“I have uterine cancer.” These were the words my mother spoke to me as I stood in the doorway of her bedroom in disbelief and shock. At first I thought she wasn’t serious. Maybe the tests had revealed a mistake. Maybe the lab results got switched with someone else. That day in 2010 shook my world and during the next two years I would understand what it would be like to take on the role of a caregiver. I would be tested physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. I would be thrust into the world of doctor’s appointments, waiting rooms, chemotherapy, radiation, blood draws, lab results, emergency rooms, conventional and complimentary medicine and hospice care. I never saw this coming and I don’t think she did either.
At first she went the traditional healthcare route having surgery to remove some cancerous lymph nodes, perform a hysterectomy and later chemotherapy and radiation. It was very scary for me to see my mother start to lose weight, lose her hair and appetite and not have as much energy as she used to. During the night she laid in her bed suffering from the effects of the chemo as it caused sharp pain to shoot down her legs and into her feet. Working a full-time massage job 6 days a week, going to school to study Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, build my business on the side and then coming home to take care of her was a lot to handle. I don’t know how I kept it together.
After the rounds of chemo and radiation were finished she explored the field of complementary medicine receiving massage, lymphatic drainage, energy work, and taking herbs to strengthen her immune system and detox from the effects of the drugs. During this time I was so happy to see her start to feel better. Things were looking up. It was January of 2011.
It started off as what my mother thought was a small infection on her inner left thigh. After a few months of trying a few things, the doctor confirmed the uterine cancer had returned. My heart sank as I hugged my mother, tears streaming down her face. I assured her that I was there for her before and I would be there now. Little did I know, this time would lead me as a caregiver to burnout. It was at this point that I knew I need to re-connect with my body and spirit.
I started on a regular basis to receive Zen Shiatsu and Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy sessions. Finances were tough, but I found the money every time knowing that this was something I had to do for myself. During these sessions I was able to slow down, breathe and really listen to what my body had been trying to tell me for the past year. As this happened nagging pain and tension in my body started to unwind, my thoughts started to calm down, and challenging emotions where greatly diminished or left completely.
After the session when I went back home to care for my mother I saw her in a new light. My heart opened again and I was deeply honored to care for her. I could do the simplest things as well as the complex with ease and joy. It was not that my mother had changed, but I had changed both physically and emotionally as a result of self-care. Eventually my mother’s condition worsened and I had to call hospice. On October 1st, 2012 at 9:00pm after a 2-year battle with uterine cancer, my mother peacefully passed away.
Nick is owner of Breath of Life Bodywork in Loveland, CO. Watch or read his video blog post on caregiving: 3 Life Lessons from a Young Caregiver.