A Caregiver's Experience
Thank you to our friends at Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta for featuring such a moving story about being a family caregiver in their weekly email:
The last thing I expected when my family made the move to Atlanta from Miami was that in a few short years, I would become a caregiver. Moreover, I would have never guessed that I would be a caregiver for my husband, who at the time of our move, was a strong and vivacious person.
I guess the old saying "we’re all dealt a set of cards in life" is true and we have no choice but to accept the circumstances as best we can. The end of November '07 would bring some very frightening news. My husband was diagnosed with head and neck cancer. What a shock! Soon after the shock wore off, we had to plan and strategize since jobs and money were no longer priorities.
The therapy, going forward, would be very difficult. It would be chemotherapy and radiation simultaneously. The doctors told us in no uncertain terms, that this was going to be "the fight of your life." The therapy would end in several weeks. I would be turning into a full-time nurse, personal shopper, housekeeper, chauffeur, psychologist and, as always, mom to my son Darrin. I would be responsible for everything in our household, including all that I was doing pre-cancer treatment. At this point, it was post-cancer treatment and all the difficult side effects a patient has to endure I was worried about.
I set out to research all the help our family would be qualified to accept. We were not in the financial position to be able to handle all of these medical bills and expenses on our own. Neither of us would be working for some time, therefore, I had to find some good and reliable resources. Luckily, I found several. We had the Livestrong community that offered some subsidies. There was also a one-time donation from the American Cancer Society and our doctor's cancer non-profit organization. Jewish Family & Career Services was the most helpful, though. We were qualified for the Caregiver CARE Atlanta "voucher program," which is funded by Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and coordinated by JF&CS and would allow us to have assistance with various suppliers and vendors in the area that would help us with respite care. This alleviated much of the stress we were feeling and was that much less to worry about. We were assigned a counselor, Debbi Dooley. Debbi came out to our home and after much extensive conversation, said she would do whatever she could for our family. She would become our advocate and friend, and to this day, she calls to check on how we are feeling and doing. JF&CS’ yearly “Caregiver Retreat” is a marvelous time for people to get together, feel “cared for” and get the fine treatment so well deserved.
My husband, Herb, is now five years in remission. I cannot imagine how I, as a caregiver, could have coped on my own without the kind and generous services of all these community organizations, especially JF&CS and Federation’s Caregiver CARE Atlanta program. This gave Herb and I much peace and solace at a time that was so difficult and life-changing. It allowed me to take better care of him. To this day, I still think about these services and how fortunate we were to have found the Caregiver CARE program.
The “future” we prayed for during this long and difficult time is now our “present.” We may not have much money, but we just celebrated our 35th anniversary with a toast to “good health and long life.” That’s a lot to celebrate!