The title of this
article exemplifies a motto I adopted early on in my
life as a caregiver. Caregiver is a word
that I never expected would be in my job description
when I got married to Kenneth E. Troutman on March 22,
1975. But, years later it became an all-consuming
part of my life.
On December 27,
1990, we discovered that my husband had developed
prostate cancer. Cancer is a word that can send
shock-waves through one’s very being. It can
be a stunning diagnosis and one that takes a lot of time
to get used to hearing. It’s even difficult saying
the word. I know it hit me with the force of a
tornado and so many questions began to circulate through
my mind. Those questions had no answers in the
beginning. Actually, as time wore on there were
only more questions with very few answers.
knew that I had to adopt an attitude adjustment and
vowed to do everything humanly possible to help my
husband through this ordeal. My feeling was that I
had to assume responsibility and somehow get through
whatever came our way in order to be able to best take
care of Ken.
The early years
actually went very smoothly and our lives were not
disrupted very much at all. But, cancer is
like a family member who comes to visit and becomes a
permanent guest, a very unwelcome guest at that.
I actually felt
like I was going into this great abyss where there was
so much uncertainty and fear. Yes, the kind of
fear that just rocks one to the core. But, at the
same time I was determined to just do it and get through
My journey began
with a visit with Ken to his oncologist on January 7,
1991. My emotions were “all over the place”.
It turned out Ken’s cancer had already spread to the
bone, so surgery would have been a moot point. He
started out with a monthly hormone shot and regular
examinations, so it seemed like we were off the hook at
this point, but that was not a harbinger of things to
come down the road of our journey.
In September of
1997, I believe we began the start of the end. Ken
became ill with what we thought was a case of the flu,
but that certainly was not what it turned out to be.
Finally, on October 21 we sought medical intervention at
the hospital. He was hospitalized for eight days
fighting for his life from uremic poisoning.
He did eventually rally from this, but this was only the
beginning of more setbacks to follow.
The hospital at
this point became a second home for us. There were
more hospital stays, more medications, more tests.
The day that I feared the worst came and that was to
enter the infusion room to begin protocols such as
chemotherapy that were supposed to help Ken. It
turns out that when one became ineffective, another type
was implemented. It was, also very apparent
to me that all of these treatments were meant to extend
Ken’s life, not necessarily to make the quality of his
life better because it certainly did not.
included blood clots in his legs, long use of Prednisone
eventually made his legs useless and he eventually had
to use a walker. In time, he lost the use of his
legs. His blood counts often were too low to
endure the treatments. He, also, had to have
blood transfusions to boost his immune system. His blood
P-time constantly had to be checked for the clotting
necessary to have a medi-port implanted into his chest
so it would be easier for the nurses to take his blood
for testing and to infuse the intravenous therapies.
Caring for him
became a full-time job for me and I put my life on hold
to do it. Yes, the word “caregiver” had now
entered my job description. There were days I
struggled just to hold on to my own sanity, let alone
trying to be the anchor for Ken that I needed to be.
I kept reminding myself of my motto, though, and kept
running the race. My faith in God certainly helped
me to go through all of the rough times that I had to
face. I acquired strength through the
prayers of others, and support of family and friends
helped tremendously, too.
Try as I might, I
sunk into another period of depression after I had a
hysterectomy in January of 2000. I battled
back from that with sheer will and determination.
I knew Ken was depending on me for the care that he
needed and I still managed to do it even though this was
a very difficult time for him and for me.
As the year 2001
began, Ken was having much more pain than usual and he
had bladder surgery. Through the surgery it was
determined that the cancer had spread to the bladder.
This surgery did not go well and many complications
ensued, including the need to have nephrostomy tubes put
into his back for the purpose of voiding his urine.
He eventually, also had to be catheterized.
therapy to strengthen his legs was attempted, but that
proved futile. Ken spent the better part of two
months in the hospital and on May 8, 2001, we brought
him home with hospice care for what would be the last
two weeks of his life. This period of time
was so difficult, but I had been witnessing a slow death
over a period of about three years, and seeing what I
had to see and participate in as far as his care was
concerned was almost more than I could bear. But,
again I remembered my motto and continued the race.
The hospice team
assigned to us for those two weeks was like a team of
angels sent by God to me. Their help proved to be
invaluable and I could not have coped without them.
My resolve at this time started to weaken and I had to
give up and put all of this in God’s hands and accept
the help that I needed because we now had to allow Ken
to give his life over to God.
On May 22, 2001,
the hospice nurse had instructed me to give him a
“morphine cocktail” every hour that day. I had to
give it with an eye-dropper because he had lost his
ability to swallow and to take pills. All during
this day his bodily functions were ceasing and the
“death rattle” had begun. The time of his death
was now imminent. Family and friends kept a vigil
at his bedside.
On May 23, 2001,
at 4:15 am, my husband lost his valiant struggle from
this most devastating illness. I actually got down
by my bed and thanked God for ending his suffering.
Yes, the ordeal that left me physically and emotionally
drained was now over.
I think the thing
that I was most proud of was that I saw Ken through this
illness from beginning to end and did it to the very
best of my ability. I actually learned a new skill
and that was coping with all that needed to be done,
with taking charge of his care, learning to take care of
things at home that Ken always took care of, and
developed the will to do it.
My advice to
others would be to stick by your loved one, no matter
how hard things will get, because dealing with the
illness of cancer can be the hardest thing you will ever
face in your lifetime. This is not an easy
process, but in the end you will be a much better person
for it. Ken and I became closer together
because of this, too. We could not be intimate any
more, but we found other ways to stay close.
Yes, make ways that you can still enjoy each other, at
least in small ways, and interject a sense of humor into
your days because it is still possible to enjoy laughter
with each other. One thing we did was pass a
teddy bear back and forth and hold onto him. His
name was Binky and Binky helped us cope. Just
develop ways that will be suitable for you in your
It is also
imperative to accept someone’s help to sit with your
very ill loved one. That is another helpful coping
mechanism that is vital. Yes, I was a caregiver,
but if I hadn’t at least attempted to try to take care
of myself, too, this orderly process that I established
would have come crumbling down.
There are no set
rules and regulations to deal with something like this.
Sometimes it takes trial and error to find the
combination that will work for you and your spouse and
sometimes nothing works. You just do it and you get
through it. Actually, that motto is what I
continue to espouse as I go through life without my
My husband became
my hero for the way he fought this disease with dignity
and the will to overcome it. Yes, he lost the
fight, but he left me with a legacy that I try to keep
going today through my own life here on this earth.
Now it is very important for me to tell those people who
mean the most to me that I love them every single day
and to help friends whose husbands have recently passed
on from equally devastating illnesses.
In closing, the
strength and wisdom that I acquired through my life as a
caregiver is seeing me through. My race was tough,
my battle was finally over. And, yes, I can say I
did it and I got through it. I hope these words
that I have shared will give you comfort, peace, and
strength. Yes, you can do it and get through
to our weekly e-newsletter