“Your wife’s cancer has returned.”

What just happened???  In June (2020) we heard good news after my wife’s annual mammogram – all clear.  The chances her breast cancer of 2006 would return became more remote with each passing year.  Then came the new diagnosis two months later from my wife’s primary Doctor.

The scans showed that cancer had returned in full force evidenced by lesions in various places in her body.  The oncologist clearly stated that the cancer was terminal, and there was no cure.  However, the doctor provided us options that could control and manage the cancer.

Within days, my wife’s steadily increasing pain levels and decreasing mobility throughout the summer became severe pain with very, very limited mobility.  From being an active and engaged person, her activities of daily living changed dramatically.  Cancer forced her to focus on navigating challenging health issues and side effects as a result of medication and/or radiation treatments.

Housekeeping, lawn care, food service, medical transportation, laundry, pet care, physical therapy, chaplaincy services and other duties as assigned became the core of my unexpected day to day routines.

During those months of 24/7 “home care”, my mind often reflected upon soooooo many wonderful and amazing primary caregivers who made or are making such a wonderful 24/7 difference in the lives of residents and elders.  I thought about the thousands of residents and elders whom I have met throughout my career, and the 24/7 love and care they received or are receiving from their primary caregivers.

I thought of food service personnel who not only serve food but know what someone’s particular tastes are – such as cream or no cream in the coffee, apple juice or orange juice, and such.

I thought of the grounds maintenance team who did whatever needed to be done “whatever the weather” to keep the grounds not only beautiful but safe.

I thought of housekeepers who took time to know by name the people being served and to be willing to share or listen to a story despite their demanding work load.

I thought of personal care attendants who listen to the same conversation dozens of time as though it was the very first time.

I thought of physical therapists who delight in seeing a person experience the ability to walk just a few more steps than the previous day.

I thought of chaplains who not only minister to the person needing the care but to the primary caregiver who is often more at risk than anyone could ever imagine.

The examples could go on and on as dozens and dozens of faces of amazing caregivers came to mind during my months of caregiving to my wife.

Throughout my health care and long-term care adventures, I’ve sought to say thank you to these wonderful primary care servants.  I watched them as I walked the halls of a community where I had direct responsibility, one that I was visiting related to accreditation, or whatever hat I happen to be wearing on any particular day.

With my recent firsthand experience on a 24/7 basis of being the primary caregiver for my wife, words cannot begin to once again express my thanks and admiration for those who provide a “cup of cold water” to people being served particularly in times like these.

This past November, my wife began to experience significant reduction in pain and steady increases in mobility.   No bones lit up on her PET scan this past January.  We are seeing the cancer markers going down closer to the normal range.  We are so grateful to God that the lesions are gone and that she is making steady improvement as we continue our journey with cancer.