CCRP is a key player in the development and implementation of cutting edge clinical trials as well as innovative treatment protocols that offer patients an entirely new spectrum of options and REAL hope for extending and saving lives. Cancers that were previously a certain death sentence upon diagnosis are now treatable and even survivable. CCRP partners with hospitals, community clinics and physicians through-out Colorado as well as in Wyoming, so that patients have local access in their own communities to cutting edge cancer treatment. In 2017, CCRP anticipates to have more than 70 trials open, with nearly 300 individuals taking part and another 1,500 followed for their health status post treatment.
Confessions of an Inadequate Caregiver
I never expected, and never wanted, to be a caregiver for a terminal cancer patient. I suspect anyone who has been in that role would say the same. But on a spring day in 2009 my wife Janet’s diagnosis with grade 3 bladder cancer dictated that role for me and changed our lives forever—hers tragically, mine in ways that will play out for the rest of my life.
Each day for the next 18 months I had only one priority: find out what I needed to do to get her the treatment she required, and keep her as comfortable as possible. This meant a dizzying series of events and tasks; I will not attempt an exhaustive listing of them.
Just as a quick summary, however, there followed: several hospitalizations, ranging from three to ten days; multiple consultations with a wide range of medical specialties; an extended course of debilitating chemotherapy, and many other indignities. These included midnight bouts of nausea, all but constant constipation, insomnia, crushing fatigue, and the inevitable depression.
Perhaps the hardest part was the constant roller coaster of emotion as hopeful periods due to apparently promising new treatments or medications alternated with the despair of increasingly ominous scans, combined with grinding states of utter fatigue and exhaustion. There were periods of relative calm, some lasting a few weeks, such as the few weeks after her course of chemo before the tumors rallied and declared the long, final decline. Those calm periods seem almost cruel in retrospect.
Of course these wild swings affected both of us. And through it all, I never lost the feeling of inadequacy, the feeling that there must be more I could do but knowing I had no idea what that might be. I was flying blind, as there was no instruction manual and were no resources I knew of then to help me through the labyrinth. I was making it up on the fly, day by day.
As the end neared, Janet lacked the strength even to accomplish elementary tasks of private personal hygiene. These I did for (and with) her, and in that process we found a level of intimacy and tenderness that rivaled anything that had come before in our lives together.
Finally, these days as I reflect back on all this, I’m reminded of Stephen Levine’s haunting line: “…tragedy holds the seeds of grace.” And I now know with absolute clarity that my duty to care for Janet was so very, very far from being a burden. In fact it was a gift, and the greatest honor I will ever receive.
A quick word about hospice services. I almost waited (in my state of denial) too long to engage them. But an incredible hospice nurse spent the last five hours of Janet’s life with her and with me. That nurse eased the path for Janet into her next adventure, and saved my sanity. After it was over, I said to her “you are an angel from Heaven”, and I meant every word of it.
Ken is the chair of our newly formed Community Engagement Committee and a member of our Board of Directors.
The National Cancer Institute only partially supports the work of Colorado Cancer Research Program as a community oncology program. The additional support needed to advance cancer research comes from our generous community donors.
A gift to Colorado Cancer Research Program is a gift of HOPE:
- HOPE for cancer patients and their families.
- HOPE for future generations.
- HOPE for the fight against cancer.
Please consider making a donation of HOPE towards cancer research to treat, control, and prevent the dreaded disease of cancer, and to make a difference in the lives of those affected. All donations are tax deductible.
Would you like to volunteer at CCRP? Volunteers help with newsletters, assist with special events, attend educational meetings, etc.
If you are interested in volunteering, please contact Lisa Switzer, Director of Development at 303-720-5721 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.