About 5 years ago, this husband and wife came in and while Bob worked on her new wig, I noticed her husband in the waiting room with his head down and his hands over his face. Now anyone who knows us knows that we consider AJ's Wigs as a ministry, so I did what I would do for most families. I went into the waiting room, put my hand on his shoulder, and said, “It's going to be ok”. He raised his head, looked at me, and said: ”Are you kidding, I can't wait for the bixxh to die”. I couldn't believe my ears! I honestly thought he was kidding. In shock, I said, “What?”. He repeated his words. I got up, grabbed him by the shoulders and threw him out of the salon! Outside, I told (yelled, to be honest) at him that no matter what, he had a God-given responsibility to love his wife to the end, no matter what trouble was in their relationship. I went back into the salon and asked God to forgive him. I didn't know their history, nor was it any of my business except to pray for both of them. She had only a few months left, and here her husband couldn't wait to get rid of her?! Normally, I wouldn't mention something like this in a blog, but it seemed to me to be the perfect experience to set up the love, commitment and just plain devotion most families have for each other showing the opposite of what this one man was like.
It is well known throughout our community that Bob, the owner of AJ's Wigs, is my life partner. We have been together for 23 years, and it is also widely known, that we have fought cancer with Bob, so I feel I, and our volunteers, are in a position to minister to families. That's what this blog is truly about. Cancer, just like HIV, is not, for the most part, a death sentence. With leaps and bounds being made in fighting cancer, we like to think you live with cancer, not die from it.
With the world full of fear, bad politics, terrorist's,hate and discord, in our business it is so refreshing to see the love and support that most families and friends have for our clients. I remember one of our new clients, about a year ago, had an appointment with our salon. At the time she had made the appointment, she said that she would have a few people coming in with her. She had breast cancer and was in her early 40's. She came in with 4 people about 20 minutes before her appointment, but by her actual appointment time, there were literally 25 people there to support her. We broke out the coffee, and always having refreshments and homemade baked goods on hand for clients and guests, carried the tray from person to person. It felt like a party! I told her how lucky she was to have such a wonderful support system and her friend said to me, “Ever heard the expression 'TIL DEATH DO YOU PART'?” I, of course answered yes. Her mother, with a gleam in her eye, remarked that that was how they all felt.
Bob and I have had a great support system throughout the years Bob was fighting through cancer. In fact, I sometimes think that if it weren't for our family, clients and friends, we would not have made it. In my previous blog, You Have 6 Months To Live.. Get Your Affairs In Order, I brought you through what it's like to hear those words as a patient. But what about your wife? Husband? Sons and daughters, friends, etc. Their whole world changes as well. They can't always understand what you're going through, but can hold your hand as you get sick. I remember the feeling of being so helpless when Bob was sick. It was so frustrating most of the time because there was nothing I could do. There is also a process family and friends go through, and one of the steps I went through is trying to ignore the fact that Bob was sick and I might lose the love of my life. After all, ignorance is bliss isn't it?
Another stage that your family and friends go through is to smother you with attention. Every time you move wrong, or sneeze,or are tired from the treatments, they want to call 911. And yet another stage is not wanting to leave you alone for two seconds. Your family and friends almost become “caregivers”. This may mean helping with daily activities such as going to the doctor with you or making meals. It could also mean coordinating services and care. Or it may be giving emotional and spiritual support.
All of a sudden, family and friends are thrown into another roll. A son or daughter might become the parent or caregiver, or a friend is catapulted into being a caregiver. In all the hullabaloo, a parent may have trouble accepting help from their children. Whatever your roles are now, accepting the changes may be tough. It's very common to feel confused and stressed at this time. If you can, try to share your feelings with others or join a support group. Or you may choose to seek help from a counselor. After all, being a caregiver, holding down a full-time job, taking care of the home and kids, on top of being a caregiver, can be stressful to the point that even you, the caregiver, may become ill.
Care givers need care givers
Many caregivers say that, looking back, they took too much on themselves. Or they wish they had asked for help sooner. Take an honest look at what you can and can't do. What things do you need or want to do yourself? What tasks can you turn over or share with others? Be willing to let go of things that aren't essential for you to do. Some examples may be:
Helping with chores such as cooking, cleaning, shopping, or yard work
Taking care of the kids or picking them up from school or activities
Driving your loved one to appointments or picking up medicines
Being the contact person to keep others updated
Accepting help from others isn't always easy. When tough things happen, many people tend to pull away. They think, "We can handle this on our own." But things can get harder as the patient goes through treatment. You may need to change your schedule and take on new tasks. As a result, many caregivers have said, "There's just too much on my plate."
I was talking to one of our client's husband a few weeks ago, who looked haggard and exhausted. I sat with him and heard what he was going through; not only being caregiver to his wife, but their home, his business and their four kids. He told me that he feels sick all the time and tired all the time. I asked him what other support system they had, and he told me that he and his wife decided not to tell anyone about her condition. I suggested that maybe it was about time because as a caregiver, he needed to stay strong and ask for help. Sometimes people may not be able to help. This may hurt your feelings or make you angry. It may be especially hard coming from people that you expected help from. You might wonder why someone wouldn't offer to help you. Some common reasons are:
Some people may be coping with their own problems.
Some may have a lack of time.
They are afraid of cancer or may have already had a bad experience with cancer. They don't want to get involved and feel pain all over again.
Some people believe it's best to keep a distance when people are struggling.
Sometimes people don't realize how hard things really are for you. Or they don't understand that you need help unless you ask them for it directly.
Some people feel awkward because they don't know how to show they care.
If someone isn't giving you the help you need, you may want to
talk to them and explain your needs. Or you can just let it go. But
if the relationship is important, you may want to tell the person how
you feel. This can help prevent resentment or stress from building
up. These feelings could hurt your relationship in the long run.
I told him that he must create a support system so that he would
be able to fulfill the roll that he promised his wife without running
him ragged. Fast forward a few weeks when she came in to have a small
repair done on her wig, and I noticed he looked fantastic. He thanked
us for our advice and said that he had not only NOT made a meal for
the family because family and friends were bringing over diners and
lunches, but that he hadn't done a lick of laundry as his wife's best
friend had taken over that chore.
So you see? In the best of times or the worst of times, never be afraid to ask for help, because after all, life time relationships are... til death do us part.