Friday, May 2, 2014

A Grateful Caretaker?

I'm not quite sure if if this is appropriate or not but I feel like I have to thank my husband.  See, going to bereavement groups and reading widow's blogs and other grief literature, a lot of the stories revolve around caretaking.

I don't see myself as a caretaker of someone who had terminal cancer.  Although he was diagnosed on October 24, 2012, Jeff was completely independent up until December 12, 2013.  That night a tumor on his adrenal gland that we didn't even know existed burst and started bleeding in his abdomen.  This caused him enormous amounts of pain.  He ended up in the hospital for ten days highly sedated and weakened by cancer and sepsis.  I lived at the hospital, leaving only to go to work and go home to change.  The nurses did such a great job caring for him so I feel I only truly took care of him when he was released home to me with help from hospice nurses and his parents on December 22nd.  He died at 5:15 am December 29th.  I feel like I was a caretaker for only six days, whereas others have been caretakers for months and even years.  I don't feel I earned the title of a caretaker. 

I know that technically I "took care of him" while he was getting chemo and radiation but he was so independent that I didn't really feel I did anything too different from before he was diagnosed, he just didn't feel all that great and wasn't working anymore.  I constantly thought about him during the day when we were apart, but I did that before he was diagnosed.  As I said before, he was completely independent.  He didn't need round the clock care, he didn't need me to drive him around, he didn't need me to make all of his meals, I wasn't worried about him being alone while I was working, he was truly independent.

We were told that he had one to six months left when he was released into hospice so I was prepared to take a leave of absence from work and be with him, taking care of him for as long as needed.  He didn't allow that.  He saved me from the horror of watching him change into a different person.  But he also left me too soon.  I know I said all I needed to say to him and I felt I heard all of the important things I needed to hear from him, but sometimes I look back and wish I just had more time with him, wish he did stay longer just so I could be in his presence.  But then I remember how selfish that is of me, that being bedridden and helpless would be pure torture and misery emotionally and mentally for him, on top of all the physical misery he was enduring.

He was such a gregarious and larger than life person.  He never wanted to talk about the end, he would always change the subject and try and make a joke so I knew not to push him.  The only thing he ever said was that he was worried about being in pain and I assured him that I would do whatever was in my power to make sure he was not in pain.  I am quite sure he did not want to be bedridden for any length of time.  He was sedated heavily because of the pain the majority of the time in the hospital and once he got home, he wasn't as heavily sedated on pain medication but he was still on high doses of morphine so he slept most of the time.

He went so quickly.  Ten days in the hospital and six days at home wasn't enough time for him to lose significant amounts of weight, to gradually lose mobility and bodily functions, or to become irritable and change his personality.  I didn't experience any of those horrors that other caretakers discuss that go with the slow change and loss of their spouse or loved one.

I don't feel like I truly was his caretaker.  I can't believe I'm saying this but, I might have been the luckiest widow out there because I got the opportunity to say goodbye and tell him how much I loved him without having to experience the horror of watching him change or the fatigue and crankiness that some caretakers experience.  I escaped the physical and emotional toll that caretakers endure, even though they all adamantly say that they would do it all over again, and I still say I would have done it for him until the end of time. But he didn't let me, and I feel the need to thank him for that.

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