Dictionary.com defines the word caregiver as: a person who cares for someone who is sick or disabled.
Caregiver is a word I really never thought about or even used in my daily vocabulary before TJ's diagnosis. Suddenly, in the blink of an eye, I became a caregiver. I was thrust into the role of scheduling doctor appointments, taking notes when the doctors spoke, administering medication on schedule and noting side effects. Being a caregiver to someone with a serious illness is so much more than making lunch and handing out pills. You become that person's emotional support as well as the brunt of their emotional outbursts. The responsibilities at times seemed endless and it is mentally and physically exhausting.
I did not have a chance to prepare for the role of caregiver. I did not get to read and study up on TJ's diagnosis, I had to learn as we went along. The pressure was on me to ask all the right questions, to choose the treatment path and hardest of all...to be positive. TJ's emotions were in overdrive because of the steroids, mine were in overdrive because of the fear of losing him. He was able to act out while I had to put on a happy face and tell him it was OK.
Being TJ's caregiver was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I also feel honored and privileged to be able to help him when he was most vulnerable. TJ thanked me many times for sticking by him and caring for him. No, I did not choose to be a caregiver, but I am grateful for the experience and the opportunity. It strengthened me and taught me compassion. I learned to simplify my life. It taught me to appreciate the simple things, the moments that may not have meant anything before. Most importantly I learned that through nearly 16 years of ups and downs in our relationship TJ & I loved each other very much.
One day out of the blue TJ said to me, "Thank You". I said, "For what?" He then said words I will never forget, "Because of you I have known what it is like to be truly loved."
To care for the ill without prejudice you must forget who you are, listen to those lying before you in sorrow, and think, "I can be of help". ~ Unknown