Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From the Caregiver's Perspective

Karl has asked me to contribute to his blog, and I struggled to come up with some thoughts that don't necessarily seem like whining or complaining about my role as a caregiver.

In about one month it will mark the fourth anniversary of the fateful day Karl called me and said he was stuck in his hotel room unable to walk. This marked the onslaught of his continuing odyssey. I remember at the time we had some friends who were going through their own odyssey with breast cancer. And they talked about "the NEW norm". Meaning that a few months before they could never have imagined they would be handling the stresses of dealing with this magnitude of illness without batting an eyelash.

When you take a vow of marriage it usually includes the words "in sickness and health, for better or for worse." But when you're young those instances seem like a faraway risk, something you will have to consider when you're both old and gray and had a long and prosperous life together under your belts. Who ever thinks that something could strike you in the prime of life? I stand by that vow, not because it was so much this promise I had made years before, but because I love him just as much as the day I took the vow. Maybe more so now, because these obstacles we've overcome over the years have strengthened our resolve and deepened our love.

This isn't exactly what I had planned to write about though. My intent was to pose this question; Is it harder to be the person who's ill or the person who stands beside helpless watching? Everyone has had someone they love in pain at some point, a husband who watches his wife go through the pain of labor, or a parent who's child is injured and scared. You feel helpless and sick waiting for the pain to end. You do your best to comfort them until it passes. At first it's devastating and each minute that you watch your loved one in horrible pain seems like hours. Then over time, it becomes the new norm. You learn what your role is in the dance. How to help them through the moment, how to help comfort and relieve the pain. Shear terror learns to give way to a more constructive concern. But it NEVER gets any easier to watch. And at any given moment, you would do anything to switch places with them and take their pain as your own.

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