Saturday, March 24, 2012

when caregivers get sick - lung cancer

"Talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull.”
Mark Twain
Like Twain’s spurious poet, I was guilty of dully sharing the statistics of risk in long term caregiving.  Yes, the stress diminishes my immune system and increases my chances of cancer and chronic illness. Yes, my life expectancy will be shorter and my mortality rate higher. After all I have been a spouse caregiver for over 22 years.

No longer am I a dull poet of the risks in long term caregiving -  three days before Christmas a chest X-ray revealed a ‘nodular density’ in my left lung.

Actually I was driving with Patti when my cell phone rang. Pulling over I tried to juggle a life altering conversation while avoiding alerting much less alarming Patti. Shamefully I was grateful for Patti’s Multiple Sclerosis short term memory loss. Caregiving never really gives you even a moment to focus on yourself.

At this point, sometimes a story is best told by taking a brief peak at the last chapter first …

St. Patrick’s Day morning I was discharged from the hospital three days after successful surgery for lung cancer. Now home recovering it’s time to share because ‘my story’ is now part of ‘our story’.

Back to Dec 22 between holiday schedules and the methodical plodding of medical testing it would be 27 days before I got to sit down and talk with a medical professional.

That ‘vague nodular density’ on an X-ray begat an 8mm ‘spiculated nodule’ on a CAT scan which begat an 8mm ‘irregular nodule, with an SUV max of less than 2.0’ on a PET scan. 

Feeling abandoned by the medical profession, the Grim Reaper moved into my head and became my new BFF. Of course I couldn’t sleep and the Reaper and I spent the holidays and the month of January surfing the Internet with my copies of each test and radiologist’s impressions trying to determine how long I had to live.

Simultaneously, I could not comprise on caregiving for Patti. Concealing everything from everyone, I stole only the moments to pause and treasure each ‘last’ Christmas, ‘last New Years’, etc.

I began living two lives.
(to be continued … since its inception Caregivingly Yours entries have courteously not exceeded 350 words)


  1. Oh wow Patrick- I wait for the next instalment. All the best to you.

  2. Oh, geez, Patrick, no. Please get well. It's ironic since on January 12, thinking of my own caregiver, I posted the following poem. I had no idea it would hit home with you. Though, as you say, the odds aren't friendly for caregivers

    Who will take care of
    my loved one who has MS
    if I am not there?

    It might not be death.
    Serious illness can end
    a caregiver's role.

    It is a hard job.
    Who will see the benefits
    and take up the slack?

    1. Judy, what an amazing poem! I missed it when originally posted that was during my funk period and of course I was living two lives. In this journal around that date I was posting about taking Patti to the Pennsylvania Farm Show, where sheep wear spandex / an MS outing :)

  3. Patrick - Screw the 350 word limit! Give us the whole story in one fell swoop. We'll forgive the lengthy post (this written by a woman often writes long posts). I'm anxious to hear what happened and your prognosis. Hope you're doing well now.

    1. Cranky, you almost made me laugh. Please do not do that yet, ribs ache from surgery. Smiles are great, but no laughing yet. :)

  4. OMG, Patrick -- how awful! Please give us the details and PLEASE GET WELL QUICKLY. Many prayers and good thoughts.

    1. Thank you Muff I have every intention of recovering fully. Surgeon tells me if I behave myself I should be able to resume normal full life in a month.

  5. Oh wow, Patrick. I'm so sorry to hear this! I do wish you a speedy and complete recovery! And I do wish you would bend the rules a bit and write more than 350 words to get your story out of this latest "ordeal" you went through. Even though I hadn't been blogging much since the new year, I did notice your entries were few and far between. I guess now I know why. Again, best wishes for the bestest of health that you can have in the quickest time possible!


    1. Thank you Betty. Speaking of bending it's not just word count but my ribs that were bent apart for access that frankly I feel the most while recovering. Time spent sitting at a keyboard kind of hurts. Briefer entries feel better. :)

  6. My heart and prayers go out to you. I have often worried about what to do if I needed surgery or was ill and was not available to care for Lynn. I can only imagine how hard it's been for you to live two lives during this time. Who cares for the caregiver? I hope you have others there to support and encourage you. God Bless.
    Donna MScaregiverdonnna

    1. Thank you Donna! Our daughter has simply blown me away the way she has stepped up. ... and 6 some years ago when Patti and I started to look at care facilities we knew that someday something like this could happen.

  7. Patrick-your life has been busy, to say the least. I have been reading your blogs and find you to be amazing.This news of your health could be overwhelming. I think you have shown your loved one and those around, your incredible strength. Stay strong and I know God is right there with you. Blessings-Elise

  8. I'm usually a BIG FAN of moderately worded posts, but this one deserved full space.
    I am so very sorry.~Mary


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