As many of you know, the Month of November was National Caregiver month. The Chris Elliott Fund, since then, has been posting several great books and/or tips for Caregivers to read. I believe we are on Post #9 and have planned a total of 15 posts on this subject. It is in this spirit that I write this BLOG post.
For the last several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on my past experience as a caregiver for my late husband, Chris Elliott. Boy, I can truly say, this was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do so far during my 53 years. To read a bit more on how I managed this while still raising our two young children, please read “Chris’ Story”.
Young families where the Dad has brain cancer has been what I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. The Chris Elliott Fund and I have been involved recently in many brain cancer cases where there are young children involved and typically, it is the man in the family that has brain cancer and his wife also works outside of the home. I was thinking about this aspect of caregiving this morning while listening to several phone calls that had come in over the weekend from women whose husbands have brain cancer. Typically, they have had a seizure and or surgery and at the present time, they are unable to drive. The calls lately have been centered around getting 2nd/3rd opinions and IMMEDIATE ACCESS to advanced treatment, driving the patient to/from work and medical or legal related appointments, etc. This morning I started wondering how does a women, who is a mother, wife and who also works outside the home do it all when her husband has been diagnosed with brain cancer? How do these women manage it all? How do they carry on as a “Mother”, as a “Wife” and as an “Employee”? The emotions related to this topic are real and they are scary and the logistics and management skills required to manage this scenario are quite extraordinary. These women have my utmost and full respect. This particular experience in a way, makes us “sisters”.
I know and understand what drives these women – they are determined to find a cure for their husband’s brain cancer and God only knows where they get the strength and energy…actually, we do know; it is their love for their husbands and their children that drives them and gives them the necessary energy, strength and courage to continue on and to “muster up the ability to keep being strong for their family and to keep seeking out any and all possible treatments to save their loved one’s life”. It is also their fear that keeps them going. It is a very scary time and truthfully, the stress that comes out of this situation does make one age quickly and other health problems can arise out of the stress these women are put under. These women, my friends, deserve our utmost respect and our help in navigating through the fight of their lives. I am working on a new FACT SHEET that will address this very real need and hope to have it published by the end of March 2015. I will share it here as well as on our website and would love to have a gathering in our Community Center at our Brain Cancer Patient Support Services & Call Center in Redmond, WA. I will keep you posted.
I can tell you from personal experience as well as from all of the experience I have working with these women and their personal stories, that the cheerful attitude and the smile they have on their face is there because they have to have it. If they did not, they would break down and cry for all the things their family may lose, such as the father of their children, the love of her life, the life and future that may not come to be. No matter how great the support system is that these women have, they are scared and are already mourning the life they used to have because the new life is all about doctor appointments, logistics related to who is going to drive the kids to school, to practice, who is going to pick up the prescription, who, who, who, who. The answer usually is the mother…the wife… the woman who loves the brain cancer patient.
I don’t know how I did it 14 years ago and I most definitely don’t know how I would do it now. I want all of us to remember to help these women. These women are proud and they are strong and they feel they have to be strong and to take care of their family and their loved one. I want us to remember to “understand this” while at the same time, figuring out ways to help these women. It is a fine line as they don’t want to feel like they need help. I want all of us to figure out ways we can help these women, while at the same time, help their families as well as the brain tumor patient. I want these women to feel the love and support of not only others but also the love and support of the Chris Elliott Fund.
I am seeking ways we can support these women together. Please contact me with your ideas on how WE can help the Caregiver with their loved one, their family and their own health during this very demanding period of time.
Sending my Healthy & Happy Holiday Wishes to Each of You.
Dellann Elliott Mydland, Founder & President
The Chris Elliott Fund