... or anything else fall...
I know there are many of you that will think I am crazy. How can I be a Pumpkin Spice Latte hater? But, it is true. I wasn’t always this way, though.
When I was much younger, I remember the excitement of picking up the JCPenny catalog to order my new school clothes. Do you remember rainbow sweaters and gauchos with boots? And yes, we wore them that first day of school even though it was 80 degrees out.
How about the excitement of getting those brand new school supplies? I was so cool with my Trapper Keeper and Troll Pencil toppers.
And what about those super school lunch boxes…which one did you have?
Those were fun times. Finding out which teacher you had and which of your friends you had in your classes... The excitement of Fall and a new school year was exhilarating. Fall, when I was school-age, was about new beginnings, new opportunities, new experiences.
My love of Fall continued into my adulthood. My wedding took place Labor Day weekend. I was more than excited to begin a new chapter in my life. So what happened? Why is Fall no longer fun for me?
Cancer. Shortly after our first anniversary in 1999, my husband was diagnosed with cancer of the spine. Surprisingly, I can’t remember the exact date. You would think that would be something I would never forget. But, those of you that have experienced a cancer diagnosis understand the whirlwind that ensues. That Fall was a blur of tests, doctor’s appointments and treatments.
Yet, that one event didn’t ruin Fall for me. In September of 2001 my husband starting falling. He never regained the ability to walk and spent the next 6 year paralyzed from the waist down. In September of 2004, Farell was struck by a semi while driving his golf cart. He spent several weeks in the hospital as a trauma patient. From that adventure, he ended up with a plate in his thigh and 11 external screws holding the rest of his legs together. Fall of 2007 was the beginning of the end for Farell. This time was different from all the other hospital stays and treatments and surgeries. This time, Farell started forgetting things while becoming confused and angry. There was a very significant change in his mood, overall. Farell had his last surgery that same Fall, but he never really recovered. He entered Hospice in October and got his angel wings on November 12, 2007.
So why share the very personal story of Farell and I? It is probably empathy I seek, as I don’t think I am alone in the feelings I have for Fall. Fall for me meant sickness, injury and eventually death. And, I know it is a different season or holiday or month for you. We all have a trigger that brings us back to a difficult time in our lives. And, those difficulties discolor everything else.
So, be gentle with that loved one that isn’t thrilled about the re-emergence of Pumpkin Spice Lattes or isn’t excited about the upcoming Holiday season. Seeing them in a funk or perhaps a little distant, doesn’t mean you should leave them alone. Ask them if they want to talk about it. If they don’t wish to share at this time, you have shown that you care. Personally, I appreciate the opportunity to share about Farell. It helps me to keep his memory alive.
So if you see me still in my flip flops in October, don’t judge. I am just struggling with the transition to Fall. You could invite me out for Pumpkin Spice Latte and we could have a nice visit about Farell or talk about your "seasons".
Jeff & Tammy Berner featured in our Cancer Patient Services Testimonial Video
I have never had cancer, but I have been a caregiver for a cancer patient. My husband’s cancer battle lasted 8 years. And, there was a time that I felt I couldn’t do it anymore... I couldn’t be the caregiver. I didn’t have enough time, energy or emotional strength left. The reality is that no one is ever really prepared to be a caregiver. You are just thrown into it. We do the best we can.
One of the hardest things to do is ask for help. It is hard to admit that we can’t do it anymore, that we are overwhelmed, exhausted and afraid of letting our loved one down. Asking for help is making ourselves vulnerable, and who the heck wants to do that?
But you opened this blog to read this topic, so either you are a caregiver or you know someone who is struggling with their caregiver role. So let me share some insights about caregiving that could help you or someone you know with their role as caregiver.
The symptoms of caregiver burnout are similar to the symptoms of stress and depression. They include:
· Withdrawal from friends and family
· Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
· Feeling blue, irritable, hopeless, and helpless
· Changes in appetite, weight, or both
· Changes in sleep patterns
· Getting sick more often
· Feelings of wanting to hurt yourself or the person for whom you are caring
· Emotional and physical exhaustion
· Excessive use of alcohol and/or sleep medications
(Taken from WedMd; http://www.webmd.com/women/caregiver-recognizing-burnout#1)
If you recognize these signs in yourself or another caregiver in your life, take some steps to prevent or reduce burnout.
Here are several options:
Carol Metzger is CEO of CPS. After losing her husband and her mother to cancer, she gets the gravity of a cancer diagnosis. But, in working with CPS clients over the past five years, she also has seen happiness and friendship evolve out of the support and love we extend one another. This blog is a lot of Carol’s first and second hand experiences with people going through cancer, and she welcomes comments and feedback from you.