A Caregiver’s Story

By Cameron of Roseville, MN

After my wife’s mesothelioma diagnosis, I went through a lot as her spouse and caregiver. My wife has often asked what was it like for me, but I’ve found that it is difficult to put into words the experience of a cancer caregiver. I hope that through this article, I can share more with both her, and any readers who might be struggling through a similar situation, in the hopes that they can take some lessons away from my experience.

Smiles, laughter, and joy were all words used to describe our feelings three months earlier. We were elated with the birth of our little Lily, our first and only child. We were thrilled and excited to begin our new lives as parents, and optimistic about what the future held for our new little family. However, all of our happiness was stripped away in an instant when we got Heather’s diagnosis. The doctor said “mesothelioma,” and our lives were changed forever.

I could not grasp the idea of my wife having cancer, and quickly felt as if I would break down from the overwhelming emotion of the news. The only thing that brought me back to reality was the doctor’s questions about the medical choices we would have to make in the coming days and weeks. It would be the first of many times that we would be forced to make impossible decisions in the face of emotional turmoil.

My emotions soon changed from worry to anger. I was angry with everyone, and I would lash out at them with profanity. I was furious at the world for putting my new family in this cruel and unfair situation, and wanted to be able to blame someone. Eventually, I realized that anger would not solve anything, and I knew my wife and my daughter needed me to be strong. My wife depended on me to be her support, and I began to understand that the last thing she needed was to see just how scared I really was. From that moment on, I did my best to control my emotions and be nothing but a source of hope and optimism for my family.

Despite my best efforts, I quickly became overwhelmed with all of my new responsibilities, for which I was caught completely unprepared. I had to work full time, take care of my wife, my daughter, our pets, our house, arrange for travel and medical appointments; the list seemed endless. I quickly learned that I needed to prioritize and create a routine to help me get through all these tasks. Even more importantly, I learned the true value of a strong and loving community. Without the help and support of our incredibly generous friends and family, I don’t know how we would have ever made it through. I will be forever grateful to each and every one of them.

By far the most difficult time during Heather’s battle was the two month period immediately following her mesothelioma surgery in Boston. She, along with Lily, stayed with her parents in South Dakota. I remained behind to work and take care of our home. It was a miserable feeling to not be able to see them, but we both knew that I could not provide her with the care that she needed and work at the same time. It was without a doubt the most difficult decision that cancer forced us to make.

Once during this two-month period, I decided to drive 11 hours through snow and overnight to see them. I left on Friday night, made it on Saturday morning, and I had to leave again on Sunday morning. It was a short visit, with a lot of grueling travel on either side, but it was worth every second to see my family.

Being away from them was so difficult, but I do not have any regrets. We made the choices that would benefit our family the most. Cancer forced us to make many impossible decisions, but we learned that we could not regret or second guess ourselves. Instead, we learned to take comfort in the fact that we retained the ability to make decisions at all. It gave us some level of control over a situation that oftentimes seemed completely beyond our control.

This time was indeed a learning experience. I learned to be thankful for friends and thankful for being able to make choices. After six years, Heather is still here and healthy, despite the odds initially against her. I share my story to give others hope when they are faced with difficult situations, and I hope that those currently struggling through a seemingly impossible situation can take some lessons from my experience.

Cameron and Heather live in Roseville, MN with their daughter Lily, who is now seven years old. Heather is still cancer-free to this day. Cameron and Heather devote much of their time to working with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance to raise awareness and provide support for mesothelioma victims.


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