Now, long after the commotion of active treatment, my wife and I often share recollections. Martha is my caregiver and for more than 3 years of near constant therapy she held the long thin line. In doing so, she had to confront my anxiety, discomfort and fear. These were variable; the constant foe was my general irascibility towards medical treatment. Now a 12-year survivor, we both laugh at some of my antics. But during treatment, there was high drama to deal with.
It is not easy to watch someone you love encumbered by all manner of tubes and wires in intensive care. Nor is it pleasant to attend to the full-throttle roar of chemo-induced side effects. Moreover, there is recognition that the side effect bedlam will occur with the same progression and intensity a short time in the future. Add to that the burden of failed treatments and the inability to influence outcomes. These are the plight of the caregiver.
While in the throes of treatment, most appreciated were the little things Martha did for me. Discharged from hospital with a chest tube in my lower back, scratching my back was a godsend. I was beset with “taxol toes” and rubbing my feet with Aspercreme provided immense temporary relief. But most appreciated was her homemade chocolate mint chip ice cream. This was an effective counter to a waning appetite, enormous attitude boost, and a relished wonderful concoction.
There is a fundamental reality about treatment recollection: the patient and caregiver have vastly different memories of the same event. I find it useful to accept Martha’s version as a higher order truth for two reasons. She was an observer and not under duress, and I was normally at wits end totally undone by the experience.
This difference in perspective points to the essential role of the lung cancer caregiver—a steady hand in a sea of turmoil.
Stay the course.