I know how you feel. Really, I do!
I empathize with anyone who has ever been sick, and I empathize with anyone who has ever taken care of someone seriously ill. I've been both the patient and the caregiver over the past 10 years.
I've survived those trials, not just to tell about it, but to hopefully help others navigate the waters, and to give hope and courage and strength to people in similar circumstances.
This blog is mostly about my Lyme disease story, but I thought I'd give you a peek into my role as a caregiver, long before Lyme appeared on the scene. And the reason I want to share this with you is to let you know what I ultimately learned from this experience.
So here's the rest of my story.....
Ten years ago (2003), when I was 2 months pregnant with my second child, we received devastating news. My husband, who was 38 years old at the time, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer called SNUC - sinonasal undifferentiated carcinoma. The prognosis for this type of cancer is dismal. We hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst.
As my baby grew within me, I watched my husband endure nasal surgery and a craniotomy, as well as 6 weeks of daily radiation to the head which left him so ill that he was unable to keep food down. He lost 50 lbs. along the way, but he persevered and survived the treatment, the necessary evil.
Our son was born as my husband was recovering from this medical intervention, and it seemed to be a new beginning for us. My husband was regaining his strength, which was perfect timing since we had a newborn and a toddler on our hands. Between breastfeeding and potty training, life was very busy! Things were looking up, and we knew that if my husband could reach the 3 year mark cancer-free, then he would be considered in remission. So we waited......and we hoped!
Two years went by and life was feeling normal again, when my husband suddenly became ill. He developed a fever one day that just wouldn't go away, and as the days passed, he became more and more lethargic with clouded thinking. On the 13th day of his fever, I took him to his GP who had him admitted to the hospital for tests since he couldn't figure out the cause. Neither could the specialists at the hospital. My husband was given a routine CT scan in preparation for a lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap), and voilà....the scan revealed an orange-sized brain abscess, which is basically a pocket of infected fluid. My husband had surgery the next day to drain the abscess, and spent the next 12 weeks at home on a PICC line, receiving continuous IV antibiotics.
Over the next 5 years, he went on to develop another brain abscess, at least 6 cases of bacterial meningitis, and seizures, all of which required hospital stays of a week or more, and weeks or months of IV antibiotics at home. Each illness was life-threatening. My husband's cancer seemed to be in remission, but it became evident over time that the cancer surgery must have left him with a small hole in the floor of the brain cavity. This was allowing bacteria into the brain, which was causing the abscesses and meningitis.
Each time he was sick, our family was thrown into survival mode. Relatives came to stay with us when they could, but sometimes it was just me with my boys while daddy was in the hospital. I continued to work as a teacher, care for my children, visit him in the hospital each day, and took over responsibilities that were normally his in our household, like managing the family finances, car maintenance, and grocery shopping. In addition, there were medical decisions to make, medications to organize and administer, and doctor's appointments to get to. Having lost his licence for six months due to the seizure, I became the official family chauffeur as well! It was so much work, but somehow, I did it.
The time came three years ago when my husband's surgeon urged him to have surgery again, this time to fix the problem once and for all. After a great deal of reflection and prayer, looking at the pros and cons and weighing the risks, we decided to do it. This surgery was even more complicated than the first one, as surgeons had to transplant vascularized tissue from his arm onto the floor of the brain cavity, to close up any leaks. The first few days post-surgery were touch and go, and ironically, he developed a case of post-op meningitis in the hospital which doubled the length of his hospital stay, but he made it through. That was in the fall of 2010. Since that time, he has had one seizure episode in the spring of 2011, and nothing since. Nothing! It's been 2 1/2 years of relatively good health!
To God be the glory!These past 10 years have caused me to reflect a great deal. People sometimes ask me how I managed to keep it together all those years. My parents often told me how amazed they were that I managed so well during these crises. But I'll tell you this.....I did not survive under my own power! God lifted me up, sheltered me, gave me the ability to endure, and gave me the peace that transcends understanding. He worked through our family, friends, and church to carry our burdens and help us cope. And all of this taught me a very important lesson:
God's grace is sufficient for our trials.
Cast your cares on Him, dear readers. God is love, and His grace is available to you, too, for the forgiveness of sins (first and foremost), for growth in godliness, and for help in time of need.
My husband and I have just celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary, and Lord willing, I look forward to many more years with him.