When a married adult is diagnosed with cancer, it is often the case that a huge amount of responsibility is suddenly and unceremoniously heaped upon the shoulders of the sick person’s spouse or partner. The illness itself, as well as the new designation of “Spousal Cancer Caregiver” can, in truth, feel like a curse.
For younger families in their thirties, forties, and fifties, especially those with children still young enough to live at home, the spouse of the person with cancer must navigate an incredibly challenging path. They assume an existence of ceaseless work — which, though rigorous, valuable and skill-intensive, is often unpaid and thankless.
The sick spouse is often far too ill to notice, or to worry about anything but their own important healing. Everyone in the extended family network, as well as the medical community, becomes (rightfully) focused on the cancer patient, rather than the spousal cancer caregiver, or “SCC”.
The SCC is charged with at-home tending and cleaning of their spouse’s post-surgical wound dressings, application of ointments and bandages, changing TPN and/ or ostomy bags, flushing IV lines, administering medications, washing and changing bedding. As the only healthy adult in the household, the caregiver will, naturally, do everything they can to provide emotional support to their ailing spouse as well as the children and teens they love.
Don’t forget, the SCC must somehow get to the grocery store often enough to keep the refrigerator and pantry stocked, while still finding time and energy to prepare the entire family’s meals on a daily basis!
But it doesn’t end there.
Someone must earn the money to feed the family, and that someone is — who else? — the SCC. Even if emergency food benefits are granted, they are usually not nearly enough to feed a family with growing kids and teens.
The SCC must hold down a paying job. For some, this might mean figuring out how to enter the workforce for the very first time; no easy task when one is frightened and concerned every hour of every day over the condition of their beloved.
Due to ever-increasing, crushing financial stress, the already-overwhelmed SCC is called upon to work even more outside the home — in spite of personal time and family already being in insanely short supply — leaving vulnerable children and infirm spouse to fend for themselves throughout the scariest period of their lives.
The SCC often chooses not to talk about his or her own increased stress levels within earshot of their cancer-stricken loved one.
Directly communicating such feelings to their beloved former confidant in all things, now that this person faces a life-threatening disease, would neither aid nor comfort their loved one.
Having no one, not even his or her soulmate, with whom it is appropriate to share the intense gamut of emotions that arise, the SCC often finds him or herself suffering from a unique strain of loneliness and anxiety that few can understand.
Written by the wife of a too-young-for-cancer patient and mother of three (two teenagers and an eleven-year-old), this book offers ideas, strategies and tips to help other “younger” cancer caregivers who are parenting children still living in the home.
Offering practical tips and suggestions to help cope, as well as ways to improve one’s mood and outlook in a healthy manner, this book was written to help SCCs rediscover the many ways in which joy can still be found.
In addition, the book discusses authentic, healthy, loving ideas on how to talk about a parent’s cancer with children.
Whether our spouses will respond well to their treatment and enjoy the remission we all hope and pray for is unknowable.
Still, we can find inventive ways to lighten the load on all of our souls and lift the “curse” that seems to have befallen us and our families.
Because every little bit of support helps during a crisis, a jam-packed Resources section has been included at the end of the book to provide information about helpful organizations, websites, and discoveries that the author has made in the years since her husband’s cancer journey began.
Lumina Loveday is a yoga teacher, meditator, wife, and mom to three humans and two rescue dogs. At the age of ten, Lumina was given her first typewriter as a gift from her grandparents. It was a big, clunky Underwood. To write her first “books”, she had to press the keys really hard, but she didn’t mind. Perhaps Lumina’s grandparents, who were avid readers back in the 20th century, had a hunch about her writerly tendencies. Lumina lives with her family in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Lumina’s new book, Breaking the Caregiver’s Curse: Rediscovering Joy in Life’s Most Challenging Season, is available on Amazon. The book is free to read for those who have Kindle Unlimited.
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