Most times we are thrown into the role of caregiver unexpectedly. It was never in our plan. We had so many dreams that now seem impossible in our current role as caregiver. We may scream with our inner voice, “What about me? What about my time? What about my needs?” We may feel like the biggest rat in the smallest cage ever made. Trapped! Is it a trap, or is it a choice we make every moment of every day?
In our first year of marriage, I donated a kidney to my sister and my husband started dialysis, broke his leg, received a kidney transplant, and had his leg amputated below the knee. That was just year one. Year two was even worse. I was feeling so overwhelmed. We went from a two‐income family to a one‐income family. The insurance companies were fighting about who was primary, and the bill collectors started calling. I was trying to work full‐time, raise my six‐year‐old son as though life was normal, be there for my sister in her time of need, and keep the love of my life alive, literally. I felt trapped!
Here we are twenty years later. My husband is now fighting for his life with Stage 4 cancer. He now has an arm amputation on the same side as his leg amputation. We are still a one‐income family, and caregiving is as hard as ever, but I no longer feel trapped. Why? What made the difference? It was a simple change in perspective. It came in that second year of marriage when my husband fell and broke his good leg. I told the orthopedic surgeon to just amputate the leg because I just didn’t think I could make it through another year like the last one. His response? “You don’t have to. Your husband does. You can walk out that door right now, or you can choose to stay. You have that choice. Your husband doesn’t.”
I took those words to heart. They have been a real lifesaver for me. Whenever I start feeling trapped or that I am giving up a dream, I ask myself, “What is your choice?” So far, my choice has always been to stay no matter how hard it was at that moment in time. For me, allowing myself the right to choose was all I needed. All the excuses are there. There are no other family members who would take him in. He cannot work. He cannot drive. He would die if I was not here taking care of him, but none of those excuses are the reason I choose to stay. I choose to stay because I love my husband, and although our dream has changed, there is no other dream I want more than the one that includes him. Understanding that my choice to stay is based in love has made all the difference.
About Anita Berger:
Anita Berger is a full time mother, wife, caregiver, and engineer. Her husband lost his leg in 1999 and his arm in 2017. Anita works full-time as an engineer supporting F/A-18s for the US Navy, a proud soccer and basketball mom, and the number one advocate, caregiver, and best friend to her husband.