Her Story: A Caregiver’s Heart

By Guest Blogger Cassandra Savage

Recently I assumed a role I thought no longer fit me, since my two sons are old enough to feed and nurture themselves: I became a caregiver.

According to Family Caregiver Alliance, I am not alone. Approximately 43.5 million people have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months, and about 34.2 million Americans have provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older during that same period.

A caregiver, also known as informal caregiver, is a spouse, partner, family member, friend or neighboer involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. Formal caregivers are paid care providers offering care in one’s home or in a care setting (i.e., daycare, residential facility, or long-term care facility).

I have become my 93-year old mother’s informal caregiver, and I can honestly say, this was never a role I thought I would have to play. I was too busy – I have my job, a teenager at home, my business, my blog, my church responsibilities and my social life.  I was even studying for my securities license.  So how could I fit the role of caregiver into my schedule?

Well, in this season of my life, God had another plan. He spoke to my heart and instructed me to take on this role, and I answered His call. Trust me, when God calls you to do something, He has already laid out the path and equipped you with everything you will need to accomplish it. I am thankful and grateful for my mother’s formal caregiver, Maria, who has supported me tremendously during this transition. She has been my rock.

When God calls you to serve another, it is not about the pain, the hurt feelings or disappointments you may have experienced with this person – it is about Him asking you to put aside all differences to serve Him and do what He has called you to do. As I repeatedly answer the same questions over and over again, due to my mother’s dementia or when she tells me I’m not doing something right, I remind myself that I am doing what God has requested of me.

I want to thank those who have been so supportive during this season of my life. I’m also thankful for God’s reminder in Hebrew’s 6:10: “God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” (NIV)

As my mother and I begin to settle into our new normal, I have to remember that this is stressful for her as well, due to her having to leave her hometown, where she lived for more than nine decades. Watching her as she enjoys talking to my sons, feeding the dog an excessive amount of dog treats, appreciating my grandson’s visits and eating shortbread Girl Scout cookies, I know I have made the right decision.

Cassandra Savage recently celebrated 33 years of federal government service and holds a master’s degree in Organizational Management. Along with her extensive government career, she possesses a profound passion for serving others. She has struggled with her identity, experienced divorce and balanced a full-time job while single parenting, yet has never allowed these experiences to define her. Her resilience has inspired her to share her life’s journey with others, and two years ago, she founded New Wine Consulting, through which she provides personal development and leadership coaching. Learn more at New Wine Consulting, where a different version of this blog post originally appeared, in February 2017.

Her Story: Finding Beauty in the Storm

By Guest Blogger Venus Bolton

There are times our children get sick and as parents we tend to them attentively, doing everything we can think of to make them feel better. Sometimes Mama’s home health care does the trick; but if you have multiple kids like me, your children may be on the germ-share program; so invariably what goes around tends to make the rounds.

However, imagine being told the illness your child has is life threatening – that time is running out and your options are few. When my husband and I received this news in 2011, it didn’t feel real. Doctors declared that our 4-year old daughter had severe aplastic anemia. Aplastic anemia behaves in the same way as several childhood cancers, with a similar course of treatment.

I now think back to the three years of active treatment that followed this diagnosis, along with two years of maintenance treatment, and I am truly amazed at how we navigated life during those five years. An illness of this magnitude can impose a crippling toll on a family.

The most significant lesson I learned is that beautiful things can happen in the midst of the worst storms life throws your way. My husband and I experienced what the hearts of people coming together to be the blessing looks like. We felt like every good thing we had ever done in our lives was returned to us through the love, prayers and generosity of others.

Through this unimaginable set of circumstances, we’ve had many opportunities to share our story as ambassadors for patient families, in conversations with lawmakers and officials, and by working with businesses and organizations that support patient families. We’ve walked alongside other parents (who became friends) through diagnosis, treatment, heartache and grief.

Our 9-year old daughter was recently released to full survivorship, and while it may sound cliché, my family has a renewed appreciation for life. We take very little for granted and have learned not to sweat the small stuff, because in the grand scheme, it all is smaller.

I never thought I’d say it, but what came to wreak havoc in our lives has ultimately ended up blessing our family in some ways we didn’t expect. Most importantly it gave me, and my husband, a greater desire to have a positive impact in our community, and to put ourselves in position to bless the lives of others whenever possible.

Venus Bolton writes and speaks on issues related to faith, wellness, caregiving and child advocacy. She lives in Midlothian, Virginia with her husband and four children and blogs regularly at Three & 1.