Hope for the Caregiver – Chapter Three

Take Care of Yourself

Knowing that illness and disease ultimately destroy the body makes not losing hope difficult when caregiving for a loved one with a chronic illness. We cannot care for someone if we allow ourselves to become exhausted or sick. Our staying healthy is essential.

Our caregiving should include taking care of ourselves. This self-care comprises of eating correctly, exercising on a regular basis, and getting enough sleep. In addition to caring for our physical needs, there is an equally crucial fourth element. 

What is that fourth element? We must also make sure we renew our spiritual side daily. We need to do as Psalm 46:10a New Living Translation says, “Be still, and know that I am God!” We need to rest in the Lord.

In today’s verse, God is merely pointing out we should view all earthly adversity in comparison with our future heavenly glory. When we do this, we should be strengthened to endure our human trials.

My Story

My wife Benita and I shared the same cardiologist. I saw him because of blood pressure issues and having experienced two transient ischemic attacks or TIAs that put me in the hospital. What’s a TIA? A TIA is also commonly known as a mini-stroke. 

My wife saw him for heart testing. He every few months performed an electrocardiogram (EKG) on her to ensure her heart was healthy enough for the chemotherapy medications and radiation treatments she endured over her two years and ten months of treatments for her Melanoma Cancer.

Our cardiologist would tell me it was important to care for myself where I could care for my wife. He would also remind me of Benita’s next EKG appointment.

In March of 2017, I was diagnosed with Lichen Planus, both the oral and on other parts of the body types. It has an unknown cause and is not contagious. It is an autoimmune disorder. Some feel it is brought on from an injury to the mouth, having an oral infection, taking certain medications, or having an allergic reaction to something that came in contact with the mouth, like food or dental appliances. Almost all physicians agree Oral Lichen Planus happens most often when a person finds themselves under extreme stress and has not taken everyday stress reduction actions. 

In March 2018 I was diagnosed with colitis. It has an unknown cause and is not contagious. It is an autoimmune disorder. Again, the disease has multiple probable causes, and most doctors feel it is brought on or aggravated by extreme stress. 

I share the above to say my physicians feel the stress I was under caring for my wife, my father, and my mother and my failing to take care of myself may have contributed to me developing two chronic illnesses. The physicians felt I lacked balance in caring for others with taking care of myself.

In my mid-60s, I find exercise challenging. My activity of choice is walking. I monitor by walking with a smartwatch. I have a daily goal of walking at least 10,000 steps. My walking happens in the climate-controlled environment of the local shopping mall or giant box stores.

No, I don’t make the goal every day. However, I manage to reach the goal between five and six times a week. Does it help? Yes, it helps. My body notices when I miss a couple of days.

The Bible Says

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (KJV), “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

The Meaning of the Bible Verse

While our bodies (that is, the outward man) grow old and suffer from diseases, our spiritual side (that is, the inward man) is renewed daily. Too often we only focus on the things we see in this present life. Way back in the 1960’s there was a hit song that became an anthem for the baby boomer generation. Its title was “Live for Today.”

Sure, we have to live for today by exercising our daily responsibilities. We need to also focus on the spiritual, that is the things that are not seen but given to us by God as a future promise. 

These are only seen with our “spiritual eyes.” It takes faith. A part of faith is believing that what God has promised he will undoubtedly bring to pass. 

I believe.

Pray Using the Bible Verse

  1. Heavenly Father, help us to focus on you and not lose heart. 
  2. Lord Jesus, while our outer body is perishing, yet our inward man or body is being renewed daily.
  3. God, we realize the chronic illness we are facing won’t last forever but is working in us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. Lord God, help us to not look at our circumstances which are temporary but to look at the things that are not now seen, but eternal.

Applying the Verse to Receive God’s Hope for the Caregiver

  1. Are you taking care of yourself physically? Do you have a regular exercise program? If not, see your physician before beginning one to make sure you are healthy enough for exercise. Are you getting enough rest and sleep?
  2. Are you taking care of yourself spiritually? This is done by knowing Jesus as your Lord and Savior and spending time in prayer and Bible reading. It can be as simple as reading a chapter from the Book of Proverbs each day of the month.
  3. Does your patient or loved one know Christ as Savior? Have you ever talked to them about their spiritual condition? Their hope for the future is in Jesus Christ. Only through Jesus will they have heaven as their ultimate residence.

Photo Source: Pixabay

Hope for the Caregiver – Chapter Two

Thank you for reading. Here’s the next chapter! Are you coming in new? Start with Chapter One.

Chapter Two

It’s Okay To Cry

Learning to accept tears and crying as normal is part of the process of caring for a person with a chronic illness. When we care about, and for someone, it is normal to shed tears when they hurt, when they face sickness.

It’s okay to cry. The Heavenly Father cares about our tears. In this chapter, we look at what God’s word says about crying.

My Story

The door opened revealing the surgical oncologist in her light green colored scrubs and matching booties. As her eyes scanned the room looking for me, I stood and walked in her direction. There was a deathly serious, all business look on her ashen-face. 

“Dr. Kepler, we just finished your wife Benita’s surgery. She’ll be moving to recovery in the next fifteen to twenty minutes. You can see her then.”

I looked at the young woman’s now pallor face. She displayed tiredness from getting up early and then being in surgery for over three hours. I sensed a fear as she approached me.

She looked down at her feet for a brief moment and took a deep breath.

This can’t be good. Dr. Landry’s having to muster a lot of courage, I thought.

She looked up at me. “Let’s go somewhere private,” she said looking over my shoulder at my anxious family, friends, and coworkers seated behind me.

I nodded.

She leads me to a small private consultation room. She took my hands in hers.

“I’m so sorry,” she began. “It is Melanoma Cancer. The Melanoma has spread into the lymph nodes. I had to remove thirty-four of them.”

My eyes filled with tears instantly. They just as fast were flowing down my cheeks. I tried without success to not sob.

She went on to tell me the five-year survival rate for Melanoma Cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes. She expressed concern about the distance from the initial site that the Melanoma had already spread.

“Is the Melanoma Cancer going to kill her?” I asked. I needed to hear her say it.

“Probably. Yes, well, yes it will if Benita’s neuroendocrine carcinoid cancer doesn’t kill her first. Having two types of cancers makes the treatment very difficult. It removes most of the normal treatment options,” said the oncological surgeon.

I briefly thought back to December 2013 when Benita had surgery for a malrotated intestine. The surgeon was surprised when they found a malignant tumor. It had not shown on the CT Scans, MRIs, X-rays or any of the other tests they had performed before the surgery.

“I understand,” I said. Tears were now streaming down my face. 

But I didn’t understand. Why my wife?

“Are you going to be okay, Dr. Kepler? Do you want me to get someone to be with you? I could ask a family member or maybe someone from the chaplain’s office to be with you.”

I just looked at her and started crying uncontrollably for a couple of minutes. She hugged me until I quit sobbing.

“Thank you for everything,” I choked out. I thought about how hard it had to be for Dr. Landry to share this news with me. She was the same age as my oldest son. 

Yes, delivering bad news is hard. Receiving the life-altering message is harder.

“We’ll talk when I check on your wife in a few hours,” she said. The color was returning to her face now that she had transferred the information to me.

I nodded. I knew I needed to tell the family and friends in the waiting rooms, start calling people and get the prayer warriors praying. 

The oncological surgeon nodded, turned and left the room.

I moved slowly from the consultation back toward my entourage. With each step closer to the group I teared up more. Through teary eyes, I told the family and friends present but somehow kept my emotions under control. As I called my wife’s sisters, I became choked up and started crying.

A friend I had grown-up mentioned that God collects our tears in a bottle (Psalms 56:8-9) and that since God collects the tears, they must be important. 

“Crying must be okay if God collects our tears,” he said. He gave me that much-needed reminder that God cares for us.

As an ordained minister and ordained deacon, I had visited hospitals hundreds of times over the previous thirty-five years as I provided pastoral care to church members, their family, and friends. While many people were uncomfortable in a hospital setting, I wasn’t. I had held their hands, prayed with them, watched them cry when the physician would deliver bad news or when their loved one passed into eternity. During all these visits I never once wept.

When the patient was my wife, I cried in public and bawled in private. 

I want you to know it is okay for you to cry.

The Bible Says

Psalm 56:8-9 (KJV), “Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.”

The Meaning Of The Bible Verse

Why would one keep tears in a bottle? The idea behind the keeping of “tears in a bottle” is a remembrance. King David, the writer of these verses, is expressing a deep trust in God. He knows that God will remember his sorrow. He knows God will remember his tears. He also is sure the God will not forget about him. David is confident that God is on his side. As Believers in Jesus Christ, we have that same confidence.

Pray Using The Bible Verse

  1. Heavenly Father, thank you for tears. We acknowledge that our tears help us identify and deal with our feelings. 
  2. Lord Jesus, thank you for letting us know crying is okay by collecting our tears in a bottle. We admit we don’t understand how this is done.
  3. We confess that it is comforting to know that our tears are noticed by God, that He keeps track of our tears and is here with us when we are crying as He collects the tears.

Applying the Verse to Receive God’s Hope for the Caregiver

  1. Are you holding your emotions in check or are you letting go and trusting in God to comfort you? Remember a time when you felt overwhelmed with the news of your loved one’s chronic illness. Did you suppress your emotions or did you allow yourself to cry and tell God how you were feeling? Explain. 
  2. Have you given your loved one permission to cry? Sometimes the mere ministry of your presence and telling them it is okay to cry will provide a needed release for them and you. Say out loud, “[Enter loved one’s name], I just want you to know, it is okay to cry. Sometimes I weep and let the tears flow too.” 
  3. List two times you have been in sorrow concerning your loved one’s illness. Have you cried out to God with your concerns? Read  2 Samuel 22:7. The verse is a reminder that when we cry out to God in our distress, our cries are heard by the Lord. The passage tells us our cries “enter His ears.” 

Hope for the Caregiver – Chapter One

Chapter One

It’s Okay To Be Afraid

Learning to accept the fear of the unknown and fear of the journey you are on is part of the process of caring for a person with a chronic illness. You also need to learn to embrace the hope for the caregiver that’s available through Jesus Christ.

My Story

My eyes locked on to the bloody spot on the lower left front of my wife Benita’s blouse.

“What’s going on? What’s with the blood?” I asked. My heart was aching. The stain looked terrible, scary. I knew this couldn’t be good.

Benita gazed down toward the damp crimson. Her eyes looked tired, sad. She said, “It’s my mole.”

I recalled the small mole I had first noticed over forty years earlier on our wedding night. I had playfully kidded her about it calling it her beauty mark. I immediately found out that was the wrong thing to do. She was sensitive about the mole.

“Talk to me. What’s going on?” I said. 

She lifted her eyes meeting mine. I could see the tears forming. “I think I must have scratched or irritated it, maybe at work. It started bleeding a couple of weeks ago. It scabbed over a couple of time but each time I thought it was healing I did something to cause the scab to start bleeding again. I thought it would heal. Instead, I think it may be getting infected. It’s getting worse,” she said.

Melanoma Cancer, I thought. “Has the doctor looked at it?”

She shook her head, “Not yet. I didn’t want to mess up our vacation to Colorado and your writer’s conference. Now that we’re back home I guess I need to call her.” She forced a smile then lowered her eyes.

I took her hand, lovingly squeezed it, and hugged her pulling her close. We then walked to the car ending our shopping and drove home in silence. Once home, I led her to the bedroom, closed the door, had her unbutton the blouse, removed a blood-soaked gauze bandage, and looked at the mole. It was oozing blood through a cracked black scab. The mole had grown to about the size of a quarter since I last remembered seeing it.

“Let’s call the dermatologist and get you an appointment. I think that’s Melanoma Cancer. If it is, fast treatment is critical,” I said with a seriousness that scared even me.

The dermatologist did a biopsy during Benita’s visit. The physician had the test expedited. She called the same day with the biopsy’s results. 

“It’s malignant. It is a type of cancer called Melanoma, and stage 3,” said the young dermatologist with a quivering voice. 

The dermatologist obtained for us an appointment with a surgical oncologist. The urgency of the situation was shown by the dermatologist finding us an appointment the next morning. My wife Benita had surgery at the next availability of the operating room. 

The surgery’s findings were terrible. It was Melanoma Cancer. The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes. The surgeon removed thirty-four lymph nodes. The physician told me the five-year survival rate for these findings. 

She told us some treatment options and that when, not if, cancer recurred it would be restaged to Melanoma – Stage 4 and would be terminal. She told us this would kill Benita barring Providential intervention or a medical breakthrough.

I knew Melanoma – Stage 3 was too big for me to handle. I didn’t realize it at the time but I had already moved into a new role as a caregiver. I also understood the future Benita and I had planned together had suddenly changed. It was gone. We faced a different future, one we hadn’t planned for and did not want.

Our hopes and dreams were erased and replaced by feelings of fear and hopelessness. I was overwhelmed just thinking about the day to day struggles of caregiving. I faced the fear of the unknown. 

Questions flooded my mind. How long would my wife live? How would she hold up to facing treatments to extend life? What would be her quality of life? How would we handle the knowledge that death was coming sooner than expected? How would we pay the medical bills? How much help was she going to need from me daily? How could I be strong and help her? How was this going to affect our jobs? I also was concerned for our three grown children and granddaughter. I wondered if I could do this. 

What I needed was hope.

The purpose of this book is to share the hope we have and exercised through Jesus Christ. 

Hope for the Caregiver offers Biblical guidance and support helping the man or woman accepting the role as a caregiver with guidance and encouragement from God’s Word. It will help the caregiver connect with the perfect love which casts out all fear, the love of Jesus Christ.

The day I noticed the bloody spot on her blouse, Benita and I prayed together. We shared saying I love you and claimed, Psalm 56:3 King James Version (KJV), “What time I am afraid I will trust in thee” and 1 Peter 5:7 (KJV) “Cast all your cares on the Lord for He careth for you.”

Benita lived 1001 days from the first surgery. The faith we both had through Jesus Christ allowed us to face each day with hope. Yes, we still were afraid. However, out trust in Jesus Christ leads us through the process with a calmness that could only come from God.

The Bible Says

1 John 4:18 (KJV), “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

The meaning of the Bible Verse

John says that perfect love produces courage in the face of fears. Why? Perfect love produces the likeness to Christ. 

There is another way in which love produces boldness. It does this by casting out fear. The entrance of perfect love through Jesus Christ is for fear a “cease and desist letter” to quit. 

A person cannot both love and fear the same person or thing at the same time. When perfect love comes in, the darker fear exists. 

When God’s love arrives, it brings hand in hand with itself courage. Boldness is the companion of love, only when love is the perfect love of Jesus Christ. Only professing Christians can experience this perfect love of God, a love that casts out fear. 

As Believers in Jesus Christ, we can face the future, including a future with a chronic illness, and even death with the peace that only comes from Christ’s perfect love.

Are you a Believer in Jesus Christ? If not, see Appendix A for the simple steps of how to accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.

Pray Using The Bible Verse

  1. Heavenly Father, help me to keep my mind focused on you and your love. Let me receive and experience Your perfect love that casts out fear.
  2. Lord Jesus, remove any fears I may have as I look to the future. Replace my fears with an unwavering trust in You and to know.
  3. May Your Holy Spirit provide and fill me with Your grace to meet the challenges I encounter daily. Give me the right vocal tone and words to say to provide comfort to my loved one.

Applying the Verse to Receive God’s Hope for the Caregiver

  1. List two examples of times you have been afraid for yourself and your loved one since the illness diagnosis. (Psalm 56:3 [KJV] and 1 Peter 5:7). Did you tell God and turn over the fears to Him?
  2. Remember two times you have trusted in God since your loved one was diagnosed with a chronic illness (read Psalm 56:3 and 1 Peter 5:7). Thank God for His faithfulness.
  3. List two cares or concerns you are facing. Cast (or give, turn over) those cares to the Lord remembering that, “He careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). After listing the cares and concerns, turn them over to God, trusting Him with them.

Photo Credit: Pixabay