By Bob McGee
Praise the Lord and hello to all of the readers of the Caregivers Corner. Thanks be to God that my wife Therese and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary in June. She is an amazing wonderful anointed woman of God. As we celebrate this milestone marriage anniversary, I am honored and privileged to share my journey as a caregiver for my wife.
“In Sickness and in Health” is a true commitment
50 years ago when we said “for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish”, we had no idea what the “sickness” part would demand of us. In January 2019, Therese’s cousin Alice passed away when her kidneys failed after years of relying on painkillers due to an injury. That same Summer, Therese decided to get her kidneys checked out as an abundance of caution. She was also on a lot of painkillers due to arthritis in both hips.
Initially, the doctor ran some tests and said things looked fine, but one of the labs showed some abnormal results. The doctor then ordered a follow-up CT Scan to make sure. Therese thought nothing about it until she was vacationing in Florida and her sister-in-law lectured her for not following up. After adhering to her advice, Therese got a follow-up CT scan that showed a grapefruit-size mass in her abdominal area. Our cancer journey had started.
The Gift in Simply Being There
It was through this experience that I realized the gift of just being there for someone as they navigate the myriad of doctor visits that come with a long-term illness. My wife only went to one doctor’s visit without me at the very beginning of our journey. I made it a priority to be at all others moving forward. The person can often be overwhelmed by the amount of information that the doctors and nurses provide, in addition to the sheer shock and grief of a diagnosis
We started recording the doctor visits on my phone so that we could keep track of all the information given to us by doctors. I would highly recommend this for any caregiver, as the recording will remind you of what is said, in case you miss something. Simply being there, many times, is the biggest support you can provide.
The importance of community
God prepared me for this journey with Therese. We had the privilege of being the caregivers for my father, who passed at 97, and my sister, who passed at 68. I chose to be very open regarding Therese’s health and asked everyone in our Faith community to be in prayer with us on this journey. Often I would send detailed text messages to our community of friends, many of whom we went to church with. Our church, the Apostolic Church of God, was wonderful to us. You really benefit by having a faith community in troubled times.
While many keep these circumstances private, I found healing in being very vocal about our trials. This opened the doors to an immense amount of love and support. As a caregiver, I would urge you to be open with those that you trust, as this can be God’s way of providing for your needs.
Our Cancer Journey
Our chemotherapy days were long. We arrived at the hospital at 7:00 am for treatment until early evening. The cycle continued for six rounds of treatment; two weeks to recover; one good week then treatment again. In the Summer of 2020, Therese had her first hip replacement, and within a week had compression fractures in her spine due to the massive doses of steroids during the chemotherapy. The MRI of her spine showed cancer had come back.
After the six rounds of chemotherapy, the doctors thought the cancer was in remission, but that it could also come back in 3 to 7 years. It was back in just six months. More treatments followed, which included a stem cell transplant that required 3 weeks of hospitalization. The stem cell transplant slowed the cancer but did not cure it, and CarT immunotherapy treatment, which was 24-day hospitalization soon followed. I stayed with her in the hospital with her for both treatments. It was during those moments I learned how you can sleep on a hospital bed, but still be thankful.
For my wife to go from being this incredibly capable, competent person, who is way smarter than me, to someone who can’t lift her head off the pillow without help was a difficult adjustment. By God’s grace, Therese was declared in remission 10 months ago. Although she is not as strong as she was before cancer, I thank God that she is slowly regaining her strength
Although it has not been easy, I am learning to give back some of the things I took over when she couldn’t do anything. My wife has always been fiercely independent and resourceful, and I know that giving her as much of that as possible means the world to her.
Support your medical staff, so they can support you
I cannot overstate the loving care we received at the University of Chicago Medical Center from the medical staff. While each of these groups of professionals gets paid for their work, the money they are paid doesn’t begin to compare with the services they render, as well as the love and the special attention they give to patients. I tried to do everything I could to make their work easier and give them more time for other patients. I took the position that I can take care of everything for Therese except give her medications. They are willing to help you, but you should try to support them also as much as you can. Thank you goes a long way and it’s a very important gift to give to others.
Keep close to God, always!
Taking care of a sick, loved one changes a lot of things. But your faith and your relationship with Jesus Christ should remain unchanging. Despite the discouragement, you must pray even more, hope more, and realize the prayers of others for your situation sustain you more. How you act out your love, your faith, and your relationship with Jesus Christ takes on a whole new dimension.
While being a caregiver, self becomes something you don’t think about. But the reality is that it really is about you. It is about making yourself available to give what you don’t know you have and to be what you need to be in the moment.
We have so much to be thankful for. June 2nd was our 50th wedding anniversary and now we are believing God for what is next for his glory.
Continue to follow our caregiving blog series at https://www.drjeanneporterking.com/caregivers-corner/