When Patient Becomes Caregiver

It was bound to happen at some point. You don’t prepare for it—you never do. But when my wife Laura was told the newly discovered lump in her breast was growing quickly and needed to be removed immediately, our roles as patient and caregiver were violently upended. Funny, I recently was featured on WebMD talking about, of all things, the importance of caregivers. Now, without warning, I was forced to become one. Gulp.

Breast cancer runs in Laura’s family. Her grandmother was diagnosed with it in her 40s. Her wonderful mother tragically passed away from it at the age of 66. This was no joke. And that was a problem. As I mentally cataloged all of my potential skills as a caregiver, which took all of a few seconds, I concluded that my greatest caregiving asset was… humor. Jeezo.

I wasn’t going to relieve the stress of her lumpectomy surgery with lame bosom jokes (What did one boob say to the other boob? You are my breast friend. Groan.) Physical humor was out, too, because if I accidentally hurt myself joking around—something I am quite capable of—Laura surely would assign me the task of purchasing a doghouse… when we don’t have a dog. (At which point, I probably would have brought up some silly trivia about the phrase “in the doghouse” and how it was a type of sleeping shelter on an old sailing ship that was notoriously uncomfortable. And then I’d pick out sheets that matched the living room couch and make myself comfortable.)

Fortunately I discovered my caregiving skillset was deeper than I anticipated. Maybe not so much in the physical sense—other than rewrapping her dressings and getting the occasional glass of water—but I could support her in so many other ways. And yes, I did manage to make her smile without getting into too much trouble, although getting her to agree to be photographed prior to surgery was a bit of a stretch.

How did it all go? Swimmingly. My biggest challenge as caregiver was making sure I didn’t fall onto her needle-prepped chest kissing her good luck before the surgery. From there things just got easier. Her recovery was swift and she was a perfect patient. Ah, but of course—she must have learned from the best! Please note that previous sentence drips of sarcasm.

And the tumor? Benign. It feels so good to breathe again.


Elaine Montier said…
I am so happy for you both! You are both a part of this misfit community and appreciated very much.
Anonymous said…
I'm relieved for you both. Thanks for all your support. Wawa
Anonymous said…
Thank goodness!
Cheers and good luck to both of you
Anonymous said…
Phew. Great news!
Francie said…
Very happy for you both! Sounds like you handled it like champs!
Dave Bexfield said…
Thanks guys! I think I handled it pretty well, but Laura shouldn't scare me like that. I'm the one who scares! And I do it well. :)
Anonymous said…
Glad to hear everything turned out okay, wishing you both recover quickly.

Dave Bexfield said…
Thanks Larry. Laura got in her first good workout since surgery, and she feels great!
Anonymous said…
Phew! Glad to hear you're both ok!
Unknown said…
Hi Dave! I’m glad that the tumor was benign. Your post talks about something very important about caregiving. Truly, it’s essence goes beyond providing care in the physical sense, but it’s about having a true connection between caregiver and care recipient. Thanks for sharing your experiences in this blog. I hope you inspire more people.

Also, we featured this in our Weekly Digest. You can read it here https://www.ltcoptions.com/weekly-digest-financial-success-and-ltc-alternatives/. Thanks!
My Odd Sock said…
Very good news indeed!
Even as MSers, we have the strength to also be caregivers.
By the way, no doghouse for you--I'm already here and there's not enough room for the two of us.
Dave Bexfield said…
MOS, thanks. As for the doghouse, we can probably adapt it to fit both of us. And while we are doing renovations, we may as well make it accessible.
Trish said…

Dave and fellow MSers,

I think having the MSer become the caregiver happens more often than most people know. My husband, J. has been my care giver after my last kidney stone removal procedures. I did not have too much pain because they were preventative. Humor and Netflix are what gets us through it. He has never almost fallen on me.

Fortunately I am able to care for myself pretty well as I have a long history with kidney stones. I have had pretty much everything done to me that is possible. I also have never thrown up during an attack.

I never really thought my kidney disease that causes stones to form was good. However, J. had no problems with me accepting the MS and invisible disability. I am more compassionate than most people and I have been hospitalized and/or had an outpatient procedure in every decade since the 1960ies.

J. has had to take me on a tour of ER rooms during rush hour in ABQ. From the NE heights to the NW heights.. He also has had to bring me food and wash my wound. We can manage pretty well for 2 disabled persons. My disability is invisible too. I don't get really sick often,about once every 5 or 10 years but when I do the treatment can be it's own disaster. A lot of the stuff that happens is hard to predict in advance.

I would have offered to help you and Laura while she was recovering.
J. and I have had so many medical issues, where we had to care for each other we both can wear the caregiver hat. If you live where you use to near Cottonwood Mall, I am about 15 to 30 minutes away.

Dave Bexfield said…
Trish, I'm finally getting around to thanking you for the post. Good to hear you both take such good care of each other.

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