My journey as a caregiver had come to an end. I was exhausted to the core and clueless about what life post-caregiving would look like. I had many ideas about how I would pick up the life I had left behind as a Social Marketing Consultant creating public health education campaigns, but as I thought about returning to my old life, I would be engulfed in a fog.
Six months prior to her death, my mother, Elizabeth St. Cyr Roberts, had been diagnosed with Stage IV Breast Cancer. I was incredulous. My mom had been under the constant care of many doctors. She was hospitalized seven times that very year. How in God’s name could she have breast cancer? I was beside myself with the pain and weight of this reality. It felt so incredibly unfair. Even though I had been the caregiver for my mother for over twelve years, I was once again experiencing the resistance of shock and denial.
Had not my mother been through enough?
Wasn’t a large, pituitary brain tumor enough?
If not that, then surely a massive stroke had to be enough?
Right side paralysis?
What about Hepatitis C, contracted through blood transfusions?
High Blood Pressure?
Congestive Heart Failure?
All of these were my mom’s actual diagnoses and somehow she found the grace, strength and dignity to handle and manage them. But this—this Stage IV Breast Cancer—she didn’t have a fighting chance with this. She was battle weary and didn’t have any fight left in her. Once again I had found myself circling back to the stage of helplessness. But this time there was a difference. I had earned the spiritual grace during the previous years of conscious caregiving to receive a blessing along with the shock.
As I grabbed my hair and screamed in anguish over this bitter injustice, I heard a small voice. The voice told me, “Calm down. The cancer isn’t for your mom. It’s for you, to learn from.”
“What? What do you mean, the cancer is for me?” The voice clearly said I would need to understand cancer in order to do the work I was assigned to do. “What work?” I asked in desperation.
“The Assignment, your work with family caregivers.”
“Are you kidding me? I want to run as far away from caregiving as I can.”
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