Reflections of a Caregiver: What is My Purpose?

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Lyndie1114.jpgMike Charnock of Houston was treated for high blood pressure and enlarged lymph nodes before doctors found the real cause. On July 26, 2010, at age 35, he was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer, which had spread to his brain.

With brain surgery under his belt and a strong treatment plan, Mike is defying the odds every day. His wife, Lyndie, shares her experiences as a caregiver to encourage others that complete faith and a good attitude may help them do the same.

"I know not what the future holds, but I know who holds the future." -- author unknown"

Do you ever wake up thinking of the life you've led and the things you've done, and ask yourself, "What is my purpose?"

I have to admit that I've asked myself this several times in my life. I can't say I have a "perfect" lifestyle, by any means. I've made many mistakes and a lot of bad choices, and still my faith has continued to lift me up, put me back on my feet and point me in the right direction.

It feels like it was just yesterday when we sat in the doctor's office and received news about Mike's cancer diagnosis. But as I sit here and look at my calendar, I realize it has been a little more than a year. Wow!

When we received information about Mike's treatment plan we were told that if it didn't work he would have 5-6 months to live, and might not celebrate his birthday in 2011.

I did not take the news well. I drove home from work, barely able to see through the tears. I stopped in the grocery store and bought the biggest bottle of wine before arriving home. Mike and I sat in the back yard until 1:00 a.m., drinking, crying, laughing and sharing stories we'd never talked about before.

I remember looking at him through red, swollen eyes and saying, "No matter what, from this day forward we are to look at this as a journey and be positive. We're not going to sulk or get depressed, for we do not know at this time why we were chosen, but it's what has been given to us."

Yesterday, we received news that Mike's scans were clear and there were no signs of cancer. The night we sat in the back yard, crying at the moon and guzzling wine, we turned it ALL over to our faith and we knew it was going to be OK.

Later on when I shared our good news with family and friends, I said, "I am in complete awe, I cannot believe this!" I was told, "Lyndie, do not start lying now. You always knew Mike was going to be healed; you claimed it!" I sat there for a second, and then said, "You know what, you are right!" I sure did claim it a year ago. Thank you, God, for hearing my prayers.

As I write this, I truly know in my heart that though there are many times I felt that I did not know my purpose, I'm glad and thankful that God knew all along.

Being a caregiver is no easy ride

Being a caregiver is no easy ride, even for me. I doubted myself many times. There's so much information about cancer that's thrown in your lap.

From one caregiver to another, my advice is to maintain a positive attitude. I know it's not always easy, especially when you're trying to accommodate every need, and you are "dog tired" from a long day at the office (or caring for other family members). But positivity remains the best medicine for the one you love.

I commend all who are fighting this disease, including caregivers. The day you get that phone call asking you to join your loved one for test results is the day your life changes forever. I proudly call you my sisters and brothers in this journey, for unexpectedly we are given rubber boots and a shovel and continue to take it all with stride.

Every day, I am thankful for MD Anderson and what they are doing for my family.

Mike now is back at work full time. But as a wife/caregiver, my job is never done. I hold a gift that can never be taken from me: strength, experience and, most of all, love from the other caregivers I have met along this journey.

I encourage you to use all of MD Anderson's networks, for I have met so many people who I can relate to and who I now call friends.

If you find yourself asking, "What is my purpose," do not lose faith or hope.

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