On our third anniversary, we learned that my husband, Dan, had stage IV lung cancer and could expect to live another 6 months. Three years later, he was still alive, wounded from non-stop chemo, but walking.
At this point, I was exhausted. I was homeschooling our three kids who were dealing with the ups and downs of their dad’s illness like emotional rubber bands, flexing and stretching, at times holding more than I thought they could. I had taken on a job as a realtor (which I hated) to help my husband, when he was too sick to take his clients out house shopping.
I’m a very introverted person. I love people, but engaging with them is often exhausting for me. So I don’t typically like group events. And the thought of sitting around in a circle “sharing our feelings” made me roll my eyes. It was the last thing I wanted to do.
But I also felt incredibly alone. All of my relationships had changed with my husband’s diagnosis. Very few people could relate to me anymore–most didn’t even try. And the conversations I did have with caring people were usually about Dan. That was great, but I was hurting, too. I was scared and sometimes I was really angry.
So, when I saw an announcement for Jack’s Klatch I decided to attend. It was one of the first Klatches they had. What an experience!
I had never before been alone in a room with a bunch of caregivers. There were no children or partners for whom we had to censor our words. We could just say what was going on in the raw reality of our lives without any of the varnish. This was so refreshing! I felt lighter after that night. I talked to Kyle and told him that I would like to help in any way I could. Soon, I was facilitating the Klatch.
When my husband died after seven years of cancer, I was so touched by the people from Jack’s who came to his funeral. Unfortunately, I no longer felt that the Caregiver Klatch was a place I belonged. I was deeply grieving, and in a different season than those who were actively caregiving.
Recently, Jack’s had the Sequel Makers First Pitch Party. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was looking forward to seeing Kyle. We kept in touch, but it had been three years since I had seen him. When I walked in, I saw several familiar faces and old friends. It felt so good for us to all be together again.
Like caregivers, Sequel Makers have a common experience that’s hard for someone to understand if they haven’t been through it themselves. Talking to one another that night was like putting on a comfortable shoe. It was a perfect fit.
I’m excited about the programming that Jack’s is putting together for Sequel Makers. A lot of thought is being put into how it can benefit Sequel Makers, active caregivers, and Jack’s as an organization. It feels like a puzzle piece is being snapped into place and I’m excited to be a part of that in any way I can.
By: Heather Erickson