Caregiver, that is my title here at the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA) in Tulsa. Here at CTCA they treat caregivers as compassionately as the patients it is quite amazing. Nonetheless, this is a new title I have added to my repertoire. It’s a strange title I am proud to be a caregiver to my dad but I did not seek this title or eagerly await it like I did my other titles in life; wife, baby momma, or Professional Engineer. I have watched the utter grace many caregivers display here, it’s very inspirational and touching. I heard a caregiver talking to someone on the phone commenting how wonderful it made her feel to see all these men taking such loving care of their wives here, she is a caregiver to her husband.
I wish my dad could have his wife here taking care of him, not that I don’t want to, I just know he would feel so much more comfortable having his life partner go through this with him. Unfortunately Carol died three months ago herself from cancer, as I type that sentence the profound unfairness, whatever that means, but the unfairness of all this washes over me and soaks me to the bone. When my daughter says that anything is unfair I always quietly smile to myself at the uselessness of that statement. And yet I want to scream it as passionately as my daughter when I allow my thoughts to go there. By there I mean, why? why did they miss dad’s cancer when he first went to the Dr. complaining of prostate issues over a year before his cancer was diagnosed, why did Carol have to go through two strokes, open heart surgery, rehab and eventually chemo also from undiagnosed lung cancer just to die 3 months later from a third massive stroke? Why does dad have to fight this damn disease AND mourn the loss of his wife? Why can’t anyone seem to figure out a way to keep him from throwing up everything he eats and drinks? Ok I have gone “there” for long enough back to the present.
So I am a proud but reluctant caregiver. That sounds like a moniker on a plaque I could hang on my wall “World’s Best Proud But Reluctant Caregiver.” Quite an achievement, I don’t know the pride is slipping a bit. I guess I can’t help but look at these other caregivers here and wonder how are they holding up. Do they feel like they are doing a good job? How do you know when to push, when to step back, when to step in, when to encourage, when to cry, when not to cry? Ugh, there is no damn guideline to follow for this. Today a Dr. told me “you sound like a nurse” I told him I feel like a nurse what I wanted to add to that is I feel like a very poorly trained nurse with no experience, in other words I feel like a piss poor nurse.
The most challenging part of being a caregiver is that we are limited, we are flawed, yes we are human. You know when I earned my other titles there was a sense of accomplishment, like wow great job now you get to be a mom, you get to have a life partner, you are proficient in your profession. This caregiver title is a tough one you’re given this title before you feel you’ve earned it. I have to remember we are not life-givers or health-givers we give care to someone and some days that doesn’t feel like enough. But in reality it is not only enough, it is everything, it is just what is needed. Don’t worry dad I will take care of you….Ok even I know now it’s time to cry.