Waiting. So much of caregiving is waiting…waiting for test results, or getting an appointment with the right specialist. Waiting to see whether or not treatments have worked and what the next trial may bring. Then there’s the time spent in waiting rooms, whether at the doctor’s office or the imaging centers or the pharmacy; it’s frustrating.
There is so much time spent with things unresolved, and we sit with questions for every possible outcome. How will we handle the unknown? There are so many possible answers to our questions that pondering it can only cause dis-ease. So, how can we live with all of these question marks dangling before us? As caregivers, we expect ourselves to have an answer ready for any scenario. It’s exhausting.
Caregiving takes patience. It’s a given that our lives are impacted in a very different way than those we care for. Very often, we’re dealing with life and death situations—their lives; but our lives are affected too and we need to respect the depth of the feelings we experience. When my husband Steve was being treated for lung cancer, we went from surgery, to chemo, to radiation, to ablation, until there was nothing else that could be done. Of course there had been countless tests and scans between every treatment that went on for years. We lived knowing that it was just a matter of time before the disease would take his life. But what about mine—the caregiver’s life? I needed to muster every ounce of courage that I could because although my world was falling apart, I had to keep it together, for him. I needed to stay positive for his wellbeing. He wanted to see me looking nice every day because it gave him a sense of security and normalcy. I had to be respectful, charming and polite to doctors who were anything but. There is a lot to be said for making your doctors like you. All of this takes great patience.
From the moment we were told Steve had cancer, I knew what my future would hold—active waiting and enduring well. Everything pointed to my ending up a widow; but any concerns that I might have about the future could not be voiced. I would bide my time in discomfort and wait to ask the hard questions when I deemed he was ready to hear them. I needed answers, but that need paled compared to his, which had to come first. I begrudged him nothing.
And so we sat patiently, as all the others we’d meet in the many waiting rooms we frequented. I wanted to get it right and be the perfect caregiver, even though I knew there is no such thing. There is so much we need to learn—hard stuff—like learning to accept what we can’t change—the fragility of life. On the other hand, we need to be inquisitive and advocate on our loved one’s behalf, keeping our wits about us. We often need to accept the fact that we’re going to be “left behind”—the one who gets “to stay.” It often seemed that the waiting was all about that. He’d be gone and I would be here. It’s an awful heavy truth to face—being alone. But the shorter our time together grew, the more patient we became waiting. Nothing was “a waste of time” as long as we were together.
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