nah. It’s all relative. I mean that. The only way that I’m going to be annoyed about hearing the details of your most recent drama at work is if you express no interest in my life in return.

7.     Don’t forget the family.
Parents, spouses, and children are our go-to people. They are working overtime to bring us back to homeostasis. Ask how they are. Offer to help them. Realize they are affected, too.

8.     In regards to what to say/send/give, if it’s from your heart, do it.
What matters is that you’re sincere. You can never know what state of mind your friend is going to be in when he/she receives your gift or your words, but the effort itself means so much. For example, a cliché statement such as “blessing in disguise” could feel profoundly beautiful or disgustingly Pollyannaish, depending on the day. But the fact that you stepped into my world in whatever way you could is valuable.

Your turn. Please jump in. Repost this if you think it would be of interest to anyone you know. I know many of you who read my blog have experienced your own tragedies: injury, stroke, death in the family, miscarriage, etc. etc. Some of you may really disagree with my conclusions or you may have things to add. I want to hear it. What has helped you? What has not?

Posted by Rebekah 

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Stepping out of your comfort zone

What an idea! For those that know me, they'd agree that this isn't me. I thrive on comfort! The more comfortable I am with something, the more confident I'll be in doing it. Lately though, the winds have hanged slightly and instead of sprinting away from something new & scary, I'm holding my breath & jumping into it. Lets see if I can explain. I've always been the type of person that wanted to drag someone with me to something new, I always had to print out a map & if possible do a drive by if I was going somewhere new. I don't deal well with change, the unknown or uncertainty. After my tumor, hospitalization & recovery this became even more true. Not only did I worry about getting somewhere or doing something, but now I was worried to no end on how I'd be perceived. I felt like I always had to apologize for my deficits & explain what had happened. Most everyone I came in contact with we're gracious & accepting. Thank you Lord!!!! But as the years tick further away from that horrific time, I'm left with the question of what now? Sure, our expectation of what I'd be like has changed (for the better) over the years, but at some point, I need to move on. No longer can I play the victim of this. I need to buck up & push forward. And so I have. Within the last few weeks, I've done things that I didn't think would ever be possible without someone there to help me (just in case)! I've done things that seem fairly common to the average Joe, but to me it's so much more. To me, its extraordinary!!!! They are signs I'm still healing & changing. Praise God! I'll share a few of the things I've done recently and I hope you'll join me in celebrating! Thanks again for the love, support, encouragement & prayers. They have all so richly blessed my recovery and my life.

A few weeks ago, we traveled to Phoenix as Darren had a work conference. I'm not a pool person really, unless you count sunbathing on the chairs that encircle the pool. Zach is learning to swim and we brought the boys swim vests/jackets with us on vacation cause we were planning on lots of pool time. Ever since Zach was young, Darren has always been in the pool with him. Now was my chance... I took a leap of faith & waded into the pool water. My boys squealed with excitement and my husband had to pick his mouth off the floor from disbelief, I drug my boys around the pool, even with my healing broken hand. I was in with them almost every day we were gone. I even packed them up one morning & took them to the pool myself while Darren was in class. Victory!!!! Even had a bathroom emergency for one of the boys while we were there & handled that too.

In the pool with the boys ... yes, I left the stairs ;0)

at the pool, flying solo while Darren was in class

 Then we returned to Alaska for Zach's last week of preschool and the start of summer vacation. Already I've taken the boys to the store by myself multiple times, had a play date at a park, and taken treats to Darren's work several times. Most of those occurrences was my first time doing it by myself with both boys. It has been liberating & has allowed me to be more confident in myself & my boys. So blessed!!!!!

Mini Muffins for Daddy's work

kite flying

more kites

windy day fun

play date - Sam & Zach playing their version of tetherball

Kadin playing 

Zach playing 

Zach & Sam - King of the Mountain

Miss Sarah, Sam, Andrew & Zach on the rope bridge

Fun day with friends!

Crazy boys!!!