Cancer and caring. Do they mix?

This blog has been quiet recently. This is mainly because I’ve finished my treatment and I feel fine. My hair is growing apace, I am feeling very well, and have high hopes that the medics will sign me off later this year – at least for another year.

But I am also a carer. I took on this role for my husband nearly 10 years ago when my husband lost his sight during a hospital stay. Losing most of his sight, combined with the illness that took him into hospital, took a lot of the oomph out of my formerly energetic husband.

In the past 10 years he’s more or less been able to cope with his own personal stuff and my role has been restricted to cooking, cleaning, driving, doing all the housework. I sometimes think it’s what wives do anyway, but I’ve noticed over the years that he’s been relying on me more and more to take decisions, plan events, deal with household finances and generally look after more and more details of our life together.

During those years he was able to walk short distances, look after his garden (with help with the heavy work), do his voluntary work, and write (did I mention he was (is) a journalist and writing is like breathing for him?)

Three weeks ago he was rushed to hospital with severe abdominal pain. The medics have calmed that down, but he was so ill that he lost his ability to walk. It’s been slow, but he’s slowly getting back on his feet and I expect him home soon(ish).

Meantime I have been getting our house organised for the day he comes home, I had already had a downstairs shower fitted so that he doesn’t need to climb the stairs, but there are a few extra things such as grab rails in the loo that need to be installed before he comes home. My biggest problem at the moment is finding a couple of hefty blokes to move the heavy stuff around.

I have been spending many hours in the hospital. At first, I needed to be there to feed my husband – rather like you would feed a toddler. I was tempted to try the aeroplane trick to get him to eat the tasty morsels that the hospital (surprisingly) provides. But after nearly 3 weeks, he is feeding himself so I don’t need to be around at mealtimes, but I find I still am.

Having barely emerged from my own treatment I am now facing life looking after a lovely man who has, to an even greater extent, lost the ability to do many things that he used to do.

But I myself am still ‘under the doctor’ as it were. I do feel that this year has been a little unfair. True, we have enough money to deal with what’s necessary, but no matter, it’s still pretty stressful.

Today, while I was on the hospital ward, I met one of my chemo nurses from back in the early spring. He used to administer my chemo drugs. He pitched up in my husband’s ward today to borrow something. He remembered me and greeted me kindly. He was pleased to see my hair growing.

The point of this post is, I guess, to elicit empathy from people in the same situation. Having spent more than half of this year fighting cancer, I am spending the end of the year re-learning how to be a carer. There’s lots of help and support for us, and I will be drawing on it very soon.

I’m not looking for sympathy but would be very happy to hear your thoughts on the best way to combine caring with cancer. I recently decided to become vegetarian and have been eating super healthily. I try to go to the gym regularly, but even if I don’t get there I walk a lot. I see friends regularly and they keep me sane.

Over to you!

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3 thoughts on “Cancer and caring. Do they mix?

  1. My thoughts are that you can’t properly care for someone without looking after yourself too. It sounds like you’re doing that with healthy eating and exercise. Maybe think about a regular treat for yourself such as a massage or lunch out with a friend. Something to maintain your mental health as well as your physical health. And you definitely deserve it. X

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  2. I think Linnie’s said the most important thing. You have to be as selfish as you possibly can to make sure you’re looking after yourself *before* you can care for someone else. It’s like the oxygen mask on the plane thing. Put your own mask on first. And this applies even more if you’re dealing with cancer!

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