I've not looked forward to writing this blog - it seems somewhat out-of-place given all that Christie has endured for the past 7 months [2 years actually as the telltale symptoms were there all along if we had known what to look for].
No one is born to be a caregiver - the circumstances that we're forced into require us to assume the role whether we're ready or not. My role in supporting Christie was hampered at the outset since I've been down this road before. In May of 2003, my wife Sue passed away from breast cancer in the early morning hours of Mother's Day. Her passing marked a 15 month battle as I watched the cancer eat her alive. I remember taking my youngest son [Samuel] out into the backyard to read the Mother's Day card he had prepared for his mom who was now in heaven. He had gone to throw it in the trash saying, "well, I don't need this anymore" and I had responded, "no way Sam - she will appreciate the card now more than ever" - that was a tough day. In the years that followed Christie has grown to be as close to Samuel as any mother-to-son relationship could be. Their bond is inseparable and this is indicative of her giving and selfless heart.
As the first blog stated, "something wasn't right" for a while. Christie became increasing forgetful, began to repeat herself and forget what she was saying in mid-sentence, would begin crying for no reason, lost all motivation, would wake up in the morning soaking wet from night sweats and even began getting lost while driving - this just doesn't happen to a gifted navigator who has spent the past 15 years helping me with directions.
In the weeks that led up to our ER visit in early September, I kept trying to convince myself that these symptoms were "hormonal" and that things would eventually return to normal.
The thought of a second wife being struck with cancer shook me to my core and terrified me. I had thoughts like, what is wrong with me that lightening would strike twice, am I "cursed" for some unknown reason, did I create a home environment that ushered in this sickness and can I pick up the pieces after the death of a spouse for the second time without having a mental breakdown? Viewing my future without Christie in it was and remains a very dismal picture. These thoughts and just that - "thoughts". They have no basis in fact but we're emotional creatures and are not immune to these "what-if" mind games.
To complicate matters, given the disruption from COVID-19, my sales team at work was not performing well and the feeling of guilt and self-imposed pressure of "letting my company down" added to the stress. Throughout this journey I've had the support of an amazing leadership team and a "family at work" that have made an incredible difference. In addition, we've had the support of an amazing network of family and friends. The Lord even brought several people across our path that are lymphoma survivors and they've been a tremendous encouragement to both Christie and myself. I don't have words to express how much we appreciate these outpourings of compassion, support and offers to help.
As an athlete, you're trained to "play through the pain" and to "shake it off". As things began to unravel, I continued to "suck it up" and attempted to live my life as though nothing was wrong. I suppose the denial approach is sustainable for a while but eventually you run our of emotional gas and are forced to acknowledge that things aren't normal and that things are NOT ok! What that looks like and more real life examples of my life as a caregiver will continue in the next blog... thanks for listening...