Patient Stories: Cancer & The Caregiver

If you’ve been around here long you know that my love of social media goes beyond tweeting pictures of the most adorable twins on the planet and talking #meded with others in the healthcare world, it extends into the world of patients and their stories. Social media is fun, it’s interesting, and it’s a good way to interact, but more importantly social media is a teacher. I’ve learned more about how to be a compassionate doctor by listening and interacting with patients who share their stories online than I ever could have learned from a textbook.

So, when Cameron contacted me and asked if he could blog about his experiences as a caregiver for his wife who has mesothelioma I was ecstatic. The chance for my readers to hear a story about how medicine doesn’t stop at the door to their clinic – invaluable.

Let me introduce you, this is Cameron, his gorgeous Mesothelioma-butt-kicking wife Heather, and their adorable daughter, Lily.

Cameron, Lily, and Heather

And here’s what he had to say about how becoming a caregiver for his wife in her fight with Mesothelioma gave him a new perspective and mission in life:

My wife, Heather, knows that I went through a great deal after she received her diagnosis of mesothelioma. Although I briefly told her about my experience, this information will show her, and anyone else currently struggling through a similar difficult situation, more about my emotions as I cared for her.

We were blessed with the birth of our daughter Lily three months before the devastating diagnosis. Instead of being able to celebrate such a joyful event, we were instead plunged into misgiving and trouble when the doctors gave their diagnosis. From that first moment, I had trouble imagining how our family would be able to get through this time.

While I mostly wanted to take time to process my emotions, the doctors required Heather and me to begin making important decisions regarding her healthcare and treatment. This was a small portion of what I could expect over the coming months, as I would continually be needed to make more choices that were demanding.

When I was able to process my emotions, I found myself full of vexation, frustration and uncertainty. I displayed these emotions outwardly in much profanity. I was only able to curb this when I remembered that my wife and daughter needed me to be their steady support. While I certainly failed at times, I always tried to be positive for my family.

Another part of the process for me was learning how to deal with such a large number of tasks. Besides work, I also had to care for my family and pets and coordinate traveling schedules. This caused me a great deal of stress in the beginning, but I soon found that tackling one important task at a time was vital. In addition, I readily accepted the help of family and friends who graciously came to our aid during this time when I do not believe that I could have made it by myself.

The hardest time was the two months when Heather and Lily were staying in South Dakota with Heather’s parents. Heather took this time to rest after her surgery and to prepare for further mesothelioma treatments. However, I was only able to see my family once during this period.

The weekend that I visited was a snowy one. In fact, I had to wait out part of the 11-hour drive in my car as I waited for the snowplows to clear the roads. Once I arrived in South Dakota, I had a little over one day with my family before I had to return to work.

I readily admit that while the decision to be apart was hard, it was completely necessary for all of us. I needed to work while Heather needed to rest. I see this, as well as all the other exacting choices that we made, without any dissatisfaction because they were vital to Heather’s health. Through all of our struggles, Heather is still here and still healthy over six years later. I hope that our story can be a source of hope and help to those currently battling cancer, as well as those battling alongside them.