A very dear and respected friend and caregiver, Ray Uzanas, e-mailed me with a comment in response to my blog post from December 22, 2010 entitled "10 Steps to Avoid Caregiver Burnout in 2011."
He wanted to elaborate my point #10: "Honor the work you're doing."
Ray was the caregiver to his wife Loretta for 12 years. Loretta was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1992. A later breast cancer diagnosis and ensuing treatments further detracted from her quality of life. Ray refers to Loretta's stamina as "Herculean," but as a caregiver, I'm sure Ray's efforts were equally courageous.
My hat's off to Ray and all caregivers for the love, patience, dedication and hope they display each and every day. Ray has also written a book entitled "Odyssey of a Wayward Traveler," which began a journey of self-discovery, renewal and adventure.
Here is Ray's take on "Honoring the work you do":
As survival time for MM increases, so does the care-giving period, and this is both a blessing and challenge to caregivers and their loved ones. Despite their faithful support and love, caregivers' resolve can be tested often as the years pass. The altered lifestyle can take its toll on the most well-intentioned of caregivers.
During my 12 years as a caregiver to my wife Loretta, at times of particular stress, I would draw strength and purpose in the knowledge that I was given another calling, another challenge, another path to follow in life that would permit further character development; new and meaningful ways of expressing my love to another person; and finally, by the very nature of my behavior, set an example worthy of being passed to family, friends and others.
We, as caregivers, never asked for that role, just as those diagnosed with MM never asked for their disease. I think it's how we "play the hands we're dealt" during our lives that can define our legacy.
Thanks, Ray, for your insight into the caregiver experience! I'd love to hear from other voices out there how you deal with challenges we all face sometimes.