When my wife, Heather, began her battle with cancer, I was fortunate enough to be able to be with her for her surgery in Boston. But when cancer strikes a family, life unfortunately isn’t put on pause. Having to return to work while she went through her recovery process left me feeling helpless. However, I quickly learned that just because I was far away, didn’t mean I couldn’t still care for her in a meaningful way.
Cameron Von St. James
Husband of Mesothelioma Survivor Heather Von St. James
Caregiving is a role I don’t always identify with, although I should because I have been one many times. From caring for my elderly parents dealing with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, a stroke and more, to my wife’s mesothelioma diagnosis just three months after the birth of our only child, I have been caregiving for the last ten years. While I easily consider myself both a husband and a father, I don’t always think of myself as a caregiver. Caregiving felt natural – I was just caring for family.
I always look forward to conferences, to me, they’re like a family reunion. They’re a reunion you look forward to. They’re a reunion with the cool relatives you actually like to spend time with. My wife Heather, a mesothelioma cancer survivor, calls conferences cancer camp-- like summer camp, but without the canoeing and backpacking. No matter what we call it, Heather and I always have a great time and make new friends.
Lung Leavin’ Day began as a way to deal with stress and as a way to cope with mesothelioma. The idea of Lung Leavin’ Day came just after Heather’s second biopsy, which confirmed her mesothelioma diagnosis. At a time when we should have been celebrating the start of our family and getting to know our new baby daughter Lily, who was born 3 months earlier, we were in a hospital far from home fighting cancer. There was a lot to be stressed about.
Talking about cancer is never easy, but talking about cancer with your children may be one of the most difficult conversations to think about having. It’s one of those things no parent plans on having to deal with.
Even without a mesothelioma cancer diagnosis, life can be hectic and stressful at times. Trying to balance family, career, and social obligations can be challenging. Add to that unexpected events like transportation problems or a minor illness and the stress levels can rise. Add a cancer diagnosis and life can be overwhelming! The chaos after the diagnosis is one of the first challenges most caregivers face. You may find yourself not knowing what to do or how to cope with all the choices and challenges confronting you. Here are a few tips to help deal with the chaos and stress of being a new caregiver.
Becoming a caregiver started the moment my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer. Like many others, my wife and I were not prepared for the news she had cancer. A little over three months prior to my wife’s cancer diagnosis, we had celebrated the birth of our only child, our daughter Lily. We had assumed we would be settling down to our new lives as parents, not dealing with a cancer diagnosis. The diagnosis shattered our lives.
Originally, I intended to write this post on a different subject. I had finished the article and asked my wife to proofread it. The article was about a trip I took when my wife and daughter were on vacation. I had taken some time to myself to cross an item off my bucket list while they were gone. My wife read the article and then commented she was glad I took the trip. She pointed out that too many caregivers do not take time out for themselves; they get so wrapped up and consumed caring for loved ones diagnosed with cancer that they fail to take care of their own needs. Which got me thinking – what does it mean to be a caregiver?