Leeza Gibbons On Caregivers Sanity Sanctuaries

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I am honored to have Leeza Gibbons as my first guest post.

I reached out to Leeza and was so appreciative to receive an email from Gibbons who is a TV/Radio Host, Author, Wife/Mother, Alzheimer’s advocate, Entrepreneur and the list goes on and on. Here are her word of encouragement those in the caregiving and Alzheimer’s community. First her words to me.

How are you? Thanks so much for your advocacy in the Alzheimer’s community (and for your Twitter support!)….I thought maybe I would provide this little tidbit…for your blog. Again, we are all appreciative of your voice! Thanks Pamela!

“Especially during the busy holidays when stressors are maxed out, caregivers need to find their “sanity sanctuaries”. These are the places, people or things that bring you back to calmness and control. They are non-negotiable. For me it’s a five minute walk, a cup of coffee away from the phone and computer, my bath at night. Come up with your list and protect if fiercely. Figure out what you can do to mitigate that dreaded sense of overwhelm that you know is coming and plan for it. Remember that you can change your psychology by changing your energy through purposeful breathing. So slow things down with 10 deep breaths which can lower your heart rate, pump some oxygen to your brain, lower your blood pressure and put you back in control of your thoughts. THAT is the only thing we can control anyway, right? Why not release the rest? Show up, do your best, let go of the rest! Know that even if you get off track, your Sanity Sanctuaries are always there for you to reclaim yourself and move forward”

Ever Forward,

Leeza

From her website:

Leeza Gibbons is one of the best‐known and most well‐loved pop‐culture icons on the air and at the top of her game. She’s also a wife, mother, businesswoman, New York Times bestselling author of TAKE 2, and champion for family caregivers.

The spectrum of Leeza’s career in entertainment and news media— combined with her stunning hands on advocacy for health care, wellness, and caregivers—is diverse and impressive. Her on‐camera hosting dominance in entertainment‐news and talk‐show arenas ranges from the most popular entertainment news show in history, Entertainment Tonight; to her award‐winning daytime talk show, Leeza; to, currently, the syndicated TV news magazine show America Now and the weekly TV news show My Generation on PBS. Recognized as a social entrepreneur, Leeza has become one of the leading voices for issues facing family caregivers. After her family’s experience with her mother’s and grandmother’s Alzheimer’s disease, Leeza took action. Her training as a journalist united with her compassion and business savvy when she created the Leeza Gibbons Memory Foundation, a 501 (c)(3); and its signature programs, Leeza’s Place and Leeza’s Care Connection, which offer free services for family caregivers. Over the years, Leeza has become known as a trusted girlfriend, valued confidante, and source of inspiration and information to empower women to show up for their lives with confidence and pride. Whether it’s her scrapbook line honoring the value of memories, her jewelry collection to symbolize transformation, or her beauty products to reveal inner and outer beauty, Leeza develops programs and products to help women claim their strength and rewrite the story of their lives.

Websites: www.leezagibbons.com and www.leezasplace.org.

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Heather’s Voice: I Am A Mesothelioma Survivor

Heather’s Voice: I Am A Mesothelioma Survivor

Heather

As you know this blog has been about my journey as a caregiver to my mom who had Alzheimer’s and about the disease and those who serve as caregivers in this area. I have been blessed that it has also served as a vehicle for other caregivers to reach out, not just those in the fight against Alzheimer’s. While we love-giver’s may be advocates for different illnesses, our role, hopes and concerns are the same.

Last December I introduced you to Cameron Von St. James whose wife Heather is a survivor of Mesothelioma. I share with you today, Heather’s story in her voice.

If you or someone you know is battling Mesothelioma, visit their website  http://www.mesothelioma.com/mesothelioma/  at or contact Heather at  http://www.mesothelioma.com/treatment/speak-with-a-mesothelioma-survivor.htm.

You can also follow Heather on twitter @HeatherVSJ.

To read Heather’s story, click on the picture.

How my Family Survived my Wife’s Battle with Cancer

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I’m always excited whenever I get a like, a new follower or a new viewer to my blog, it’s another link in the Alzheimer’s awareness chain but also in the Caregiving awareness chain. Today’s guest post comes from Cameron Von St. James who wanted to share his story as a caregiver to his wife Heather who my wife was diagnosed with an extremely rare and deadly cancer called mesothelioma and today is cancer free! You may follow Heather on twitter at @HeatherVSJ.

How my Family Survived my Wife’s Battle with Cancer by Cameron Von St. James

My wife often remarks that she doesn’t know how I survived after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and I confess that I haven’t shared my experiences with her in much detail. I hope to share our story here, however, for the benefit of those currently battling through cancer.

Our daughter Lily was born just three months before her diagnosis. Our time of great happiness and excitement at the thought of what the future held for our new little family quickly turned to a period of stress and fear. To this day, I can still hear the doctor uttering the word, “mesothelioma.” As my wife cried and I tried to comfort her, I thought to myself, “How will we survive this?” CVS 1

Feeling overcome with grief, I thought I was going to lose my composure, but the doctor’s questions about our future medical decisions helped me to collect my bearings once again. This was just the first time that I would feel as if the world was coming down around me at the same time that I had to remain grounded and help make good decisions for my family.

I was so enraged after hearing the diagnosis and afraid for what the future held. I didn’t always handle these feelings in a positive manner and was reduced to spewing profanity when talking to others. After a little time passed, I learned to manage my emotions better. I was the only one my wife and daughter had to rely on. They needed me. It wasn’t easy, but I did my very best to be the pillar of strength my wife needed. I didn’t want her to witness any of my breakdowns. It was my duty to be her support and to help foster a sense of optimism and stability in her.

The list of things that I had to do during the day seemed to be impossibly long at first. I took care of the baby, the pets, continued to work and made sure that my wife could be everywhere she needed to go. It seemed like an impossible task, but I learned to prioritize and take my list on one item at a time, and this helped keep me from becoming overwhelmed. I also learned over time to accept the many offers of help extended to us by our friends and family. It was a real blessing to have so many people willing to offer their assistance to us during those days. If I hadn’t had as many caring people at that time, I don’t know if I would have made it.

Heather knows that the two-month period following her surgery was the hardest of all for me.  Following her mesothelioma surgery in Boston, Heather went to stay in South Dakota with her parents, in order to rest and recover, as well as prepare for her next round of treatments: chemotherapy and radiation.  Lily had already been staying in South Dakota during the operation, which left me home alone to work and take care of our house.  As difficult as it was to be her caregiver up until this point, being away from my wife and daughter during this period was so much harder.  In the entire two months they were gone, I was able to see them only once.

One Friday after work, I drove 11 hours to see them, overnight and through an unexpected snowstorm.  I got a few hours of sleep in my car while the plows cleared the roads, and I showed up exhausted on Saturday morning.  I spent a few hours with them on Saturday and Sunday, but I had to drive back home on all too soon to get to work on Monday. It was a lot of exhausting travel for a few precious hours with them, but it was worth every second.

The most important lesson that I learned was that I had to accept help from others. I also learned that although having to make difficult decisions was very hard at this time, it was a way of managing to exert some control over our situation. We made it through this challenging time when the chances of survival were slim, and Heather is still here and healthy, six years after first being diagnosed. My hope is that this story will encourage others in their fight to win their own battles with cancer.


Cameron is husband to mesothelioma survivor Heather Von St. James.  Heather was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 21, 2005 at the age of 36, just three days before Thanksgiving and three and a half months after giving birth to their daughter Lily.  Despite a troubling prognosis, Heather overcame her cancer and is healthy and cancer free seven years later.  She and Cameron now perform advocacy for mesothelioma patients and try to share a message of hope with all those battling cancer today.

Alzheimer’s Affects Everyone in the Family

The following article came in a link that was RT’d on my timeline and being it’s still holiday season, what better time to  read an article on how Alzheimer’s affects families. This article is not holiday specific, it’s life specific. It’s a good read and an expressive example of what many families experience. The author is Amanda Weiss, guest columnist for The Albert Lea Tribune

Alzheimer’s Affects Everyone in the Family

Published 10:10am Monday, December 26, 2011

By Amanda Weiss, Guest Column

My grandpa passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2005. He was 68. I was around 12 when he started showing signs; my grandpa was 58 years old when diagnosed with the disease. My great-grandma, who would be my grandpa’s mom, my great aunt, who would be my grandpa’s sister, and my dad, who would be my grandpa’s son, have all been tested for Alzheimer’s in a clinical study but they do not know if they carry or will have Alzheimer’s.

I remember watching my family members stress about who was going to take care of my grandpa. Was he going to be safe on his own, when could he not work anymore, how to take away his driving abilities, how would he understand being placed in a nursing home.

Amanda Weiss

He was always a kind, gentle man before the disease, while with the disease he never seemed like himself. It did, however, amaze me that on his good days he might not have remembered his name, but he would remember a family vacation 10 years ago, or something he did while growing up. He had his good days and bad days — the one thing that I always tried to remember were the good memories I had with him and I still cherish those today. Those memories are what I want to remember of my grandpa — not the disease. I am thankful for the memories and moments I have of him, my favorite treasures are the pictures of us having a good time.

I also remember the last week he was alive; I had not seen a glimpse of my real grandpa in a very long time. However, that day he did hold my hand, and I felt the warmth of my grandpa inside my mind, I felt as though he was telling me he was OK and to not be scared. That is one thing I will never forget. It was very difficult for me to be in the nursing home because I had been so close to my grandpa growing up. I was grandpa’s girl. I wanted to be there for him but it made me so sad. I’m very glad that I was by his side in the end because I always knew he was on my side.

I lost my best friend when my grandpa got Alzheimer’s. He was in his early 60s when his disease progressed, and the last five years he was in a nursing home. Those five years he was not the man I remembered, and it was very difficult watching my grandpa go through the changes and losing him. The final stages of the disease, he was blind, unable to eat regular food because he couldn’t remember to swallow, unable to walk to the rest room because he was crippled and bed ridden. The kind, active grandpa he once was was unable to shine through. He, however, always seemed calmer when my grandma was with him or a family member. The nurses he had were very kind, but the nursing home seemed so crowded and these people didn’t know my grandpa the way us family members did.

I really hope a cure can be found for this disease so that others do not lose their grandpas, too. This disease not only affects the person who has the disease but it also affects the patient’s family members and friends. My grandma tried to take care of my grandpa for as long as she could, it was hard for her, hard on her body and hard on her emotions, mostly because her best friend and the man she loved was being taken away a lot sooner than I’m sure she ever imagined. When my grandpa was placed in a nursing home, my grandma tried to spend every day visiting him — she fed him supper most nights because if she fed him he ate more than if the nurses fed him.

Amanda Weiss and family members pose for a photo at a recent walk to end Alzheimer’s. — Submitted

Family get-togethers were not the same because there came a point where my grandpa wasn’t able to leave the nursing home, and it was hard for his family to see him not knowing who he was. I also think it was also hard on him, being in a place that he should know, but because of the disease, he often had no idea where he was or what was right. Routine became very important for him. I, however, always felt my grandpa deserved so much more. I wanted him to be around to see so many things in my life but because of Alzheimer’s he never got to see me grow up.

My grandpa’s prized possession throughout his disease was a poodle named Minnie. Eventually the dog couldn’t be around him because he couldn’t handle the dog right, so a stuffed animal replaced the dog to comfort my grandpa.

I have so many thoughts about this disease, and I really hope one day a cure will be found. This will be my second year where I will walk in the Alzheimer’s Memory Walk in memory of my Grandpa Wayne. I volunteer because I can and I want to make a difference. I want to find a cure!

 Amanda Weiss works at the United Way of Freeborn County.