Listen to HER2: Caregiver ‘Knew We Would Work Together to Find a Way’
When Scott Leip’s wife, Jessica, was diagnosed with hormone receptor-positive, HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer in 2013, it was a shock to both of them. For Listen to HER2, Scott writes about being a caregiver and about learning that listening is often the best form of help.
I’ve been asked to write about being a caregiver for someone who has stage IV breast cancer. Like most things in life, you just roll with what the good Lord puts in front of you. Our situation is unique as is “our story.” I met my wife, Jessica, in 2012 and was absolutely mesmerized by her. She is so tough, so strong, so loyal. Truthfully she is everything I’ve ever wanted in a friend and companion. I can’t believe I had to wait until I was 42 to find her!
Without question, when she was diagnosed, it was a monster shock to say the least. I think in being the person I am, I never thought “How will we deal with this?” I knew we would work together to find a way. There wasn’t really any other way. She was someone I was going to spend the rest of my life with. If that was 1 day or 100 years, we would be together.
In helping Jessica cope with her disease, the biggest thing I had to learn was to (at times) leave her alone. Caregivers often want to – or at least in my situation, I wanted to solve her problem. I wanted to make it easier and do everything for her: “Sit down and I will cook, clean, work, take care of the kids. You just sit.” I couldn’t have been more wrong on how to attack this. Of course she knew what she was doing and like everything we go through, she pulls me along and helps me understand.
Doing everything for her isn’t what she has ever needed. Some days she needs me to listen. Some days she needs me to do more. But most days, my bride knows what she wants and that’s what she is GOING to do. So I don’t get in her way. Or at least I try not to. When I do, I usually get yelled at! Ha.
I know this may sound strange but sometimes I just try to make things as normal as I can. House issues, dealing with the kids, family, money, life ... That’s what we all deal with during our days. You can get caught up in the “what-if” so I try and keep things as normal as possible.
There is no right or wrong way to support your loved one. Just show up. Be there and try to do what you think is best. Being open, honest and staying together is my advice.
We are like any other couple. We fight, we love, and we try to help our kids, just like so many other people. She has taught me about helping her and even not-helping her.
I admit there are days where I’m not sure I’m doing any of this right. I pray she knows how much I adore her and cherish every day we have together.
As for the financial side of this, it is probably worth mentioning. When I met Jess, truth is, we both didn’t have much at all: no home, no money, fairly low income. I was coming out of a marriage and was somewhat lost. Jess was working two jobs to take care of her and her kids, Hannah and Izzy, both under the age of 4!
We got some amazing help from people early on. The first year-and–a-half was very tough financially and without the help of family and some other amazing people, I don’t know if we would have made it.
When I met Jess – I can’t explain it: She opened my eyes like no one else ever had. As time progressed, it was my job to take care of Jess and the girls. Being pressed with the financial burden of Jess and the girls plus my two older kids, it was the ignition I needed to create a new life for all of us. Five years later, we are clearly grounded by what matters: time together and stable scans. But we do own a beautiful home and have money to pay our bills. While we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, I feel so blessed that we are all together.
It takes an army to get through what Jessica has to handle. and we are very blessed. We don’t have one or two caregivers, we have an army!
Scott Leip is 46 and is father to 20-year-old Justin, 15-year-old Courtney, 8-year-old Hannah and 7-year-old Isabel. He lives in Framingham, Massachusetts with his wife, Jessica and the children. Read more Listen to HER2 stories here, including Jessica’s story about targeted therapies, side effects, and advocating for yourself.
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