Have you ever heard sayings like “it will only make you stronger” or “you will never be given more than you can handle”? Well, I would like to go on the record with this: I do not want to be any stronger and I am at my limit for what I can handle.
Some of you know that my husband, Jeremy, has been playing the role of The Caregiver in this Breast Cancer Saga. From the day I found out that The Lump was the bad guy, he has been the go-to guy for everything. He took me to every doctor’s appointment, took over all of the household chores, researched until every corner of the Internet had been revealed, cooked the meals, arranged for the kids to be picked up, kept everybody informed, slept in a chair in the hospital for three straight nights when I had surgery, suffered when I turned mean while taking Ambien for sleep…he has done EVERYTHING. Some of the helping me with the surgery aftermath was kind of time-consuming and icky (I had four drains sticking out of me) and I thanked him over and over. I felt so bad for him all cramped up in that hospital chair–his response?
“Don’t worry, you’ll probably have to do the same for me one day.” Such an innocent comment! We both pictured this sick old man and old lady, the old lady helping the old man with tubes and pills and oxygen. We certainly did not imagine that his day to suffer poor health and hospital stays was right around the corner…
Jeremy had been sick Wednesday evening: fever, chills, body aches, nausea, vomiting, no appetite. It seemed like the flu. When we woke up Thursday, he was still sick, but we figured he needed to sleep it off. Here’s the text he sent me while I was at work (this is a word-for-word quote): “I Ned. Yo hi one I tgi nk”. Now Jeremy isn’t known for overly accurate spelling, but this was weird. I came in to find him way worse than the night before, so it was clearly emergency room time. He stumbled to the car, taking breaks every few feet.
Once we got to the ER, things quickly turned into question mark scary time. His blood pressure was way too low, he was dizzy, lightheaded, his hands were going numb, his skin was red. Nobody had any real answers at first. They began pumping fluids into him and that perked him up a little. And then one of the doctors determined that his kidneys were shutting down. They did CAT scans, ultrasounds, and gave antibiotics. One of the nurses commented that it was like this was an episode of House since they didn’t know what was going on. Suddenly, he was being admitted, they were sending him to ICU, and the doctor said something like, “we want to get your kidneys working so they’re not so damaged that you need dialysis.”
I ended up leaving as they were about to wheel him to ICU because there are no visitors allowed in that unit from 6:00-8:00. I got to the parking lot and started making calls. I must have looked crazyawful out there just sobbing into my phone. I called his parents and some of our friends who have been known to take very good care of us and our kids. It was so surreal to have to say that he was so sick, I mean this is Jeremy The Caregiver who does not get sick. This is Jeremy The Caregiver that actually had a physical and listened to the doctor’s advice. This is Jeremy The Caregiver who has been very successful at quitting smoking! This person cannot be so ill that he gets admitted to ICU!
(Note: we do find it EXTREMELY ironic that although he spent the past fifteen or twenty years smoking, drinking energy drinks, and staying up too late, it was the months after he quit abusing himself that he got so sick.)
Everybody, and I mean everybody, rallied together to get me organized. One neighbor took the kids after school and another neighbor let them spend the night. One friend texted me from the store and asked what I needed and two other friends came over and helped me drive back to the hospital to see Jeremy again. The store friend started a massive prayer chain by email and Facebook, the family was praying in California…and that’s when the miracles literally started pouring down!
When I returned to the hospital, he was a little worse. But s-l-o-w-l-y, he began to improve. Blood pressure was getting higher, fever was going down, and he actually wanted to eat hospital gelatin. I wanted to stay the night, but my immune system is one germ away from total meltdown, so I had to go home. I barely slept at all, but I’m pretty sure I finally drifted off about 4:55 am. At 5:14 am, he texted me asking for a Venti Nonfat Mocha from Starbuck’s. Now THAT’S the Jeremy The Caregiver I know and love! Caffeine? Sugar? Overpriced specialty drink? He’s back!
He is doing really well now and although he’s still in the hospital, he is on the road to recovery for sure. They still aren’t sure what caused all of this. Maybe a crazy virus, maybe a crazy infection, maybe some kind of reaction cause by some antibiotics he had been taking, for sure all of it having to do with extreme stress caused by your loved one being attacked by stupid cancer.
What I know is this: caregivers need care too. So we will switch roles for a while. I will care for him and hopefully help him return to the husband, dad, friend that we know and love. As much as I hate to admit it, this can only make us stronger, and apparently, we still have not been given more than we can handle.