Dereliction of Duty

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Dereliction of Duty

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First published August 17, 2012 on facingcancer.ca

helping-mdIn this midst of preparing this post an email arrived from Bumpyboobs.  She wanted to know about caregiver fatigue and the preservation of sanity.

I pretty much gave up on the sanity bit from the get go but occasionally will find some remainder in the foamy bits of a fine pint.

Catherine is on to something though.  Although it is not just caregiver fatigue.  And it is more than cancer fatigue.

I am working on another piece to be entitled ‘The metrics of expressed concern”.  This one is taking a long time to prepare as it needs to be both objective and subjective.  It needs to be supported with real emotion leavened with quantitative data.  Essentially what the piece will endeavour to share is that everyone who is exposed to the disease (probably including the patient) experiences peaks, valleys and level patches on the journey all revolving around how comprehensively exhausting the trip is.

But back to Ms. Boobs’ question – “How do you give support and keep sane?”

From the shotgun seat you really don’t have an option.  At least on the supporting issue.  The sanity issue becomes almost moot because this entire episode is the very picture of deep disturbing insanity.

“Insanity – a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.”
R. D. Laing


Regardless, whether one adapts by acknowledging the insanity that is cancer or through suspension of disbelief or assigning some accountability to whatever higher power one believes in, the role of the caregiver is one where we must try our hardest to remain ‘on’.  Dereliction of duty is not a viable option but an unavoidable reality.  So, yes, on very rare occasions while riding shotgun I have taken my hands off the reins.  I have allowed visitors entry to the house when they were the last thing that Katie needed.  I have let my temper and passion get the better of me.  I have on rare occasions turned turtle.

However, we have to recognize one very simple reality – we are allowed.  We must be allowed.  No sentient, feeling human can sustain a level of angelic care at all times.  There will be dips in our fundamental ability to move through the day without some reflection on the darker side of our reality.

Those for whom we care perhaps understand this better than anyone because they are witness to the rigours of the journey and I bless my darling wife for taking the co-pilot seat on my own journey through the past 10 months.

Someday we may come out on the other side of this.  We won’t ever return to ‘normal’ and status quo is no longer an option.  But we will adapt and become stronger people from the experience.  At day’s end it all boils down to one issue – do you have sufficient love in your heart to assisting your partner in carrying the weight?

If you do, dereliction of duty is understood and sanity revolves entirely around acknowledging that love itself has elements of madness.

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