It’s Robyn Birren, Donor Relations Specialist with Cocktails & Caregivers. While I have been in this role for a year and a half now, I have been with C&C for almost six years, and I love being a part of this fabulous foundation. I am so fortunate to meet and talk with many of you, the fantastic men and women who understand caregiving.
So how do you write about a personal experience when you are always the caregiver? 2022 has been a real doozy! From caregiver to being the one to be cared for, this is my story. Shortly after our amazing Blue Tie Gala in March, I went to my annual mammogram appointment, as I have annually since I turned 40. What I thought was just a routine exam and further investigation with ultrasound turned out to be a small mass in my left breast. Four days after my biopsy, I received the call that I had PR/ER-positive/HER-negative lateral ductal carcinoma.
In typical caregiver fashion, I didn’t worry about myself. I worried about my husband, two girls, and mom and dad. I didn’t want them to worry or hurt or be sad. I am fine. Stage 1 caught it early; the doctor said the mammogram saved my life. But, as my cancer nurse navigator soon told me, this is a new life, a new normal. A few weeks later, I had a partial lumpectomy, completed genetic testing (no mutations, thankfully), and started my six weeks of radiation therapy. My C&C family swallowed and showered me with love and support during this time! This team of BADA$$ caregivers showed my family love, which meant the world to us!
My husband and girls became excellent caregivers, sprinkling just the right amount of tenderness and care while showing me they still needed me to be a rock.
Radiation fatigue, burns, cuts, tearing, and swelling – ringing the bell after radiation felt terrific! Now it is on to 10 YEARS of monthly shots and hormone suppression. However, I didn’t expect my insides to burn with my outsides. 4 ER visits in 10 days to find diverticulosis, colitis, scarring, fluid build-up in my left lung, ulcers, and heart problems/hypertension. How could a 45-year-old woman who was just fine in March without any medications now need a daily shot, a monthly injection, blood pressure medication, hormone suppressant, weekly doctor visits, bloodwork, and test after test? A new normal? Nothing about this is normal! I want to scream “F U CANCER,” yet I am thankful I am here. I want to cry, yet I don’t want my family to see me sad or worry about why their mama hurts. I want to do everything I used to do, but I can’t. That pisses me off!
I didn’t tell many people because I didn’t want pity. But maybe, just maybe, sharing my story will help this beautiful caregiver community know what is going on inside the head of someone they care for.
My strength and determination to get through the next “thing” or issue that comes up are from my caregivers. It is from those little girls who need their mama. From that fun-loving husband who stayed home to watch movies with me instead of golfing or boating. My C&C family, who constantly checks in on me, ensures I get the rest I need and reminds me to take care of myself.
So to everyone, from caregiver to supporter, remember how much you are loved and needed and how much you mean to those in your life who made you a caregiver. And may your new normal only represent a temporary detour to your beautiful journey in life. Live loudly, Love DEEP, Cry HARD, and ALWAYS TAKE MORE PICTURES!!!!