The First Year of Grieving
By: Heather Erickson
Today, April 26th, marks the first anniversary of my husband’s death. What a difference a year can make in your life. At this time last year, I was running on very little sleep. I was so afraid that he would die while I was asleep on the couch next to him. By the day he did die, I was so tired that I asked his brother to come and stay with him while I took a nap. Another hour later, and the nurse arrived. She told us that it was time.
Rich Anderson: Breaking down, reaching out, living each moment to its most, every day.
It was 2017, two years into their cancer journey, and Rich was feeling the weight of it all. He was struggling, trying to parent their daughter, Brielle, run a successful and growing business, take care of ‘business’ at home, and be the sole caregiver for his wife, Ali, who had colorectal cancer. Ali had undergone multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation over the years and had just completed major surgery that had failed to cure her cancer.
He was starting to lose it.
That’s when a friend suggested he get in touch with a guy who ran a local nonprofit that supports men who are caring for a loved one with cancer. That’s when he met Kyle Woody, founder of Jack’s Caregiver Coalition. It was a meeting that changed his caregiving outlook.
He couldn’t do it all. He began to accept help.
He wasn’t alone. He found others out there who ‘got it’ and who he could talk to.
The weight became a little bit lighter.
The StewARTworks Foundation - Pain Management & Palliative Care - Illuminating, in bright, vibrant colors and beautiful works of art, a painful subject.
“When you don’t know, talk to someone who does…”
… she’s Diane Leavitt, from The StewARTworks Foundation, and she knows pain management and palliative care, and she’s here to talk about it and educate us.
Illuminating, in bright, vibrant colors and beautiful works of art, a painful subject.
My name is Diane Leavitt and I am a co-founder, along with my daughters, Rhiana and Morgan, of the StewARTworks Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to provide support and education for family caregivers of palliative care patients being treated for pain.
Last time I saw Bob, he was sharpening an axe and practicing trick throws at an axe-throwing event hosted by Jack’s.
Here I was, several years later, in the Dunn Brothers across town in Eagan, just waiting and wondering if there was more to Bob than what I'd seen of him that day.
Then he stepped into the place, and the entire table of people next to me yelled: “Bob!”
I did too. Why wouldn’t I?
I wondered: is this an Eagan thing or does Bob just command this type of excitement wherever he goes?
Bob Hinkle: dodging darkness, finding light in an enduring love.
He met her at the Renaissance Fair in 2002. She was working in a shop, and he was hanging out with some friends, waiting for one of them to buy something, and talking to everyone who would listen. He was getting impatient, though, and just as he was ready to throw his friend out of the shop, she walked in.
“I was awestruck,” Bob says. “Wow!”
She was Jan, the manager of the shop, and, of course, he talked to her, too. They talked for a short time and eventually exchanged numbers, Bob telling her he’d call her.
Thanks to COVID-19, there’s a great big cloud of uncertainty that’s settled over all of us. And the long shadow it casts upon us is odd because we can’t see it. Heck, it was sunny out today. And the longer days and warming temperatures make us feel like spring has almost arrived and summer is just around the corner. But I’ll bet you’re feeling that shadow of uncertainty nonetheless.
The panic you felt when you sat up in the middle of night and realized another possible consequence of this pandemic that you hadn’t yet considered. The anxiety as your mind races about the decisions you’re running out of time to make.
Perhaps you’re feeling angry about the dreams you’ve had to put on hold? Optimistic that those dreams are only just postponed? Are you wondering is this whole thing temporary or could it go on and on and on? And what if things do go from bad to worse? What then?
If you’ve ever cared for a loved one with cancer, none of these feelings are foreign to you. Because if there’s one universal challenge that all the caregivers we serve face it’s the relentless barrage of uncertainty.
Will their loved one live weeks, months, or years? And if they do live what will the quality of their life be? Is time better spent at work or at home? Can they really afford anything at all based on these new financial headwinds?
And now, on top of it all, COVID-19 brings another layer of uncertainty that is much more acute for a cancer caregiver. What if the loved one they’re caring for, who’s most likely immunosuppressed, got it? Or maybe just as scary, what if they got it and their loved one had one less person they could count on?
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic came along, our organization has been at war with the epidemic of loneliness among caregivers. Our principle strategy became creating physical spaces of renewal for them. Physical spaces that caregivers walk away from feeling less alone in their challenges, and better equipped to face their future more boldly.
But COVID-19, at least for now, has created conditions that make that principle strategy a risky one for the very families we exist to serve. As a result we’ve determined that some of our programming could be effective as a digital experience. Our Caregiver Klatches, for example, will go on and be held virtually giving caregivers the opportunity to tune in from the safety of their homes. And the upcoming programming that we don’t feel would be effective digitally through the end of March will be postponed. We will closely monitor trusted sources of information to determine if events beyond March will need to be postponed as well.
For the immediate future the caregivers we serve may not need us standing within 6’ of them, but more than ever they do need us standing in solidarity with them. And we can’t do that without you. Your support today is more crucial for the caregivers we serve than it’s ever been. Please stand in solidarity today with caregivers and the loved ones they care for by making a donation today.
Humbled by your support,
Founder & Executive Director
Michael Greene: Cancer caregiving, but then dealing with life, too. And then finding himself.
My wife, who has been living with cancer for over 4 years, received some troubling news about our cancer journey. This isn't uncommon for those of us in the cancer world and there's actually a term for it: Scan Day. Despite what the name might imply, Scan Day isn't the scan itself that causes stress, it has more to do with the day the results are shared with the patient. Unfortunately, the all-too-often result of those scans contain depressing news for cancer patients, caregivers and families - and the receipt of that news creates a great deal of anxiety.
Our scan day results just came back...
Chris Meuleners: happiness, sadness, hope, despair, and places between.
Caring for his wife, Amanda, who has been fighting AML Leukemia for over two years. Like the flip of a coin, never knowing if it's heads or tails, and living like it landed on its side.
Tony Peterson: Between Seasons
Tony Peterson loves all things outdoors and nothing beats duck hunting in the fall. To him, true beauty is a crisp fall morning, with the sun coming up over the swamp and the geese migrating South, forming patterns across the blue and white sky.
He’s preparing for something he never thought he’d have to prepare for: the passing of his beloved wife, Lynne, who is in the final stages of pancreatic cancer. She is the love of his life, his most cherished friend, who he not only loves but likes and respects and understands and cares for deeply – more deeply than he’s ever cared for anyone.