As far as my life is concerned, nothing punched me in the throat harder than the word cancer. No, I did not receive this diagnosis, but I might as well have.
The Initial Shock
My finance started to feel ill in June (2019). He experienced indigestion, reflux, heartburn, abdominal pain. We thought it was because he was not eating healthy. After about three emergency room visits, we found out that he had multiple liver masses and two blood clots in his right lung. Well, our thoughts of gall bladder issues or non-benign liver masses were out the door. The ER doctor was concerned there was a more significant issue brewing. My finance was admitted to the hospital that night, and after testing was given the official diagnosis of stage 4 esophageal cancer.
During the Hospital Stay
For the first two weeks of his hospital stay, although I was working (had to keep the bills paid), I remained with him overnight except for one day a week. On those days, I went home to wash clothes, pack a new bag, pay bills, run errands, and grocery shop for his food & snacks. The last two weeks of his hospital stay worked ramped up due to a project, so I would hang out with him for 3-4 hours before or after work, depending on if I worked days or nights. I also stopped by restaurants of his choice to make sure he had one to two meals as well as snacks and drinks he liked since he was not eating much.
The month was challenging with the new diagnosis. There were many procedures, varying health situations, visits with multiple medical personnel, and creating a financial and care plan for when he was released to go home. I could not even feel or react as I felt the need to stay strong for him and stable for work.
Finally, after a month of being hospitalized, he was able to go home (happy moment). But he did not come back the same way he left. He could not tolerate the smell of certain foods, cologne, soaps, etc. due to the effects of the initial two rounds of radiation and one chemo session. He almost could not eat anything without throwing up, or everything things tasted salty. So Boost was the only thing that sustained him. As a result, he lost 85 pounds and became very weak.
Things Started to Look Better
5 Chemo sessions later, we have a better grasp of what foods and drinks he can tolerate and a medication regimen that works. As a result, he has gained 10 pounds, no nausea or vomiting after chemo sessions, and more energy to do more of the things he likes.
Although things are progressively getting better, there were times I thought I was losing my self amid this journey. In the blink of an eye, our lives had changed. Every change that occurs with him also affected me. I am now the sole financial provider of the household, caretaker, counselor, fiancé, keeper of the house, and much more.
Something Had to Give
Eventually, I had to work up the nerve to speak to him about how I was being affected. The bottom line was I needed to take care of myself to remain stable enough to take care of us as all of his close family and friends are in the state of New York, and unfortunately, I am not close to my family. Something had to give.
Self-Care Plan Executed
In the beginning, it was a challenge to figure out how to care for myself as I felt guilty for taking time away from him. But I had to remember this is what I needed to remain stable emotionally, physically, and mentally.
The things I am about to share with you may seem simple, but trust me, these simple things you tend to forget when you are going through a crisis.
Tips for caring for yourself while taking care of a loved one who has cancer
1.) Eat Right
During our 1-month hospital stay, I ate out a lot due to not being at home. I ordered and picked up what was convenient and affordable. I became very bloated, swollen, and just overall, no energy. Junk in equals junk out.
After we were home from the hospital, I made a conscious effort to began incorporating fruits, vegetables, green juices, and my vitamins back into my diet. I felt better within about a week.
2.) Get Your Sleep
Sleep??? What sleep? It was absolutely impossible to get a good night’s sleep due to medical personnel in and out of the room every 30 minutes. Sometimes there were 3-4 people in the room at a time attempting to do their share of care.
I felt I was going delirious, and bags were forming under my eyes, and overall, not much energy. Although he did not want me away from his side, I decided during the third week to start going home daily to sleep in my own environment where there were fewer distractions.
- I did not use the tv in the bedroom.
- Used essential oils identified to help with sleep.
- I wore my favorite nightwear.
- Drunk Sweet Dreams tea just before bed
- Used my wireless audio eye shields.
I was able to reintroduce myself to a good night’s sleep. I also began to be more productive and upbeat during the day.
Now that I have reflected on this topic, I suppose I could have come up with creative ways to get more activity into the day. But during our transition of life, honestly, this was the last thing on my mind.
You may not be able to participate in your regular exercise routine, but the small things add up.
- Walk around the inside parameters of the hospital.
- When going to stores, park in a parking spot further away.
- Isometric exercises.
- Walk around the neighborhood (stay safe!).
- Home exercise videos.
- If you can get away from the house or hospital, drop into an exercise class (Zumba is my favorite).
4.) Get Out of the House
Whether if it is at the hospital or at-home caring for your loved one, you can become stir crazy being inside four walls for an extended length of time. There is also an increased chance for depression to find you.
Short on time? Try the following:
- Sit on the porch and catch some rays.
- Walk around the block.
If you have more time, try the following:
- Grocery shopping.
- Personal shopping.
- See a movie.
- Visit a friend or family.
If you have a friend or family member that will be willing to help keep your loved one company, do not hesitate to ask or take them up on the offer. I took a couple of “ME” days when my fiance’s friends came in from out of town. They were terrific as they chauffeured him to his doctor’s appointments and spent quality time with him. Priceless
5.) Do Something You Love
After a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, the majority of the focus sometimes shifts to them. You cease doing things you once enjoyed. Get back to doing what you love. If you can not do what you did previous to the cancer diagnosis, it may be time to search for a new hobby. Check out Google or Youtube as they have a plethora of information and how-to videos to get you started.
In the past, I was not a person of emotion, nor did I ever talk about things that affected me. As a result, I fell into a deep depression. After years of self-exploration and self-improvement, I never want to fall back into the deep, dark place I once lived. So I opened up by telling my close friends and family our situation and expressed how I felt about the situation at least three times a week.
If you do not feel comfortable speaking to friends and family, consider going to see a counselor. A good counselor should be unbias so that you can talk to them about anything and everything. The key is to open up and truthfully express how you feel. If not, you are cheating/hurting yourself.
It is also a good idea to be open with your loved one. Avoiding conversations can cause distance between you two and sometimes resentment as you may begin to feel as your needs are not being met or that they do not care about what you are going through.
7.) Allow Yourself to Feel
The diagnosis of cancer is not a death sentence, but it surely shakes up you, and your loved one lives that you work so hard to build. You do not have to be stoic or pretend everything is ok during this time in your life. Allow yourself to cry, be angry, etc. The key is to not linger in these emotions.
8.) Keep Doctors Appointments
Your health still matters. What I came to realize is that if I dont take care of myself self, I will not be well enough to take care of my fiance. Make your doctor’s appointment and Go!
9.) Beautify Yourself
Sure, you are beautiful, but going through a difficult transition in life, you may start to feel run down as you do not have time or energy.
Take the time to beautify yourself by trying the following:
- Wear something you have not worn in a while that makes you feel cute or sexy.
- Try a quick, easy hairstyle.
- Try polishing your nails even if it is a clear coat.
- If you can not do a full face of makeup, do mascara and lip gloss.
Do something to keep your self-esteem elevated the best you can.
Most think of journaling as if you are a young girl or teenager writing in a diary. So not the case. Journaling is a safe place to express all of your emotions and also to reflect on a journey. I have tried it over the years, and it has worked wonders. There is no right or wrong way to journal. You make the rules.
Need more self-care ideas read 65 Simple Self-Care Ideas for a Healthy, Happy Life
Remember: “Self-care is Not Selfish” and “You Can Not Pour From an Empty Cups so Take Care of Yourself First.”
Results may vary. Information and statements made are for general purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. Her Own Health does not dispense medical advice, prescribe, or diagnose illness. The views and nutritional advice expressed by Her Own Health are not intended to be a substitute for conventional medical service. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.