I Chose Me

Blog Author: Jamie Rauscher, RVT
NAVTA Committee Member

When asked to write this particular blog for NAVTA for this month, I felt as though it was meant to be. Destiny. Written in the stars, so to speak. The topic of Caring for the Caregiver really hit home for me this past year. In more ways than one. Here is my story…

As some of you who know me personally are aware, my husband started to show signs of something not being right in April of last year. He felt off, just not himself.  The lymph nodes in the right side of his neck were enlarged.  After several doctor’s visits and multiple routes of testing, he was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 44. From that point, we began a roller coaster of events that still continue to impact our lives daily.

Up until his diagnosis, we went to several different doctor’s appointments, all involving different tests and procedures. Each time these things needed to happen, I was right there with my husband (or as close as I could be with Covid parameters in place). He was scared, worried about what we were going to be told. How would his life change? What would that mean for him going forward? For our family?  His white coat syndrome was very apparent from the first doctor’s visit before he was even diagnosed with something being wrong. I was right by his side when we got his cancer diagnosis. Holding his hand, always the strong one, ready to help him get through this, no matter what it involved.

I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

He lost his job when Covid hit. I was the only source of income in our home. I had to go to work to keep a roof over our heads—groceries in our refrigerator. Pay for our health insurance. I continued to work, day in and day out, making ends meet. I was exhausted from keeping up with work and our home life.

I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I left work each day to take him to his daily radiation appointments for seven weeks. He could not bring himself to go alone, as they put a mask over his face and secured his body to a table to prevent him from moving during the radiation treatments. I worked my schedule around his weekly chemotherapy appointments. For seven weeks. Sitting in the parking lot of the chemotherapy center, waiting for him to get finished so I could take him back home and help him get back in bed.  In between, visiting the various doctors involved in his care.  Picking up prescriptions. Keeping his medications on schedule to help with general nausea, pain, and depression.

I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

During his treatments and for many months afterward, I dealt with sleepless nights that amounted to more than I could count. Up with him being nauseous, painful, and just plain scared of what was happening to his body. Cleaning up vomit when he was too weak to get off the bathroom floor. Helping him to get dressed and bathed because he could not do it himself. Watching him lose so much of himself physically and emotionally.  Listening to him talk about the things he had no control of. His depression was that of someone with PTSD, who had no input on what their body went through and the outcome. His anger at me for pushing him to pursue treatment when he just wanted to give up. His emotions were all over the place, as were mine.

I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I was exhausted. Physically and mentally. I kept going, pushing him to get through treatment for himself, our son, and me. For our family.  I worked to keep our home and our lives going as best I could. To be on time for his appointments, remembering to schedule the next one and the one after that. I gave the appearance of someone that could handle anything and was able to keep it all together, running our lives like clockwork, smooth and steady.

I didn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

I cried in the bathroom with the water turned on so no one would hear me. I cried in my car, sitting in it before I went into the house after work. I cried in my bed at night, exhausted and unsure how much more I could take. My tears were mine and mine alone.

Finally, I realized I did have a choice. Several months after my husband finished treatment, I hit a wall. I came to terms with the fact that I could not do everything on my own. That I needed help. I had not taken care of myself for so long I did not remember how. His cancer changed me. It took him getting sick for me to realize I had to start caring for myself. There were so many people in our lives that could have helped me, but I did not want to impose on them. They were just waiting for me to ask for help. In asking for help, I was not made to be weak but stronger in the end.

I set boundaries with my work. I stopped covering shifts when staff called out. There was already plenty of staff scheduled to work.  I realized I could not be the solution to making things work, day in and day out at my practice. I have leads in every area that are amazing. I need to let them do their jobs and shine. If they were not capable, I would not have put them in their positions.  I took a vacation. I went out with friends. I stayed in a hotel with a technician friend for a weekend attending a local CE conference just so I could get a break from life. I realized I needed to take care of myself just as much as I needed to help care for everyone else.

I did have a choice in the matter. I chose me.