On to LIVING more tomorrows

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Louise Stout, Wisconsin

2015 was a tumultuous year for our family. I had retired from my job as an RN the previous fall, had spent a delightful winter in the south (as Wisconsin winters were no longer welcome to our bodies or souls!) and returned to our home to be caregivers to our house and gardens. This was going to be a long awaited dream retirement until July.

My sister's husband, who had been diagnosed with prostate cancer years before, had come out of remission and experienced metastasis. His decline was fairly rapid, and he passed early in July. My sister's friends noted that she seemed a bit forgetful and not really herself throughout the funeral process and afterward. In reality, she had no time to grieve her husband.

In August, still not feeling well, she visited her doctor and, after many tests it was determined that she had Stage IV lung cancer with mets to her pancreas and adrenals. Not wanting her to start her treatment alone in her home (in another state), my partner flew to her and stayed for two weeks around her first chemo.

Close friends in her neighborhood took care of her through the second, and I went down for the third. As her treatment progressed, we found that she really was unsafe to be alone — especially right after the chemo. Chemo fog was contributing to her forgetfulness and anxiety, and we decided that a plan was needed to see her through for the long run.

We have now moved in with her and are with her almost 24/7 (waiting for the other shoe to drop??), attending all of her chemo and doctor appointments, making sure she eats and takes her meds, and noting all of her symptoms to report to her doctor.

Our retirement days have pretty much been turned upside down as both of us have left our routine, our home, and our friends to be here. Honestly, this has left huge holes in our lives, and we no longer have the option to make decisions about either the near or far future. We have been here almost three months now and are slowly learning to embrace every day and whatever it brings. Having never really known my sister as an adult, I have been given another chance however stressful and anxiety producing that lesson has been!

Yes, I am tired most of the time, but take the opportunity to nap pretty much every day. I have tried to help my sis with the concept of a “new normal” but am still struggling to embrace that concept myself. I find that anger rears its head too many times, and I try to fight it as I know in my heart that I wouldn’t have this any other way as family takes care of itself and that’s just the way it has to be.

I am also trying not to look ahead as it only brings worry and fear. There are disadvantages to being the “nurse of the family,” as my medical knowledge can be a disadvantage in more ways than one! I am thankful for my wonderful support system — my partner, other family members, and my sister’s friends — helping to sustain me.

On to LIVING more tomorrows — starting with just one day!