Thursday, November 8, 2012

November is awareness ...

Awareness sometimes is just reality biting you in the ass.
My Dad became my Mom’s caregiver spouse in 1987 when she suffered a massive stroke in ICU following carotid artery surgery. … I became Patti’s spouse caregiver when she awoke Thanksgiving morning 1989 unable to walk and barely able to see or talk and by afternoon was hospitalized with her first major Multiple Sclerosis exacerbation.

Thanksgiving was about ‘caregiver awareness’ for us before it was ever designated. In 1994, the National Family Caregivers Association began promoting the week of Thanksgiving to acknowledge family caregivers. Eventually the entire month of November would become National Family Caregiver’s Month. 

November is also designated Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. My Dad died of Pancreatic Cancer 15 years ago. I spent the longest night of my life holding him, talking with him and sharing “the time of angels” ... I have been there for the closing chapter of cancer. That’s the kind of awareness that just does not pigeonhole into a month.

My own lung cancer odyssey began with a 9 mm vague nodular density on a chest x-ray 10 months and 2 weeks ago. This will be my First Lung Cancer Awareness Month as someone surviving lung cancer. To me every day is Lung Cancer Awareness Day not just November.

It’s difficult not to notice the common denominators of long term spouse caregiving and cancer. Cause and effect? I seriously doubt it but then I’m left to pause and wonder if ‘the deadliest cancers я us’ isn’t becoming some macabre family tradition. More likely, spouse caregiving equals long term stress which does take a huge toll on the immune system.

To paraphrase Shakespeare from the Twelfth Night, ‘Be not afraid of awareness, some are born aware, some achieve awareness, and some have awareness thrust upon them.’

Patrick Leer
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @

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