Through sickness and in health – A husband’s perspective

This entry was written by Tim Miller, who took on the ambitious role of a caregiver when his wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer four years ago.

“Understanding what she was going through was almost impossible. Sometimes she’d just “snap” at me, not because she was angry at me, but because of the disease and everything it put her through. The cancer had changed her,” said Tim on his wife, Kimberly.

My wife, Kimberly Miller, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer four years ago. Just one day after the new year she lost her battle on Jan. 2, 2011. It would be almost impossible for me to describe my whole experience as a caregiver, so I thought I would share some of the most important things I learned during my wife’s illness. Being a caregiver is the greatest gift you can give someone.

Patience:

Doctors’ appointments were probably the most crucial times when Kim’s level of anxiety would increase. She dreaded the appointments and consequently, it took so much out of her just to get her there. I remember how extreme her pain was. Because of her physical discomfort, getting ready, which seemed like a simple task to me, was more like a tedious chore to her. She was very slow-moving despite my attempts to keep a schedule. It would frustrate me because if we showed up late she would have to wait longer. Rushing her only made things worse. But I learned to be patient.

Understanding what she was going through was almost impossible. Sometimes she’d just “snap” at me, not because she was angry at me, but because of the disease and everything it put her through. The cancer had changed her.

Intimacy:

Physical touch is so important. When you’re a caregiver you are constantly running errands and taking care of the patient.  It was just as important to me, though, to take time out to lie beside my wife. It was my way of showing her that I still love her. A simple touch, rub on the back, or interlocking fingers as we hold hands was enough to make our love present. This was our definition of intimacy.

Caregiver Burnout:

I have to admit that being the sole caregiver was very stressful. But now, when I look back, my biggest mistake was allowing myself get burnt out. I’d advise any caregiver to ask someone to come over one day a week. It’s an ideal way to alleviate the pressures that are associated with getting so caught up in only taking care of your loved one. When I crashed, I crashed hard.

As the caregiver, you need some type of out. I couldn’t be my best to my wife if I didn’t take a break. The “break” is what stopped me from “breaking down.” Sometimes the pressure was very great. I found myself crying but crying is what comforted me. It was ok to cry, I thought. My wife, her illness, and not being able to heal her was so much for me. That, in itself, made me lose it at times. But when you acknowledge that your loved one is depending more on you than their doctors, you have no choice but to get it together.

Caregivers can also give sufficient support from a distance. Do you offer caregiver assistance to your loved one from miles away? If you missed Living Beyond Breast Cancer and the Cancer Support Community Caregiver’s Teleconference: Cancer Caregiving: Support From a Distance be sure to access the program by downloading the content that was presented during the teleconference.  

19 thoughts on “Through sickness and in health – A husband’s perspective

  1. Tim
    Your blog moved me to tears. I have been metastatic going on 3 years; and I can appreciate your relationship with your wife as her caregiver. I have been married for 29 years and my husband Robert has been holding my hand every step along this journey.

    I am so sorry for your loss; but I can see your beautiful wife and her spirit live within your very kind and compassionate heart. Your advice to other caregivers is a gift and a blessing and I am sure your wife is very proud of you.
    God bless you!
    Lisa Marsella

  2. Tim, I truly can relate. I went through the same thing losing my best friend, wife, and lover on March 16, 2011. I to was very happy just holding her finger. Watching her get worse was the worse. There was nothing I could do. I was there for her 81/2 years. NO ONE took better care of her. I LOVED taking care of her.i also cried alot but not in front of her. Usually in my car when I was driving. Some one told me you think it’s hard now wait until she goes. That person was so correct. I wish I was still taking care of her but I KNOW she is in a better place taking care of me. thank you for sharing OUR expierence.

  3. Timmy, this experience has changed me. If Kim were alive today, I would thank her for the life lessons that she taught me. I carry on by helping others with the knowledge gained from my experience with her. I owe her for that. I love her and miss her so much. Every time a patient does something or says something that Kim did, I cry. It could be something as simple as mentioning a program they watched during the day. (because you know how important tv shows become) Anyway, God Bless you and the boys.

  4. Tim, I applaude you for being a real person.., who has real pain, and who has the courage to share your heart with those of us who may not be as strong as you..Find comfort that with your story, you my friend have afforded the strength and comfort to someone who may have thought they couldn’t fight this battle with or for someone they love… At these times of our lives we find ourselves wanting and seeking quanity in life…We all have said, i want more, i need more, and it just isn’t enough, however; what we seek and pray for at times like yours is QUALITY OF LIFE, you made her life matter, and you made her death matter, you let her go in peace….Your job is well done…, but now you must learn to heal… I lost my mother and I couldn’t take a breath, because my sorrow was so deep, my friend turned to me and said, don’t worry Pattie, one day you will smile again when you think of her…I have never forgotten that..you too will smile one day when you think of your wife. You must continue her quality of life, live and make your life and the life of your children matter…… It’s Miller Time…….

  5. I want to thank everyone who made a comment,on my blog. It means so much to me. Just like to say to all the beautiful girls & there caregivers fighting cancer. I know there a lot of tuff days & weeks. I would live for those special moments that come up. Grab a hold of them to keep you fighting. They keep me going even though my baby not here anymore. Keep fighting girls,my heart & ptayers are with you.

  6. Your wife must have been a wonderful woman to have such a good relationship with you. Whenever I read such humble sweet writing, it makes me glad to be of the human race. Bless you and may you stay strong and always continue to cherish her memory as you continue on with your life.

  7. Dear Tim,

    Your comments make me desire to be more sensitive to those caring for me. I am often absorbed in my pain and dissapointment and forget to smile and say thank you. Thank you for reminding me how much my greatfulness will one day mean to those who love me.

    Debbie

  8. Tim, It was a touching experience to meet you and speak to you about Kimberly that early morning this past May at the LBBC Mets Conference when we were helping with the set up before anyone else had gotten there but the hotel staff. Your dedication to your wife, your love of her, and your desire to continue to help women struggling with breast cancer was profound. Having spent years chatting with women in the BCO chat room, and hearing too many stories of husbands, boyfriends and others who abandon women after their diagnosis, it was good to know that your Kim had you by her side throughout her illness. As a former Visiting Nurse, I applaud you, too, for your wisdom in knowing that you needed a day weekly to recharge. So many don’t allow themselves that release, and it’s never to the patient’s benefit.
    I wish you and your family comfort in knowing that you loved Kim in the way she needed to be loved, and that that love is never lost.

  9. Tim, your story is one of the most touching I have ever read. I have been a Hospice Volunteer (relieving the caregiver) for over 15 years so I do know that it is important for the caregiver to have a little time to one self. Find comfort in knowing that you were indeed a blessing to your wife. Sharing your story shows that your heart is full of faith, hope and love. You will always have the wonderful memories of your life with Kimberly. Your wife and your children’s mother will always be with you. I pray that you and your children will experience God’s comfort and know that He will bring relief to your heart. As a breast cancer survivor I thank you for sharing.

  10. Tim, thanks for sharing. Husbands are often the silent sufferers to breast cancer. As a survivor I would like to remind men that we still want to be desired and loved even if we’re bald, sick, blown up with steroids and missing parts. Laughter and sharing are wonderful healers for the sick and the well. Debra

  11. TIM,
    wHAT A WONDERFUL HUSBAND YOU WERE TO KIMBERLY!!
    I hAVE SISTERS THAT TAKE ME TO MY APPTS. AND I KNOW I CAN BE A PAIN IN THE BUTT AT TIMES. WE DO HAVE SO MUCH ANXIETY THAT WE DON’T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT.
    But, we do love our families very much and appreciate their help.
    KIMBERLY KNEW SHE HAD A SPECIAL HUSBAND.
    I AM ALSO 4 YEARS SINCE I WAS DIAGNOSED AND I AM SITTING HERE AT THE CANCER FACILITY JUST PRAYING FOR GOOD RESULTS.

    BLESS YOU FOR BEING A GREAT MAN.

    Julie Vosburg

  12. Tim

    I understand everything you have said. My wife was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer in Dec 09 and succumbed to the disease on Sept 10, 2011. For 21 months she fought as hard as she could, and I helped as best I could. I was her caregiver, the keeper of her calendar, information gatherer, driver (she gave it up when the peripheral neuropathy became too bad), and her helper. Her biggest worries always came after each set of scans waiting for the doctor to tell her the results. The worst time was her last three months, watching a woman so full of vitality slowly become a shell of her former self, knowing what is happening but unable to do anything about it. We cried together and we cried apart but life was just too cruel.

    We had just celebrated our 33rd anniversary. She was my wife, my best friend, the person I cared for more than life itself. I had a major heart attack about two years before her diagnosis and was close to death’s door. I now truly believe that God let me live to take care of my wife, to comfort her as best I could and to be with her. I would not have traded any of my time with her. She was the best.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Your wife must have been a wonderful woman and you a truly remarkable man.

    God bless us everyone.
    Larry Mendlow

  13. God bless you and all the wonderful husbands in the world who become caregivers of us cancer patients and survivors. You have an angel in heaven watching over you now, in the same way she had an angel on earth watching over her.

  14. Just want to thank everyone again,who replied to my blog. Your kind words help me get through this difficult time. KEEP FIGHTING ONE DAY WE WILL WIN THIS BATTLE !

  15. you have my deepest sympathy. I am a stage iv breast cancer patient and it is not easy. your support to your wife is more to her than you every will know. it’s just not fair.

  16. Your story is full of unbelievable courage and strength. My wife just received the metastatic diagnosis a few weeks ago, and in some ways I have barely recovered from the original diagnosis almost 2 years ago. I am still in shock mode, with my 3 little girls not having a clue just yet. I only hope that I can stay as compassionate and brave throughout this stage of life. I am full of fear, and I pray that God will provide me with the direction and strength to be the best possible caregiver for my amazing wife.
    God Bless

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