Head colds and hamsters–A year’s end odd pairing.

I’m getting over my annual Christmas cold.  I could have predicted its arrival. At least this year it was of minor magnitude considering I ignored all my own rules.  I broke connection with the habits and routines that typically strengthen my well-being reserves, forfeiting rest and better eating habits in favor of party revelry, later nights and the elaborate ministrations connected to our Santa drive-by.  I’ve never done well with spikes of hyperactivity.  For every action there is the corresponding reaction…a physical plummet and the promise of an irritating head cold.

Which then ushered in further reaction. When activity stops my mind can be harder to tame. Sometimes called the monkey mind, my favorite visual is of a little hamster on the wheel that just turns and turns and turns…stuck and going nowhere. The hamster has been cycling because in this happy season I have also been very mindful of an ever-lengthening list of friends caught in the current swimming against some very significant health issues–the big scary kind.

Breathelighter’s first post called attention to the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center at City of Hope.  The Center is an excellent facility dedicated to patient support, but also providing an impressive array of services directly aiding frequently overlooked caregivers. This year I have been close to several of my friends adjusting to whole new lives almost unaware of their own physical needs while lovingly caring for the medical requirements of ill spouses, children or parents. I haven’t heard much complaining, but I’ve observed the sobering toll.

I’m not a direct caregiver, unless I’m talking about the lovely occasions when I’m caring for my beautiful granddaughters. But somewhere along the way I’ve looked for how to describe my support role–support in listening and metaphorically holding the hand of a friend who is really frightened, or being the second-in-command cheerleader to the fairly desperate actual caregiver—parent, spouse or child of someone in declining health.

You won’t find it in the dictionary, but I like the word care-tender. Some of us are simply friends along the way who offer care as we can.  The role of friend doesn’t come with an absolute list of duties, but when care is offered, there is a human connection that can sometimes usher in that odd sense of malaise when things aren’t going well.

And that’s where the little hamster comes in.  I’ve just heard some bad news and sadly added another name to my prayer list. Hard news to hear and it only seems natural I’d be particularly mindful.

I know my experiences are far from singular.  I am certain there are many care-tenders among my reading friends.  And I think it’s a good New Year’s resolve to carefully consider what are you are going to do to take care of yourself this coming year? It’s an important personal inventory and assessment.  We have a lot more to offer those we love when we take good care of ourselves.

That’s what I plan to encourage in the coming year.  As I “preach to myself” I’ll be sharing with you.  And I learn from what you share in return, so I’m ready to turn the calendar page and proceed.  I hope you’ll do it with me.

The best of New Year’s wishes, Debra

The Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resources Center at City of Hope.

10 thoughts on “Head colds and hamsters–A year’s end odd pairing.

  1. Debra, I like the term, “care-tender.” I had forgotten about it, but not when you first talked with me about the definition and concept. As always, you articulate your ideas and make the connections so effortlessly in your writing. I am saddened to learn there is another needing prayer for bad news. I agree with your recommendation to take better self-care of the care-tenders for all our sakes. ~ Ellen

    • Thank you, Ellen. You know the role well, too, and it’s always good we can share our concerns with one another. We’ll have to continue to encourage one another to take care of ourselves. I’ll nudge you and you can nudge me back :-) Debra

  2. Debra,
    This is beautiful, and you are extraordinary. So many people will ask a caregiver “how can I help?” but too few actually do reach out their hands to help, care, ease, and just be there quietly when needed. Having done both, in some ways I think care-tending may be trickier than caregiving, The caregiver has no choice but to do whatever has to be done, while the care-tender has the option of looking away, becoming “busy” with other things, or just “forgetting” to call.
    I hope the new year brings you some peace, health, rest, and strength. Be well.
    Lori

    • Thank you, Lori. You really do know both sides, of course! Time is still the enemy at times, and good intentions are often more apparent than tangible assists, and I think that may be why I’m feeing a little more overwhelmed. Sometimes I really would like to be even more helpful than is possible. But that’s true for most of us, I’m sure. I echo a strong wish that you, too, find peace, health, rest and strength in the new year. A lovely blessing. Debra

  3. What a thoughtful and encouraging post, Debra. It is good to be mindful of others as we strive to take better care of ourselves and your words here are precious gifts to take with into the new year.

    It is often that pot of soup, dinner to freeze, offer to wash clothes, shop, etc. that help in the care of others, be it those ill or those taking care of them. Our daughter’s mother-in-law was stricken, brutally, with ALS last year. The family, especially her husband, became full-time caregivers and it was amazing to see them all work together in Judy’s care. There was little Tom or I could do from the sidelines, but, when Jennifer, our daughter, asked me if I could come once a week to prepare vegetable/vitamin drinks that would be infused into the feeding tube, I eagerly agreed. It freed the family up to do other things and gave me a useful way to help out.

    As for yourself, Debra, take care and allow yourself time to get over your cold. Read that pile of books, watch television, or just rest. I’ve a bit of bug today, myself, and I’m simply taking it easy.

    Happy New Year!

    • You are so kind to respond with such a personal story. What a terrible turn for your daughter’s family! ALS would have to become a family affair. That’s a terribly sad diagnosis! I do agree with you that sometimes being hands-on with the most practical of “duties” does ease some of the strain for others, but beyond that it is helpful to those of us who would otherwise feel like we are just standing by. Happiest of New Years, Penny. I so enjoy sharing with you. Debra

  4. Feel better dear one… and blessings to all caregivers/care-tenders helping the sick and feeble out there! Me too and that is why I haven’t been around much saying Happy New Year to other bloggers… May we all be healthy this year. I was even sick on Christmas Day! That had never happened in my life before… God is good. Stay blessed! :-)

    • I’m really sorry you haven’t been well! You did mention that a while back and I was certainly hoping it wasn’t “hanging around”–blessings for a very healthy new year, and I agree, God is good. We can continue to encourage one another. :-) Debra

  5. Hi Three Well Beings:

    I stumbled across your blog and have been poking around reading a few posts. Thanks for sharing your reminders for maintaining a sense of personal well-being despite what comes our way in the roller coaster of life. You may be interested in a blog post I wrote entitled “In this cold and flu season, infect someone with your smile” found here http://thestillspot.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/in-this-cold-and-flu-season-infect-someone-with-your-smile/

    Blessings for a wonderful 2012!

    • I am so glad you stopped by, Valerie, and I think your blog might be very enjoyable and compatible with my interests! I will be sure to spend some time with you. Thank you! I so relate to your roller coaster reference! Blessings to you, too! Debra

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