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Caring For My Dying Husband Made Life Worth Living

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 31, 2023 3:01 am

Caring For My Dying Husband Made Life Worth Living

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 31, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Tracy Grant is the Managing Editor at The Washington Post. She is also the author of the essay that appeared in The Washington Post, “I was my husband’s caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life.”

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See AT&T.com or visit an AT&T store for details. And we continue with our American Stories. Our next story comes to us from Tracy Grant. Grant is the deputy managing editor at the Washington Post.

She is also the author of the essay that appeared in the Post. I was my husband's caregiver as he was dying of cancer. It was the best seven months of my life. Here's Tracy to share her story with us. Almost 12 years ago, my world as I knew it ended. My husband of 19 years, the father of my two sons, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Over the course of seven months, Bill went from beating me silly on the tennis court to needing my health to go to the bathroom and bathe. It was the best seven months of my life. Maybe I don't actually mean that, but it was certainly the time when I felt most alive.

I had lived 42 years before I heard the phrases, we have a problem, multiple metastases, on the brain, probably in the lung as well. I had become a respected professional, a responsible and I hope beloved parent, but I had yet to discover the reason I was put on this earth. During those seven months, I came to understand that whatever else I did in my life, nothing would matter more than this.

Even if I didn't really understand what this was. For me, there were no more bad days. I discovered that the petty day in day out grievances of an irksome co-worker, a child with the sniffles, or a flat tire pale in comparison to the beauty of spontaneous laughter, the night sky, the smells of a bakery. Some days were more difficult than others, but there were moments of joy, laughter, tenderness in every day if I was just willing to look hard enough. I found I could train myself to see more beauty than bother, to set my internal barometer to be more compassionate than callous.

But I also discovered that with each day, my heart and soul grew more open to seeing this beauty than at any other time in my life. I concede I was very fortunate when my husband became ill. I was young and healthy. I had a great employer who provided even better health insurance.

My bosses basically told me that my full-time job, for which I would continue to be paid, was to care for my husband and children. In the early days after Bill's diagnosis and brain surgery, being a caregiver called me to be the best reporter I knew how to be. There was a heady sense that I could actually do there was a heady sense that I could out MacGyver this disease by my resources, intellect and grit. I found clinical trials, talked to oncologists in Texas, Pennsylvania and New York.

I knew which chemo drugs would work in the brain and which would work in the lungs. I was relentless in making doctors and insurance companies answer my questions. It gave me a sense of purpose and it gave Bill great comfort and more than a few chuckles to overhear me reading the riot act to some poor insurance rep who had told me that a treatment wouldn't be covered. I don't know what it feels like to be an athlete in the zone where every pitch is a strike, every shot a three-pointer, but those months were as close as I believe I will ever come.

I was at the top of my game. In the latter days being Bill's caregiver meant being fully present for as many moments of every day as possible. Even ones where my formerly strong independent spouse needed the type of help that would have seemed unthinkable months earlier.

Well-meaning friends suggested antidepressants or sleeping pills to help me take the edge off. I can certainly understand needing to do that, but I didn't want to be less than 100 percent present. I didn't want to miss or forget a moment. When it became hard for Bill to navigate the stairs, he slept on the family room sofa and I slept on the floor next to him at the ready if he needed help getting to the bathroom in the middle of the night. It was in some ways reminiscent of having premature twins and never sleeping more than a few hours at a stretch. With the boys, I prayed for the day I would no longer have to tend to them in the wee hours. With Bill, I prayed for another month, another week, another day of being able to have him to care for. When I couldn't sleep during those nights, I took to praying the rosary and then began praying it daily even if I had no difficulty sleeping. For me, the repetition of the Hail Mary while caressing pearlescent beads helped slow my breathing, calm my mind.

I came to feel naked if I didn't have beads in a pocket or a purse. Within easy reach, while scans were performed, IVs dripped, test results waited for. During Bill's last weekend, we had dinner together. At that point, we no longer held on to the illusion of MacGyvering our way out of this predicament, although we still believed that he might come home one more time. We sat by side on his hospital bed sharing a subway sandwich and watching television.

Later, a relative visited and I noticed almost reflexively to myself that she had changed her appearance and not in a favorable way. It was the kind of thought I'd usually keep to myself, but just then, Bill voiced exactly what I had been thinking in that eerily intuitive, ruthlessly truthful way he had, and I found myself laughing out loud. I could live with this man, even as compromised as he is, needing as much care as he does for the next 40 years, I thought to myself.

He would be dead in four days. A dozen years later, I haven't started a foundation to cure cancer. I haven't left the news business to get a medical degree. I work. I pay the bills. I try to be there for our sons. I will never again be as good a person as I was when I cared for Bill.

I will never again have that high a purpose. But every day, I try to find and put into practice the person I was during those seven months. I try to be a little less judgmental, a little more forgiving, a little more generous, a little more grateful for the small moments in life. I am a better person for having been Bill's caregiver. It was his last, best gift to me. What a spectacular, what a beautiful piece, a beautiful story by Tracy Grant, and a terrific job on the editing and the production by Greg Hengler. I am a better person for having been Bill's caregiver. It was his last and best gift to me. And for all of you caregivers right now, there is a special gift in doing it. And I hope this gets you through it and gets you through it with the grace and the joy and, of course, the pain that Tracy did. Tracy Grant's story, her husband, and how he left this world here on Our American Story.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-31 04:20:48 / 2023-01-31 04:24:46 / 4

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