Under Reconstruction

Crumbling of a Caregiver

cancer is contagious.  My father’s cancer is destroying me with same speed and ferocity as it’s destroying him.  My form of cancer won’t show up in an X-ray or MRI, it can’t be cured.  I have symbiotic cancer, it’s an elusive shadow colonizing my cells and relentlessly spreading throughout my existence.

My dad was diagnosed with stage 3 lung cancer in September 2013, by November he was stage 4.  He entered a hospice program in January.  I am, have been, his sole caretaker since it started.  I drove him on the daily 100 mile round trips for radiation treatments, I take him to all his appointments, I do all the paperwork, run all the errands.  I get his groceries, make  his meals and serve as translator because he won’t wear his hearing aids.  When it came time to enter hospice, he didn’t want to leave his home.  I turned myself inside out to make that happen, and it did.

A quick trip through my Facebook statuses will show that I haven’t done this all without complaint.  I complain, I vent, I cry – then I pull myself together and get back to caregiving, because there isn’t any other choice.  I’m the only one he’s got and the sole target of all his angers.

Yes, if a disease attacked me, stole my life, stole my quality of life, I’d be angry too.  It’s only natural.  But he was an angry person before cancer, always reliably grouchy about a galaxy of irritations, always reliably negative.  The difference now is I can no longer reason with him – and I’m one of the very few people who ever could reason with him.

His angers are all that’s left now.  He is only angry, furious in fact.  He sits and stews, remembering every slight, every incident from his life that angered him.  Like a dragon with a hoard of gold, my father is jealously guarding rage and taking every opportunity to hurl his rage at me.

The verbal attacks are getting progressively more vicious.  Since the whole head radiation in November, his memory has a lot of gaps, time is blurred for him.  He makes up “facts” to stoke his rage, using his revised history to demonstrate what a waste of time my whole life has been.

I called to check on him yesterday afternoon, left a message on the machine when he didn’t answer.  I called again 1 1/2 hours later and he still didn’t answer.  Since he refuses to wear the alert button, we rushed over to check on him.  It turns out that he heard the phone, heard my message, but didn’t call me back because he’s pissed off that the garbage disposal stopped working.  

Then he laid into me for barging in, waking him up, not giving him any peace.  Fine, we’ll just go on back home.  So sorry for caring and all.  But he wouldn’t let me go, he insisted on telling me how I come from lazy stock (he’s technically my stepdad), how the Rodrigues’ are lazy, how my siblings and I can’t hold jobs or do anything right.  

And let’s not forget about my stupid book.  What a waste of time that is and who wants to read some fairy tale full of magic and weird names and giant cats.  I am clearly a very spoiled child without clue one how to be a responsible adult and I need to grow up.

Just FYI, Los Hermanos Rodrigues have managed to hold jobs, own businesses and raise children, so we’re not as useless as the media portrays us.

The toll this is taking on my mental and physical well being is stupefying.  I cry all the time, have stress eaten until I can’t fit in my clothes anymore.  There is a ceaseless pain in my face from clenching my jaws.  On the recommendations of many, I’m trying to get some medical help for my problems.  But I don’t have a primary care doctor and am still waiting for a return phone call from the psychiatry office to let me know if I’m covered so we can proceed to make an appointment for two months from now.

There’s a reason I avoid getting health care.  That reason is the insane bureaucracy of getting health care.  I could go to the ER or a walk in clinic, but just the idea of sitting in one of those uncomfortable places waiting to prove that I’m not a crackhead seeking recreational drugs makes my chest tight and blood pressure soar.

I just don’t know what to do anymore.  I am overwhelmed, over-stressed and exhausted.  Since last night, I can’t help but wonder if my dad is too much a danger to himself or others to be left on his own.  The man has guns in his house.  But just thinking about this makes me feel disloyal and petty.  Once again, I have to make a hard decision and I don’t know if I can.

I am lost.  I am tired of being a punching bag.  I want my life back.

Part 2:  Gun Control

Part 3:  Collateral Damage

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  1. February 16, 2014    

    I don’t “Like” this because I like what’s happening, but because I like your talking about it. You probably know that it isn’t your dad who’s saying those cruel things; it’s the cancer and/or treatment talking. Your dad was infinitely proud of you and your book. Like so many diseases, cancer and its treatments comes between who people are and the people they love. I wish I could come and take some of the caregiving off your shoulders, give you a little respite. Doesn’t Hospice have people who come sit with your Dad? I thought they had Respite Care for caregivers. If they don’t, California Caregivers have a branch in Sacramento/Rosemont.

    Marian Allen recently posted…Prospector and Cats in Rodrigues’ THE LAST PROSPECTORMy Profile

    • February 16, 2014    

      He won’t let those people in, he barely allows the nurses to come in.

  2. February 16, 2014    

    You will get your life back – it will happen – not overnight because the loss of one you have cared for even one that abuses you will tear a another hole, but it repairs – I speak from experience – anger is all he has – the stress is overwhelming – your health is suffering it is always thus.

    You are exhausted and it will take time, but. . . but. . . but it does get better – I nursed my mother through 5 years of increasing brain disorder the last 3 she was bedridden and I would cry my eyes out in my bedroom and wonder why she attacked me, why she couldn’t see I was helping – self pity – yes – it’s not what we plan – but. . . but it gets better.

    You have done the right thing, I say keeping on with your writing – I discovered writing through this time and wrote my first book in those long dark nights – it helped keep me sane – another world is a wonderful place to have

    Howl, despair, weep and moan we, carers, former carers and friends are with you in spirit and this one says it will pass.
    alberta ross recently posted…Color my World – guest post by Cairn Rodrigues, author of The Last ProspectorMy Profile

    • February 25, 2014    

      Writing about everything is the sanest thing I do these days. Without this blog, I would feel so unbearably isolated. Having this outlet to express myself and then getting support from people who have been through the same things keeps me going. It’s only been months for me, feels like decades though. Five years is a very long time, you are an exceptionally strong woman.
      Cairn recently posted…Collateral DamageMy Profile

  3. February 16, 2014    

    Ah Cairn…. I’ve dealt with and felt everything you’re talking about here, with the addition of doing it 2000 miles away from my home, hubby and normal life. Your friends above have good advice. There should be some form of respite care available, so you can keep your sanity. Your writing too is something you can lose yourself in and escape from reality, if only for a little while. One thing I would add is, it might be a good idea to get a prescription for Ativan, (would a walk-in clinic provide that? I know you dislike the idea, but you really need some relief!), for those occasional moments when you’ve completely hit the wall of anxiety and hopelessness. It immediately alleviates the stress and allows you to think clearly. It also helps you sleep, but, can be addictive, so best to use sparingly.
    Venting is good and those of us who have been through it, can certainly relate and offer much support, love and hugs. ♥
    Debbie recently posted…“DEAR WEBMASTER”…ADVENTURES IN BLOGGINGMy Profile

    • February 25, 2014    

      Oh Debbie, I can’t imagine not being able to crawl into my own bed after a grueling day. I am such a homebody, so being able to come to my own house was like sanctuary. Being cut off from your own sanctuary must have been terrible.
      Cairn recently posted…Collateral DamageMy Profile

  4. February 16, 2014    

    I’m so sorry, Cairn. This is such a difficult thing to go through and yes, I can see how it feels like a cancer to you! I hope you can find some respite, some help for yourself. Meanwhile, you’re in my prayers.

  5. February 16, 2014    

    Cairn, so sorry. I agree with what others have said here. This is just so incredibly hard, and my heart breaks for you.

  6. February 19, 2014    

    I have liked your post to offer you my emotional support Cairn. My Mum is also battling cancer at the moment and I suffer with depression, agoraphobia and anxieties and feel terribly guilty I can’t help her more due to the fact I am pretty much house bound at the moment. Even though she is ill she has always and still does try to be there for me and she visits me and takes me to my appointments and my Dad takes her to hers. I love her dearly even though I must seem terribly selfish and self absorbed a lot of the time to her. She is coping really well with her illness at the moment and i worry all the time about her and my dad and, selfishly, how i will cope if she’s not here anymore. Family is family, I have lots of issues with many members of mine, but despite everything that is going on – you can only do what you can do! You’re going above and beyond for your dad and it’s a really hard situation to deal with. Be proud of everything you do for him and your amazing achievements with your writing, I also know how unimpressed some family members can be on that score. You are doing amazing things and I’m sure deep down he really appreciates you but the illness is winning! <3 Laura Crean <3
    Laura Crean recently posted…MARSocial Author of the Year Competition winner and runners up 2013My Profile

    • February 25, 2014    

      Laura, I am sending a truckload of love and positive energy to you and your parents. Please be well.
      Cairn recently posted…Collateral DamageMy Profile

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