Caregiver, Caregiver, give care to yourself!

It’s been a little while since I’ve written a blog and it’s about damn time to write again.

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Honestly, it’s been difficult to write. The Danieley Digest blog began as a way for me to talk about, analyze, dissect, muse upon etc… my chosen vocation and art form, music theatre. But as this last year was hijacked by my wife Marin’s ovarian cancer and the journey that we have been on together, that has been put on the back burner, and rightfully so. When your world is turned upside down you adjust your mindset and daily activities to the situation and cope.

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Marin received the great good news on January 8th that her cancer is in remission! It also was my dad’s birthday and we took that as a fantastic sign. Hallelujah!

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“So, the cancer is gone so let’s get back to our normal life.” Right? No. Not in the least, right. There is this “new normal” that we are constantly adjusting for.  For one thing there are the check ups, tests and scans every three months to make sure that all the cancer is still gone. There is this little cloud that hovers over our head and heart in three month increments that we just can’t ignore.

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Is that going to be a problem? Not if you work diligently together to remind each other that you are okay right now, that there are no signs of illness and no reason to think that the cancer has returned. You must remind yourself or have your partner remind you of the lessons you learned during the last 8 months and that is to Breathe, Live in the moment and Don’t worry over things you can’t control.

Easier said than done. BUT that’s why we have each other AND a lovely therapist who is only a phone call away to help remind us of where we are and how we’re doing.

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Okay so we know how to navigate our expectations for three months at a time so our short-term goals are being achieved. Now, wouldn’t it be nice if we can get back to a normal work situation.

Now, for those of you who are not in the show business, this does not happen easily or effortlessly normally. As actors and singers we are probably unemployed as much or more than we are employed. But we’re used to that and so over the years we’ve learned to supplement our music theatre work life with occasional television work and a concert work life.

As I wrote in a previous blog Marin was back up on that horse tout-suite. A duet concert for the two of us at Bay Area Cabaret in San Fran in December, New Years Eve at 54Below for Marin solo and we toured with the Czech Philharmonic doing the first ever series of Broadway music concerts with this incredibly fun and jovial, internationally renowned orchestra.

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Prague: Czech Republic O2 Arena

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Don’t Cry for Her…

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Oh What a Circus (this last year has been)

As we were getting ourselves ready for our trip to the Czech Republic Marin was asked if she would like to take on the role of Mrs. Anna in the current, Tony Award winning, Lincoln Center revival of The King and I. 

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Not one to turn down a fantastic role or to shrink from a challenge she accepted the offer and will begin performances on May 3rd. The woman doesn’t do anything in a small way. She’s not just going back to work but she is taking on a role that requires her to “carry” this lengthy show while being corseted up and waltzing in a large, I mean large, hoop skirt.

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I talk about Marin in these blogs so much because I have learned so much from her. Her strength, courage, determination, positive mindset “etc…, etc…, etc…” (to quote a famous King of Siam) has been inspirational to so many and definitely to me.

I enjoy writing and I enjoy sharing our journey because, on the whole, it has turned out so well. We are so very fortunate and don’t take any moment or any blessing for granted.

But I wouldn’t be completely honest if I said this has been easy and I wouldn’t be true to myself if I didn’t say it was down right, fucking hard for me.

So many friends along the way, during this cancer journey, have gone out of their way to ask if I’m taken care of and if my needs are being met. And I always gave a quick nod, a wave of the hand or a shrug of the shoulders to insinuate that “all is fine with me. It’s her we need to focus on”.

 

A considerable amount of my life has consisted of being a caregiver or at least a strong support for those in my family who have needed me to be strong. I pride myself on being able to be clear minded, efficient and able to act under pressure. It’s a great trait to have when it’s needed. Being from a family of stalwart souls it comes naturally. Being from a “good mid-western family” (a.k.a. good at suppressing feelings or emotions in order to “be there” for others) is what can really drain your well dry real quick – like.

I thought that I was being taken care of. I was eating and sleeping and doing what needed to be done in order to get my wife back on her feet again. But the emotional drain that goes on under the skin, in the deep recesses of your brain and your heart and soul is really what drains you and you have no clear way of quantifying that until…

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… you can’t get out of bed.

It’s an accumulative thing and one that I had a hard time figuring out. Once I figured out that I was living in a heightened and constant state of averting disaster, trying to do all within my control to keep my love (literally) alive as well as communicating with friends and family all that has transpired, since last we spoke, and to keep it real and clear but with a definite positive spin on it all… all I wanted to do, once that proverbial roller coaster ride had ended and the smoke had cleared, was to sleep and sleep and sleep.

There is an element of depression and adjustment and god knows what all else that I had to go through. And believe me it’s not all over yet but at least I have an intellectual understanding of what is going on; a clear plan of how to manage it – by not squelching what I’m feeling or trying to rush through and get “back on my feet” again – actually living in these moments as well; and communicating what I’m feeling with my wife so she knows where I am and she is, in turn, able to be there for me.

See how this partnership stuff works? It’s not all one sided – ever.  Communicating and sharing is paramount in survival.

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Let me just get down from here…

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I don’t mean to elicit sympathy from you but I think since this story of ours has been spreading around and people who have gone, and continue to go, through a similar journey are reading about us it is only fair and right to talk about the whole experience.

I have two close friends who have been the caregiver recently. One lost his husband to brain cancer and another has moved into the palliative stage of dealing with losing hers.

Cancer is indiscriminate, life isn’t fair, strange things happen in life and bad things happen to good people. There is no way to know what tomorrow brings. If you can buoy yourself with Marin’s good turn of fate or have a slight leg up on knowing why you are suddenly depressed or feeling helpless because of my being honest – then good.

If you are a caregiver please take the time, and that can be a moment of silent meditation a walk in the park or an afternoon nap, for yourself. Be as good to yourself as you are to your partner, husband, wife – love.

 

“You be good and I’ll try.” – Martin Harrison

 

Jason

PS. I’m updating this because I feel I may have come just shy of saying everything I should.

I know about being a caregiver, as you know, from Marin’s journey with cancer this year. I now know it from the inside. I have known it secondhand since 1991 when my dad became a caregiver to my mom. She had a brain tumor, about the size of a golfball wrapped around her left optic nerve – just behind her eye. She had surgery to remove it and it was successful. She, unfortunately, had many issues from that surgery: short-term memory loss, problem solving skill issues, limited peripheral site etc… enough to force her to have to retire very early, her mid 40s.

So dad was her caregiver. She was more than capable to do most everything normally but she did depend on him a lot.

Then I saw the roles reversed as dad had two quintuple heart bypasses within five years of one another. His recover was pretty quick but left him compromised and a life ahead of him of other heart related issues.

Then mom was diagnosed with breast cancer – and the roles reversed again.

…and the world goes round.

They were strong for one another but it does take an incredible toll on a person.

Medication is an option but in my opinion an anti-depressant or anti-anxiety drug should be accompanied by talk therapy so you can really understand the issues that are going on in your mind and heart and can address them or at least learn how to cope with them. Medication is a great tool but shouldn’t be used alone.

I add this with love, hope, encouragement and experience.

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Caregiver, Caregiver, give care to yourself!

  1. Jason, thanks, as ever, for your candor. Your and Marin’s sharing is so inspiring. So who am I to share, me who doesn’t really know you (well, except for on Facebook, and the fact that we have a set of friends in common?) But I’ll share: The more you can keep your thoughts on the positive, the better the outcomes you’ll get. Yes, in so many ways, it’s been awful, far more than anything a person and her husband should face. I’d never minimize that. AND, during all this, you’ve been in “Chicago” (and will be again) Marin’s had major solo and the two of you, duet concerts, and now she’s stepping into a demanding role, perhaps the replacement role of the year–no easy feat! Oh, and she’s in remission!!! No doubt in my mind that that’s due to her healing treatments (A dear friend of mine uses that term as well!) and her (and your) apparently enormous wells of positivity. I’m not being a Pollyanna here: If you keep focusing on the positive, she’ll stay well, and you’ll both continue to attract gigs that allow you to share your enormous gifts with the world. (And yes, do take care of yourself!)

    Sending you both lots of strength and happiness!

    kj

    PS: I didn’t realize you got your good news on the day of your Dad’s birthday. What a wonderful gift!

  2. Thank you for your honesty and for sharing your journey as you did. You have given me hope and encouragement. May you, Marin and all your extended family continue to heal.

    Fear of the unknown is paralyzing and presses you down. May Marin and millions of others remain in remission and may a cure truly be found for cancer and Alzheimer’s if I my add that other life squelching disease.

    Blessings of joy and hope. Prayers of strength and joy.
    Kimberly

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