Sunday, March 31, 2013

Guest Post for Asbestos Awareness Week!

A few weeks ago I was contacted asking if I had considered having a guest blogger. He wanted to share a different side of the cancer spectrum, the side of caregiver. With my blog still getting many hits per day of people stumbling upon it or still following along, it seemed to be a good chance to touch on the role that many husbands play as caregiver and supporter throughout.  His story is below:


My Caregiving Experience: A Painful Time of Growth 

The most devastating moment of my life occurred on November 21, 2005. Heather, my wife, received a diagnosis of malignant pleural mesothelioma. Without any preparation, I was transformed into a caregiver in a moment. Only a few months earlier, we were blessed with the birth a baby girl, and we named her Lily. We could not have been happier to be new parents. We were entering the holiday season, but instead of celebrating, we were beginning down a long, difficult path to beat cancer. The process began in the doctor’s office. We both knew very little about mesothelioma, and we were given a choice of locations to find a specialist. However, Heather's silence spoke volumes; she was in shock and unable to make this decision. We had to choose between two nearby hospitals, which had no discernible programs for mesothelioma, and a mesothelioma specialist in Boston. His name was Dr. David Sugarbaker. I knew that if Heather had any chance of beating this disease, she would need the best care possible. I told the doctor, “Get us to Boston!” Over the next few months, a whirlwind of chaotic activity ensued. Our lives were completely transformed. Instead of being a two-income household, Heather stopped working altogether, and I scaled back to part time in order to keep up with my new responsibilities. I accompanied Heather to her medical appointments, made our travel arrangements to Boston and took charge of caring for Lily. I tried to be strong for my family, but I was quickly becoming overwhelmed and exhausted. I also feared losing my wife and becoming a homeless single parent. The stress and pressure caused me to dissolve into tears on several occasions. However, even in these moments of weakness I never let Heather see me down. I knew she needed me to be strong for her, and that’s exactly what I intended to be.

Over the following months, Heather underwent mesothelioma surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments in an effort to beat this terrible disease. Against all odds, she was eventually able to do just that. Today, seven years after her mesothelioma diagnosis, she remains healthy and cancer free.

I decided to return to school two years after the diagnosis. My time as a caregiver gave me the courage to pursue this dream of mine. I graduated with honors and was given the opportunity to speak at the ceremony. I never dreamed that such a devastating experience could help me change my priorities, manage my time and enhance the quality of my closest relationships. During my speech, I told my fellow graduates what my wife’s journey had taught me – that within each of us is the strength to accomplish incredible things, if we only just believe in ourselves and never give up hope for a better tomorrow.

If you would like to learn more about Heather and Cameron's story their blogs are listed below:

Thank you Cameron for sharing your story. It is always nice to hear a story of survival and strength!