By Michael Boyd

Being a caregiver is not new to me. For many years, at different times in my life, I have been the caregiver for three women – my great-great grandmother, my mother, and my wife.

The first person I was a caregiver for was my great-great grandmother. She had custody of me after I was born. When I turned six, she became very ill with cirrhosis of the liver. She was not a person who would go to the hospital, she passed about a year after her diagnosis. At the age of 7, I had to learn to cook, clean and deal with her mood changes. She was a very physical lady, would knock the sense out of you if things were not done to her liking, like preparing her food the way she wanted. I also had to help keep her clean for about two years.

When she became too sick to stay at home, and had to go to a nursing home, I was reunited with my family of many siblings and mom and dad. I had no idea that my parents and siblings were not my cousins. I didn’t know which was harder –caring for my great-great grandmother, or having to live with my immediate family. Although it was traumatic going from being an “only child” to having six other siblings, I had a reprieve from my caregiver duties.

My next time as a caregiver happened when I was about seventeen years old.  I was in the process of leaving home at the age of 16, when my mother told that she was sick with cancer. She told to not tell my siblings, who happened to be older than me. I returned home at the age of 19. I had two jobs and was about to go to culinary school, but I found out that mom had Stage IV. I had to wash her sheets and clean her private parts. I had to smile and act like everything was okay, even though we both knew she was dying. After about two years, she passed at the age of 38. I am now 50, 12 years older than she was when she passed.

Many years later, at the age of 32, my fiancée became ill with cancer. The hardest part of caring for her was seeing her sick. I had to read up on cancer and learn what to do to help her - what kind of food she needed to eat, everything had to have a lot of protein and a lot of flavor because her taste buds seemed to have died. At one point, the chemo killed her. She was “dead” for about 15-20 seconds. They stopped the chemo, and just had her do radiation.

She didn’t want to go to radiation, but two times a week, we went together. The radiation would ‘cook’ her so badly, she would lay on the linoleum floor because the floor was cool. She is currently cancer free after dealing with that situation for five years. I am still her caregiver.

No one can stop what God has in store for us. I am very thankful that God has been there for us.

P.S.  Thank you also, Anna & Valerie & Donna.