Guest Post: Caring for the Love of My Life: Our Cancer Story

February 3, 2013

The following is a guest post from Cameron Von St James about caregiving and his experiences as a caregiver with his wife’s cancer.

The year of 2005 was unforgettable to my family. It was the year that my wife Heather was diagnosed with cancer. She had malignant pleural mesothelioma. That day, I became her caregiver, and life changed for us in many ways. I wasn’t ready to become a caregiver right away. It took a lot of patience and understanding. During this time, there was another life that I was also in charge of. Our newborn girl Lily had been welcomed into the world just three months before Heather’s diagnosis. While we had been preparing for a happy first Christmas, everything came to a shocking halt.

I didn’t really know where to start as a caregiver for someone with cancer. However, my journey began right as we left the doctor’s office. The doctor told us about mesothelioma, and laid out some options for treatment. There were three choices: a local university hospital, a regional hospital that offered excellent services but had no mesothelioma program, or a doctor from Boston who specialized in mesothelioma named David Sugarbaker. I remember looking at my wife wanting to know what she thought, but neither of us could speak at first. I didn’t know what to do but I had to speak up. I declared, “Get us to Boston!” This was one of the first decisions that I remember making as a new caregiver for my wife.

The next months were chaotic at best. There were many times that daily life seemed impossible. Heather and I had been working full time jobs before the diagnosis, but now we were down to a single income. I had to spend time with my wife when she went in for treatment, but I also needed to make travel arrangements and arrange child care for Lily, all on top of my full time work schedule. The list of things that I had to do each day grew and grew. I faced the idea that we were going to lose everything because of my inability to provide. The stress on me grew with the surmounting medical bills and responsibilities. I couldn’t ever show my weaknesses because I had to be strong for my wife and daughter, but still, this was one of the most difficult experiences of my life.

However, we were blessed to have help from our family and friends. They turned everything around during the darkest hour. I can’t ever fully thank everyone who helped us during this difficult time, but it’s definitely what saved me and my family from ruin. Being a caregiver for someone with cancer is a full-time job, mentally and physically. It’s difficult, and oftentimes, decisions that you don’t want to make are unavoidable. It was the toughest thing that I had to face, and it’s something that I will always remember. Now I am grateful to have a happy, normal life with my family and despite everything, Heather was able to beat mesothelioma. She is now a cancer-free mommy and still the love of my life. We hope that by sharing our story, we can inspire others in their own battles with cancer.

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