Episode 102, "Walking the Way of the Cross for Caregivers"
Michelle Johnson is the Director of communications for EWTN and has more than 30 years of experience in journalism and communications. She has received several awards for her work in the media. Today we discuss her book, “Walking the Way the Cross for Caregivers - how to Cope practically, Emotionally, and Spiritually When a Loved one has a Serious Illness.” In it, she details her and her husband’s walk as he battled cancer and eventually succumbed to the illness. The book is available at EWTNRC.com (religious catalog) and at Amazon.com. I encourage those caring for a loved one to get a copy as it has many practical points and answers that caregivers are looking for. It is a story of two struggles - the medical illness and eventual death of her husband, Stu, and Michelle's battles as a caregiver during some challenging times.
From Honeymoon-Bliss to Cancer-Discovery
Michelle and Stu met and had a military wedding in Spain. The two were incredibly happy together, but one day Stu noticed a lump on his heel. He went to several doctors and it was only a year later that a biopsy was done and revealed melanoma, catapulting them both on a long journey with the disease. Stu later developed severe lymphedema and later on the cancer spread, and he required a hip amputation.
Throughout their journey, Michelle acted as Stu's caregiver until he eventually developed cardiac issues and paralysis, requiring hospice care until his death. Michelle suggests preparations when your loved one’s condition continues to deteriorate. She shares that Stu was such a loving person and yet a couple of times got angry with her; this is totally normal under the circumstances. And it is normal to question “where are you God?” and even get angry with God.
Caregiving as a Vocation
In one section, she asked, “How will I choose to think about the cross?” Some become bitter, others better, and a positive attitude with a healthy dose of realism is essential. Michelle lays out many practical suggestions for caregivers on advocating for their loved ones and shares her experiences of what she learned so as to help others. She discusses how she viewed her role as a vocation at that stage in her life, and stressed the importance of prayer and staying close to the Sacraments. She encourages healthcare workers to also look at their profession as a vocation. Viewing our suffering as a vocation is likely to bear fruit in this life and the next; one fruit of their suffering was reconciliation between Stu and his father- a tremendous example of how God can use our sufferings for his good.