The Role of the Caregiver - The Shower Shirt


Lisa F. Crites

Before continuing my ‘To Blog or Not to Blog’ series, I want to take the opportunity to discuss the difficult role of the cancer patient caregiver. I’ve discussed the myriad of difficulties of being the patient, but haven’t necessarily approached the other side of the equation, the ‘caregiver.’

 A few weeks into my Blogging series, a gentleman by the name of Cameron Von St. James forwarded a message about his journey as a caregiver to his wife; Heather, a mesothelioma patient. Cameron requested I share his story about the importance of the caregiver support role as it relates to the healing process of the patient.  See you next week.

Lisa F. Crites, The SHOWER SHIRT Principal/Inventor

My Difficult Journey as a Cancer Caregiver

When my wife was diagnosed with mesothelioma, she would frequently tell me how she couldn’t imagine what I was going through as a caregiver and a husband. I seldom spoke at length about it with her, but I hope to share more now for the benefit of those families currently struggling through a battle with cancer.

Sometimes great happiness and joy can be accompanied by great sorrow. In our case, we were blessed with our baby girl Lily. Three months later, my wife received the news of her condition. Our world came crashing down in a matter of seconds, when the doctor spoke the word “mesothelioma.” I looked towards my wife at the sound of those words and wondered to myself how we would ever get through this.

Naturally I felt helpless, that there was nothing I could do. The doctor began to consult us about the different options that were available to us, suddenly I realized that this was really happening and it wasn’t going to stop because my wife and I were heartbroken. A long road was ahead for the two of us, and despite the grief we would need to fight through it.

I was consumed by rage soon afterwards, wondering why this was happening during what should have been the happiest times of our lives. Often I resorted to profanity as a terrible means of expression. In due time I calmed down and came to my senses, my wife would need me now more than ever. I had to be strong for her even when I didn’t understand. She needed stability and someone to make her happy despite the circumstances. The task was daunting, but from then on I always did my best to be a stable source of hope and optimism throughout her battle.

CameronFamily                                                     Heather, Lily and Cameron

Soon I was juggling appointments, work-schedules, and raising our daughter. I got the hang of it soon enough. After my pride subsided, I realized there was an entire support network that was waiting to help. Not for lack of effort, at times I still managed to feel overwhelmed with the massive amount of responsibility I had inherited. However, with the wonderful support of our loving family and friends, I was able to stay sane.

While my wife underwent mesothelioma surgery in Boston, we sent our baby girl to stay with her grandparents in South Dakota. As soon as Heather was healthy enough to travel, she joined Lily at her parent’s house, while I returned home to work. Unfortunately, over the next two months I would be able to see my family only one time. It was excruciatingly difficult to be away from the ones I loved, but it was a necessary decision in the face of extreme adversity. We simply saw the choice as a sign that some of this was still in our control and we weren’t yet ready to give up.

My wife was diagnosed over seven years ago, and despite the overwhelming odds, her treatment and our persistence paid off. She is cancer free to this day. I hope others who are unfortunately reliving this tale in their own lives will find strength in our story to help them carry on.  For more information on mesothelioma or asbestos, check out the links below.

Cameron Von St. James