About eighteen months after my dad passed is when the poop hit the fan (pun intended). As a family, my mom, brother, and I were getting into our routine of a life without Ton (the notorious name that I loved to call my dad). We just survived all the holidays, all the firsts, and felt like we could start getting used to the idea of a mom with a new address, a cell phone number no longer assigned to ‘Dad’ in our contacts, and we all believed we were over struggles.
We were wrong.
My mom turned sixty and was going in for what would have been a routine colonoscopy. It was supposed to be a quick, standard procedure. Hour after hour passed, and thanks to the Find My Friends App, I continued to check up on her and see that she was still at the hospital.
My brain can go quickly from totally fine to a million scenarios on why they are not responding to a message, answering a call, or why something is taking longer than predicted. I continue to work on this daily, but my mind will jump to the worse case in a matter of seconds, and while I’m wrong 99.9% of the time, there have been a few cases where my gut feeling knew something was wrong.
Unfortunately, this was one of those cases.
Three hours later, I received a text message, “Can you two FaceTime me in 10 minutes?” Instantly my heart dropped. My mom knew my brother was at work, so she would not ask him to FaceTime if it was not something. She wanted to talk to us together, which in my mind meant something WAS wrong.
On FaceTime, she explained that they found a tumor the size of a hotdog that they believed was there for at least four years. They wanted her to see an oncologist because they felt this was cancer.
Cancer. My first thought was that this had to be a joke; we JUST got over ALS and now CANCER!
After days of tests, the doctors did determine that she had Stage III Colon Cancer.
Within this last year, they removed half of her colon, endured twelve rounds of chemotherapy, stayed with my family every other weekend while going through the chemotherapy rounds, which meant hours of traveling back and forth.
Thankfully the chemotherapy worked, and in April of 2021, she proudly and loudly rang the bell to let others in the hospital know that she was now in remission.
Eighteen months after I lost my dad, I was afraid that I would now be losing my mom.
She had a cancerous tumor in her the entire time she took care of my dad, and no one knew. For years we all concentrated on Ton, on ALS, on his appointments, and we all forgot that she too needed care.
I think that was when the lightbulb in myself went off; who was caring for the caregivers?
Who is reminding caregivers about their yearly checks, to take their vitamins, to refill their prescriptions? As caregivers, we give so much of ourselves to everyone else that we forget to care for ourselves as well.
We need to remind ourselves and our peers, but more importantly, we need to remind society that caregivers need care. As a society, we need to check on those that are constantly checking on others.
So, after reading this, I have a challenge for you. I challenge you to check in on YOURSELF. How are YOU doing? What do YOU need? Have YOU had something to eat or refilled YOUR prescriptions, made your yearly appointments, messaged your doctor about something you’ve put off asking?
Let’s help each other support the caregivers, support the ones that show up, the ones that have a smile on their face during their darkest hours, the ones that seem to have it all together, and the ones who do not.
Eighteen months after losing my dad, I thought I would be losing my mom because of a routine check.
A check that if it did not happen, I would have lost her. Without that procedure, I would be sitting here right now talking about how I lost both of my parents.
Do not wait until the poop hits the fan; give yourself the grace to add YOUR CARE to the daily routine of caregiving.