By the time Tracy was tested for multiple myeloma, we were months into utter panic. Her back pain was worsening and several weeks before she had cracked something in her back when standing up at our son’s baseball game. She drove herself to the ER and was given pain killers and told it was a muscle cramp. The next morning, she fell on the kitchen floor and I couldn’t pick her up.
When the diagnosis finally came, I was in a fog of denial and panic.
It can’t be real! How would I do it? There's no way I can care for Tracy. And what about the kids? And then I read about the high number of families that go into bankruptcy...
There’s so much I need to do: kids sports, healthcare, financial assistance, cleaning, cooking, buying groceries, Tracy’s appointments, getting someone to watch the kids.
I’m washing the dishes at 11 pm, worn out, and only remember that I got up at 6 am. Tracy says she needs help going to the bathroom. She can’t walk on her own. Five fractures in her back. It’s before we have a walker or cane. I bend over in front of her chair and she wraps her arms around my neck and I slowly stand, with the full weight of her body straining the middle and lower parts of my back. She screams as the freshest cracks in her back are stirred. She stands and I help her to the bathroom, knowing that if she falls or I drop her, her vertebrae could crumble. Any personal care in the bathroom is my job - she can’t turn her body at all.
I’m a long way from calling my neighbor at 1 am asking her to come over to stay with the kids so I can take Tracy to the ER. I’m a long way from signing up for the Meal Train so we don’t have to eat McDonald's 3 times a day. I’m a long way from setting up a GoFundMe page. I’m a long way from jumping to the front of the line at the ER and saying, "My wife is on chemo and has a high fever!"
People were asking to help and I was still telling them, "I got it - thanks anyway." I hadn't yet filled out those forms for financial assistance. I hadn’t scoured the internet for other means of assistance. I hadn’t yet explained the seriousness of Tracy’s condition to my boss. I was still ignoring the bills. I was a long way from Jack’s Caregiver Coalition. I hadn’t yet said "YES! I do need help!"
I hadn't yet been bold. Damn, I wish I had been so much sooner.
By: Mike McGarry
Mike McGarry is a caregiver for his wife, Tracy, who has multiple myeloma. Mike and Tracy have 2 boys, Joseph, 13, and Jacob, 11.