Rob Harris and the Spirit of Giving, How to be a Better Mesothelioma Caregiver
- Cancer & Caregiving
- Jan. 25, 2012
Rob Harris is a Human Resources professional that specializes in assisting corporate executives with their strategic and employee relations needs. However, his main duties lie in his roll as a caregiver for his wife. She is a two time cancer survivor from lymphoma and sarcoma. He describes his life as caregiver as being “enriched beyond imagination by caring for her over a period of many years.”
He began writing as a way to spread his passion for caregiving and runs his own website, Rob Cares. With two books soon to be published, he still finds time to actively respond to comments on his blog. We would like to thank him for sharing his inspirational story and contributing his knowledge to our community at the Mesothelioma Center.
The date was May 11, 2006. On that date, we were informed that my wife not only had cancer, but was given only a 30 percent chance of survival, may not see the next holiday season, and would need to have her left leg amputated immediately.
That was the day I became a caregiver for the second time.
My initial reaction was what anyone would expect: shock, panic, fear, and all the other emotional responses one would anticipate when receiving devastating news.
It has been just over five years since that horrid day, one I recall as if it occurred yesterday.
Let’s cut right to the epilogue, because the story has a very happy ending
My wife survived. Yes, she did lose her leg and we are still facing complications as a result, however she is cancer-free.
Now comes the surprise.
Being a caregiver was the most enriching, life-changing experience I ever could have imagined.
My wife and I fell more deeply in love than ever before. We have now been married thirty-one years, and each day feels like a honeymoon. We never take a single day for granted. We know how precious every moment together can, and should be.
We realize that money, careers, what house you live in and what car you drive means nothing when battling a disease that impacts all economic groups of people. Suddenly, everyone is the same. Titles and positions no longer matter. Cancer doesn’t discriminate. The things you once cherished or craved become almost meaningless. Years later, they still are. Materialism is for others, not for us.
We learned to appreciate every day as if it’s our last. At the time my wife returned to the living after her heart stopped beating, we coined the phrase “Every Stinkin’ Day!” We use the acronym ESD on a daily basis. Every night we ask each other, “What was your ESD moment?” This is another way of saying, “What did you do today that made your day special?” It keeps us from becoming complacent.
We fully believe and practice committing “random acts of kindness” every week, if not more frequently. We never let those we honor know we are the initiators unless we have no choice. We prefer to remain anonymous. We will buy families meals in restaurants, pay for the car behind us at drive thru’s, pay tolls for one or more drivers, and many other acts that fills our hearts with pleasure.
I have become a caregiver advocate, coach, author and blogger. It has nothing to do with financial gain. In fact, I have been removing thousands of dollars from our savings account so I can offer guidance and assistance to other caregivers, patients, members of the medical community and all those in need. Nothing, other than family events, has made me so happy and content.
All this has occurred because I became a caregiver to my best friend, my wife.
Caregiving is frightening and, in all likelihood, the hardest job you will ever do. It comes with lots of pain and suffering. However, if you allow your glass to be half-full, or in our case, overflowing, you will gain an experience like you never imagined. You will know your loved one better than ever before and, just as importantly, you will learn more about yourself than you could have ever guessed.
If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Caregivers are our silent heroes. I am proud to be a member of this very elite society.
Ben Leer is an outreach coordinator with The Mesothelioma Center. He works toward increasing education and awareness of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of Ben's job is to reach out and engage with patients, caregivers and family members on our online communities.