So began my journey as a caregiver

At a December 2017 visit with his cardiologist to begin treating his peripheral artery disease, the doctor told my husband and me that a mass was seen on the CT scan he had ordered.  That was news I did not expect to hear.  We visited the Pulmonologist for a diagnosis (stage IV lung cancer) and then the Oncologist.  Soon we added a Radiation Oncologist to the team. 

So began my journey as a caregiver.  In the years since the cancer diagnosis, other diagnoses have been added to the long list of those from which my husband suffers. 

In December of 2019, my husband caught a cold that he had trouble fighting. The cold turned into an episode of Congestive Heart Failure that required hospitalization. I realized that I needed to stay vigilant and protect him from catching illnesses that were going around.  Which meant that I needed to protect myself as well.  I felt isolated and this was before the quarantine for COVID-19 even started. 

As a New Year's resolution that year (I don’t usually make New Year's resolutions because I famously don’t keep them) I vowed to do two things: join a church community and find a support group for caregivers. Both were way outside my comfort zone but I knew I needed to take the leap for my own mental health.

I did join a church community.  After attending several in person services and meeting some people, I joined the book club.  I became a member.  Services are held online and the book group meets on Zoom but I know that when we can, we’ll meet face to face again.  One resolution completed!  YAY me.

And I did find a support group.  I scoured the Internet because I really didn’t know where to start or where to look.  And I struck gold.  I started attending the Hospice SLO County Caregiver Support Group in January 2020.  We met in person until March 2020 when the quarantine started. 

Finding this group of people felt like I had found my safe place: a place where I could cry, tell my story, hear the stories of others, share, feel understood, even laugh and most of all not feel alone.  Isolation is so very common for caregivers.  Isolation on top of isolation for me was a double whammy.  The weekly Zoom Caregiver Support Group meeting is what I looked forward to each week, a way to start the weekend and a way to feel grounded and understood.  We come from all walks of life, men and women, caring for parents, spouses and sometimes children.  We bond over the joys and sorrows of caregiving, the daily struggles, and the feelings of frustration, anger and inadequacy.  And mostly we share the goal of wanting to not have any regrets when our journey as a caregiver is over.

Although caregiving consumes most of my mental, physical and emotional energy those in my support group remind me that I am more than a caregiver. I am encouraged to find joy wherever and whenever possible, practice self-care to a fault and engage my mind, spirit and soul in pursuits just for ME.  Caregiving will end so I need to ensure that I still have ME when that time comes.

The Hospice SLO County Caregiver Support Group threw me a lifeline.  I want other caregivers who need the support of a group to be able to avail themselves of the benefits of a group such as this one.  Because all of Hospice SLO County's services are free to those who need them I wanted to support the organization by becoming a GEM so the Caregiver Support Group and other support groups and services can continue to be offered free of charge to anyone. If you are already a GEM, thank you. If not, I hope you will consider joining me by becoming a GEM. 

Bless you Hospice of San Luis Obispo County!!