God bless the caregivers

Published 6:00 am Friday, August 17, 2018

The “C” word has hit our family before. My youngest brother, Mark, fought and won his battle as a teenager. Cancer is a word that strikes fear in those who hear it and challenges the entire family who loves that person.

My father’s battle began a little over a month ago with colon cancer and a successful surgery performed by Dr. Butt of Harlan Appalachian Regional Hospital. He completed his time at the rehabilitation center at Tri-Cities facility In Cumberland, Kentucky. We have had him home with us for almost two weeks, and so thankful for have him there.

We are probably being overprotective, especially my mother. They have been married over 67 years and dated for a year or two before that. When they took their wedding vows, they meant them. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, until death shall call one of them home. My mom has stuck with him like glue through this illness and recovery, often neglecting much needed rest for herself. Although my brother and I have been there throughout the process, she is definitely the primary caregiver.

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Until a situation hits close to home, we often don’t fully realize what people around us are going through. I am reminded of others who have been caring for a loved one over years or even decades. Nothing can motivate such behavior besides genuine love.

There have been various instances in our family where we cared for each other. My brother had cancer, my mom lost a kidney, had a knee replacement, and a hip replacement. I have had two knee replacements. And now my dad is recovering from colon cancer. We are there for each other. That’s what families do. We will continue as long as we are able to provide the care that is needed for each other in whatever comes.

I dare say that each reader can think of someone nearby who is a caregiver whether it is a family member, a neighbor, church member, or friend. Sometimes we don’t know what to do to support and reach out to families going through tough times. Each caregiver has their own personality. Some are extremely close mouthed and don’t want to talk about anything while other just need somebody to listen. Some prefer not to have people in while others are lonely and need the interaction with others to keep them going.

I know that I’ve failed to do as much as I could have done for those around me. Caught up in my own world and demands within my own family and demands on my time I have failed in many directions. Part of it is not realizing that I was needed when there were others closer to the situation who were available, and part of it has been that the business of life robs us of free time and opportunities to reach out.

I would like to thank every person who has prayed for my dad, everyone who has called, sent cards, or stopped by to see him in the hospital, rehab, and at home. Every little kindness has been appreciated. Every effort to reach out to my family has made a difference.

When a person is in a situation that demands them to be the primary caregiver, no one else can step in and carry the load for them long distance. But certainly, we can make their load lighter. Family should take care of family first and foremost if at all possible. However, there are those around us who don’t have family available near them, or friends who are free to take on the role. If we look, perhaps we can all make a small difference for the caregivers around us.

Reach longtime Enterprise columnist Judith Victoria Hensley at judith99@bellsouth.net or on Facebook. Check out her blog: One Step Beyond the Door.