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Determined Wife
By: Christina Garner

My voyage as a fearless caregiver began on December 19, 2001.  This role has challenged me to grow, adapt, and personally reflect in order to persist beyond the challenges.  I wouldn’t have chosen to be anywhere else but with my family.

Being an educator and family advocate professionally prepared me for the role I would take when my husband became ill.  However, social isolation and support erosion shocked me and compelled me to take care of myself and prepare for my role just as you would for a job interview or career change.

Juggling the competing demands of increased housekeeping, maintenance, administrative tasks, communicator, symptom management, and social supporter seemed to create a discovery of personal strength and deepen our family relationship. Consequently, the influence of advocacy for my family has become my prime focus. I am the only one who knows what my family’s fears, medical history, finances, and physical needs are.  Making myself aware of resources, illness terminology, and natural progressions of disease is my greatest weapon.  Honesty with our friends and family when they ask what we need, or just the action of asking for help, gives them the blessing to be able to be used.  Each agency I come in contact with is only here to work FOR ME.  If it were not for my needs, they would not have a job. 

By fighting constraints of time available, I have found that personally taking care of my own physical needs through checkups will avoid future health deterioration.  Creating a road map to guide me during the sad times has been an enormous help.  Gathering a group of people who are willing participants in my emotional health, developing coping skills, and journaling have allowed me to let down my mask in safety.  I have given myself permission to be sad, angry, disappointed, lonely, tired, and even happy. 

Through the help of friends, family, FMLA [Family and Medical Leave Act], and various companies, we were able to celebrate life while traveling over 9,000 miles through 19 states in four weeks on only $1,500.  This time alone has made all the difference in how we deal with the complex array of emotions, concerns for quality of life, unresolved conflicts, and unexpressed losses.  You cannot travel in a car for weeks without having some very hard conversations.  I truly believe this has given us the greatest peace and helped prepare us for the hard end-of-life decisions.

Remolding family traditions and holding on to our faith have been a boundless assets.  Asking for help and receiving the blessings from friends, family, and extended support systems have given the dignity every human needs to survive the physical change, pain, and emotional trauma of living with a debilitating cancer. We together have remodeled our home to meet this goal.  For me, being a fearless caregiver is worth the pay!



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