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Taking the Ball

We quickly packed and drove to the city. I took her to the largest, most expensive place in town.

Our room had a great view. The darkening sky was filled with puffy white clouds. The lawn, a luscious green, would have been perfect if not for the chain link fence and helicopter pad.

The staff was great. They did everything to make our stay as comfortable as possible, giving special attention to my wife.

Her bed could be adjusted in any position. Mine was just a cot by the wall, but that was okay. This trip was all about her anyway.

Her pain was pretty bad. She said it felt like someone was trying to pull out her rib with a crowbar.

They gave her morphine, wheeled her away for an ultrasound, and left me waiting in our suddenly quiet, empty room.

There’s something eerie about a hospital room with no bed.

Waiting to find out what was ailing my wife

They brought her back twenty minutes later, though it seemed much longer than that. Our doctor was a short, heavyset woman with a reassuring smile and a voice that seemed too loud and cheery for a hospital setting. “You have a stone the size of a golf ball at the neck of your gallbladder, and infection has set in so we have to remove the bladder right away, tonight.”

The doctor explained there were risks, but she’d done many of these surgeries, and everything should be okay. Still, there was the possibility of finding more stones further down that could complicate things.

Somehow her loud, upbeat voice made the news more palatable.

Soon I found myself walking beside my wife’s bed as they wheeled her down the hall. They took us to a small space walled off by curtains.

Role reversal: From patient to caregiver

Her face had lost its color and looked a little bloated. When they took her away it hit me: our roles had suddenly changed. There I was, the leukemia guy, watching his once strong and healthy wife going off to surgery.

I was in charge that day and during the weeks that followed. I was the caregiver, and my wife was the sick one. This taught me an important lesson.

When we get cancer we become the center of attention. We do, after all, have a potentially terminal disease so our loved ones are worried about us and want to help.

It’s easy to become egocentric when everyone we love is focused on us.

My caregiver needed a caregiver

Leuk set that trap for me, and I fell into it. But he couldn’t keep me there. I broke free that day in the hospital. I realized that my caregiver, my wonderful wife, sometimes needs a caregiver too.

In basketball, a weaker player might get the ball down court, but then he passes it to the stronger shooter and the team scores.

I see now that we are a team, and sometimes that weaker player isn’t me. Sometimes I need to take the ball.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ann Harper moderator
    4 weeks ago

    @jim-smith Nice post and so true. We do tend to forget there are others that need help too and sometimes it’s the person who has been our rock. I hope your wife is better now.

  • Ramae Hamrin moderator
    1 month ago

    What a beautifully written, story, Jim, and it reminds us all that we do tend to become a little egocentric when those we love solely focus on our needs. I’ve always wondered if I would be a better caregiver after needing one for so long. We really are a team — not just our caregivers and ourselves, but our communities, our families, friends, and medical staff. I hope your wife enjoyed you being her caregiver and is fully recovered. She is blessed to have you!

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