Written by Michael D. Tenaglia, Co-Author of The Greatest Burden The Greatest Blessing
February 5th marks the 11-year anniversary of the surgery that discovered a malignant tumor in my wife Lynda’s thyroid. In that time, I have learned a lot about cancer, the great medical facilities that are available to us in New England, the strength that is within Lynda, and about caregiving.
Throughout this journey, Lynda and I have also learned that we are not alone. There are millions of caregivers and care recipients going through similar experiences. It wasn't until Alan, Mark, and I partnered on The Greatest Burden, The Greatest Blessing, that I truly understood this. I knew our situation wasn't unique; I just hadn't taken the time to think about other people's struggles. Their burdens and pain and suffering.
Here's a passage I wrote at the beginning of our book.
“The battle rages on . . . It’s been ten years since Lynda was diagnosed with cancer. Now, it feels like we’re on a rowboat heading straight for Niagara Falls. Lynda’s medical teams are on the banks of the river, throwing us lifelines, but the water is getting faster and rougher. It’s becoming harder to stay afloat, but we hang on to whatever lines are thrown our way.”
I can’t lie. It has been a rough ride for Lynda, me, and my inner circle of family and friends. But, except for having Lynda in good health and eliminating her suffering, I would do it all over again. There have been times when anger has surfaced its ugly head at the wrong time and to the wrong person, but I would not change a thing. It has been a privilege and an honor to support her, though it has been painful to watch the pain on her beautiful face and in her body and to watch her struggle to do what was once routine and mindless.
Recently, in a moment of anger, frustration, and fatigue, the song “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin came to mind. If you have not heard the song, it is a father and son story about fleeting times and missed opportunities in their relationship. The song and its message can be applied to any relationship, whether it is father and son, husband and wife, patient and caregiver. In The Greatest Blessing, you will see many examples of how the relationship between two people, the patient and caregiver, is rekindled, solidified, or established during the experience of caregiving.
One of the primary messages in both the book and song is this: to take advantage of every opportunity to love and support someone and be grateful for the moments you have with them, because you don’t know when you will have that opportunity again.
During one of our pastor's recent homilies, he stated that God gives us the gift of 86,400 seconds each day without the guarantee that we will have another 86,400 seconds tomorrow. How will we use this gift? Choose wisely and use it to give a loved one the gift of love and support. A simple phone call, a shared cup of coffee, or a light conversation over lunch will mean more than you can imagine.
By doing this, there will be ample seconds left over from the gift of 86,400 we receive each day to do other things you need or want to do.