After a long and successful career in broadcast journalism in Houston, North Texas and Oklahoma, Judy Overton joined MD Anderson in 2008 as a senior communications specialist. Her husband, Tom, was treated at MD Anderson for renal cancer. He died in April 2007. Judy's occasional posts will cover aspects of the cancer experience from the caregiver's perspective.
Today, Aug. 22, is Judy and Tom's 30th wedding anniversary.
August also marks the first anniversary of Caregivers Chronicles.
I'm grateful to several colleagues in the Communications Office for suggesting I share my journey with you, and to MD Anderson for allowing me to post the stories on Cancerwise.
I hope it's been reassuring to know that, although you don't forget your loved one, life goes on. You do get better.
What makes the experience more bearable is the establishment of special friendships with people who also have lost loved ones. One of my friends is Bev Warner, who was widowed 14 years ago.
Recalling her role as caregiver to her late husband Jerry, Bev says, "It was a blessing to be able to take care of him when he was sick, not only for me, but for Jerry, too. We really connected and got closer during that time."
It takes time
The first three years after Jerry died were painful, Bev says. She recalls the first wedding anniversary without him.
"I went to work and was doing really good until I received flowers from both my mother and sister."
Her pain has since transformed into an appreciation for the years she had with Jerry.
"It's better to remember those special moments and remember them fondly," Bev says. "You still can celebrate that you had the chance to be married to that person."
If you're fortunate to continue your caregiver role, Bev has some suggestions for you:
- Step away sometimes. Find someone to give you a break, even if it's just to take a nap.
- Turn to support groups. Talk about your feelings with someone. Let your loved one know how you feel about his/her illness.
- If and when your spouse or partner needs hospice care, use the services available to you.
I truly can relate to the eventual transformation that can occur.
When 2011 arrived, I decided things would be different.
No, I wouldn't forget the special moments in our life. I'd commemorate them, but I'd also allow myself to move forward and begin a new life without Tom.
True to plan, I'll mark our 30th wedding anniversary this month.
Tears well up as I write, but I'll celebrate the moment, moving forward -- literally, on a bike -- as my sister Joanie and I conduct our own Tour de France along the northern French coastline.
Memories of my wedding day in August 1981 will be in my head -- and in my healing heart, too.