I will be on a Christian radio program on Tuesday, March 29th at 1:30. It will be taped so I will let you know when it airs. I will be telling my life story along with how I was led by the Lord to start this blog. I ask for your prayers that God will speak His words through me!
Suzanne is a natural born nurturer, who treasures the spiritual side of caregiving. She cared for her husband, Eric’s mother, Mary, in their home while Mary was dying. It was a very intense several months while Mary went through difficult radiation treatments as the cancer had spread to her brain and throughout her body. However, Suzanne feels that it was one of the most special times in her life. Her family shared her mission, and her son even shaved his head to show his solidarity with Mary. Suzanne relates that her children, Sabrina and Evan, were nothing short of amazing with their grandmother. Eric’s family faithfully visited and called frequently.
Then several years later, Suzanne cared for her own mother, Violet, who was in the early stages of age- related dementia. She moved Violet from her home in Florida, which angered her mother at first. Violet lived with the family for six months; however, Suzanne concluded that a retirement community would be better suited for her. Later she remained in independent living and then a memory care facility for the last six months of her life. But Suzanne was always there numerous times on a daily basis, to help with medicine, bathing, and dressing. She would often visit during lunchtime to generate conversations. Her mother was a very stylish woman, so Suzanne always made sure she was well-dressed and had her make-up on. She often took her Mom to church meetings, which Violet thoroughly enjoyed. Despite spending time with both mothers, she worked hard to maintain a normal structure and routine in her family life. She also had the support of her brother and sister.
These experiences gave Suzanne a clearer idea of what’s really important in life. It’s the time we give to our loved ones. She says now that she wishes she would have gone into nursing or social work. She truly loves caregiving and sees it as a calling. Her family and friends see her as a tremendous example of a dedicated caregiver, who happily went above and beyond what was expected of her. Her story is a testimony to a very positive caregiving experience, especially since her family and extended family were so supportive.
- Her unshakable faith and optimism.
- The families of both mothers provided incredible support.
- Friends from church and her book club.
- Maintaining a sense of humor.
- Streams of visitors in her home.
- Regular exercise.
Suzanne’s Favorite Prayer:
Suzanne’s favorite prayer is: “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.” -Attributed to Stephen Grellet
Dear Father, thank You for Suzanne’s caregiver’s heart. Help us to follow her example of giving our time generously to those who are in need of Your tender care. Help us to remember that You are the ultimate caregiver.
Ryan is a lawyer and was a world class athlete, so his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease 15 years ago was a real “punch in the gut.” He also has other health issues like diabetes, as well as diseases that tend to go along with Parkinson’s, such as depression and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. His wife, Kathleen, says they have tried everything including deep brain surgery, which has eliminated the tremors. His voice, which used to fill a courtroom, is now a whisper. They are seeing a Speech Therapist to learn to increase the volume, but most of the damage is already done. Parkinson’s is a very complex disease, so together the couple have explored all the potential therapies.
Kathleen says there were early signs of the disease when they were first married 38 years ago. One of her biggest worries is the falls he takes. Once when he attempted to play tennis, he fell and broke his arm. He still tries to work sometimes and loves giving legal advice – it makes him feel helpful. One thing that makes them feel better is recording stories about his legal conquests.
She says they love each other more now than ever. They enjoy the same things and still have fun together. One of their favorite outings is going to estate sales. However, Kathleen does admit that she feels guilty sometimes doing their favorite things without him when it is just too difficult to bring him. She never leaves for long time periods, especially in the evenings.
Her husband has truly been the love of her life. She takes her wedding vows very seriously. She feels “the for better or for worse, in sickness and in health” is not something couples can even begin to comprehend when they say them to each other. When things get difficult, Kathleen pulls out her wedding vows and reads them.
Ryan is usually in a good mood, despite feeling badly. Kathleen’s biggest fear is being without him. She admits that she suffers from “anticipatory grief.” Kathleen says, “When that happens, I compartmentalize by putting those thoughts in a place in my mind and try to ignore them. Then I plan things for us to do together now and make the most of what we are capable of doing at this stage. Most of all, I am grateful for what I have and have had with Ryan. I do feel lucky as Ryan is a good man, and I wouldn’t trade him for anyone else.”
Kathleen also cared for her father, who had dementia, in her home for four years. Even with the help of Home Health and Hospice, she definitely had a “full plate.” Her Dad was a sweet, happy man, but by the time of his death in 2007, he was a shell of the person she knew and loved. He was similar to Ryan in that he loved working when he was able and feeling needed. Fortunately, Ryan was doing better during that period.
Caring for a parent is a whole different ball game. Kathleen says, “When you’re caring for a parent, you have to do physical things for them that can be demeaning to the parent.” But Kathleen was always mindful and respectful of her father’s needs.
She says, “God gave me good health and physical and mental strength to get through these trials of numerous illnesses with my Dad and Ryan. God gave me to Ryan, and I am always willing to help him out of love.” Friends are amazed by her happy attitude. She always has a smile on her face, even when she was pushing her father in a wheelchair at church years ago.
What has Helped:
- She has a Girls Night Out group that meets regularly.
- Kathleen’s attitude – she doesn’t carry resentment, but is a caregiver with a loving heart.
- Both of her sons live in the same city and are willing to help.
- Her ability to live in the present.
Her Favorite Prayer
Kathleen likes the prayer, “I complained because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.” She says there is always someone who is worse off than we are. She truly has an “attitude for gratitude.”
Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for Kathleen’s caregiver’s heart filled with love, optimism, thanksgiving and strength – all given by You. Bless this special couple as they struggle with this terrible disease. Help them to know that You are right there with them carrying them through these trials each step of the way.
Stacy was a lively, fun, and outgoing young woman with terminal Merkel cell cancer. In addition to being an A+ wife, mother, sister, and daughter, she was an impish prankster who loved to play jokes on family and friends. In short, she was fun to be around. She was devoted to her husband, Mike, and to her two girls whom she considered her greatest achievements.
She had a very tight bond with her sister, Karen, as they were close in age and always looked out for each other. Both sisters and Mike loved the beach, and this picture of Stacy in the ocean is still one of their favorites.
Her journey with cancer began when she was 37 years-old with Merkel cell cancer in 1996. She was pregnant with her first child, so she couldn’t do chemotherapy, but she did have the tumor removed. She became pregnant with her second child in 1997 and gave birth in March, 1998. In mid-September of 1998, the doctors found that the cancer had metastasized to her liver. The medical community didn’t provide any options at this point. Her family, including her parents and her brother, Jim, were distraught.
Her fight only lasted for three and one-half months, but it was a painful and exhausting time. During those months Mike, Karen, and brother-in-law, Dave, tried every kind of alternative treatment possible to cure her, flying all over the country looking for hope. Stacy went along with the trips mainly for them, as she already had a feeling that she would die.
“Stacy made it easy to care for her while she was sick,” says Mike, “she was always coherent, fluid, and good company and was never a complainer.” He says she was self-sufficient and independent as long as she could be. Mike said he always had a guarded attitude about the cancer returning, so in some small way he was prepared. Their girls were lifesavers who distracted them from the cancer issues, and Mike says that their time alone was always pleasant. In a nutshell, Mike says, “She made all of us better people! She was at her best even when things were at their worst.” They had dated since they were 15, so they had a long history together, which made losing her even more difficult.
Karen and Dave kept her at their home for three weeks so that Karen could help her beloved sister, but she was at home with Mike and the girls for her final two weeks. Karen set up prayer meetings for friends and family on Monday evenings. Karen says that Stacy was always better on Tuesdays – she had more energy and a better attitude. She knew that she was dying. Raised in the Catholic faith, Stacy had a special devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Saying her rosary brought her peace and reassured her that everything would be alright.
Since Karen and Stacy were extremely close sisters, Karen had a difficult time relinquishing control. Karen is a person of action and desires answers, so losing her treasured sister in this way was very difficult. Although she didn’t understand why this was happening, Karen found peace in the Bible, especially those verses that deal with wisdom versus understanding and knowledge.
Stacy was born on Christmas Eve, 1959 and died on New Year’s Eve, 1998 at exactly 3:00 p.m., which is the Hour of Mercy in the Catholic Church. Hers was a very peaceful death surrounded by her caregivers. She accepted her death with grace and knew that she was in God’s hands.
What Helped Her Caregivers:
- Trying to maintain a normal schedule, as much as possible.
- Since her daughters were so young when she died, Karen made some tapes of their beautiful mother for them.
- The weekly prayer group.
- Isaiah ministry for Karen.
- Karen read the Bible to Stacy.
- Mike says work was very helpful in letting him work shorter days so he could care for his family.
- Grief support groups were a major help for both of them after her death.
Mathew 18:20 at prayer meetings: For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.
Luke 23:43 He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Hour of Mercy Prayer: At 3:00, implore My mercy, especially for sinners; and, if for a brief moment, immerse yourself in My passion, particularly in My abandonment at the moment of agony. This is the hour of great mercy….In this hour I will refuse nothing of the soul that makes a request of me in virtue of My passion.
Dear Father, thank you for the life of Stacy, who touched so many people during her short life. Her example of faith during such difficult days was truly amazing to those around her. Your precious peace always surrounded her, and she truly surrendered to Your will. Her prayers were answered. Help us to learn from her example.