Wednesday, March 6, 2013

my co-conspirator in silence

Still concealing my diagnosis a year ago “my co-conspirator in silence” as I would introduce my daughter began attending my appointments with me.

Where I was sleep walking through emotional exhaustion, she asked the probing future-view questions of my oncologist and thoracic surgeon.

I cannot even count the times I would look over at her and remember the 18 month old child I shared Thanksgiving 1989 dinner with while her Mom was hospitalized upstairs with her first major MS exacerbation. Mesmerized by the hospital vending machine food carousel, we ate, laughed and made the best of the situation.

In a sense raised in her youngest years in hospitals, she has only seen her Mom walk in old videos, or stand in old pictures.

When younger and smaller she would sit in her Mom’s lap to help drive her scooter. Before her 16th Birthday and her own driver’s license her Mom would be living in a long term care facility.

Framed in this perspective my commitment to MS spouse caregiving left her ‘collateral damage’ of Multiple Sclerosis.

With my lung cancer diagnosis … now at the age of 24 what future would she face?
A person I used to know would get so wiggy over her friend’s cancer and treatments that it distressed everyone around them. I could not let such worry undermine life.

Another lung cancer blogger raised the question does the attention of lung cancer make us narcissistic? In my story for the last quarter century I have always been secondary to my wife’s Multiple Sclerosis. I was concealing my diagnosis because I really didn’t want to deal with the “how will this affect Patti” questions, as if I was chopped liver.

My wife’s MS related symptoms of dementia prevent her from remembering I have lung cancer no matter how often I remind her. She is however safe in long term care and whether I live or die that will go on.

Living with the daily stress of spousal caregiving for almost a quarter century reduces a caregiver’s life expectancy by up to 10 years. Yes, I chose to roll the dice on my own health by juggling spouse caregiving and basically single parenting for over 23 years. But now it’s time to choose to look at my lung cancer odyssey from my daughter’s perspective, from co-conspirator in silence to co-survivor.

Patrick Leer
Health Activist:
Caregivingly Yours, MS Caregiver @


  1. You're in an interesting and unique position, Patrick - having to be selfless for your wife while dealing with an illness that makes you focus on your own body. You seem to be balancing it all very well.

    1. Thank you Ruth! Juggling spouse caregiving, parenting, and trying to make money for 23+ years I really could have done without lung cancer as another ball in the air.