If One Is Sick Two Need Help
Well Spouse Foundation
By Rena Dictor LeBlanc
It happened during a wedding ceremony.
The minister's words were beautiful.
But, they brought tears to my eyes.
He said, "Wherever they may go may they always return to one another," His words were especially meaningful to me because my daughter Mia and I are widows.
We both spent years caring for our husbands who were chronically ill with cancer. My husband Jerry LeBlanc had lung cancer. Mia's husband Kerry was a victim of melanoma. These were obstacles neither of us anticipated despite the line in the wedding vows, "...For better or for worse..."
For the five years of Kerry's illness, Mia was the most devoted caregiver I've ever known. Mia and I leaned on each other for support. My younger daughter Marisa LeBlanc was so deeply devoted to helping both of us that Mia once said, "What does someone do if they don't have a Marisa?"
"Providing Emotional Support"
The answer is, whether a person has a "Marisa" or not, he or she can turn to The Well Spouse Association (WSA) for help. It reportedly is the only national association devoted exclusively to providing emotional support for women and men, young and old, who are caring for a chronically ill/disabled partner. The motto of WSA is "If one is sick, two need help."
The organization sponsors a network of support groups in many parts of the country. It hosts an online discussion forum, and organizes workshops, conferences and respite weekends. According to the association, there are an estimated four million spousal caregivers in the U.S.
The Well Spouse Association has 1450 members across America, with some in Canada and other countries as well. It's website is http://www.wellspouse.org/, and its phone number is 800 838-0879.
Advice On Coping
Maggie Strong (her pen name) started the organization in 1988. Her husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977. As she cared for him and their children she felt physically and emotionally exhausted and helpless. "There were times I felt I can't do this any more. I had nowhere to turn to learn how to cope," she said. She wrote a book called "Mainstay-For the Well Spouse of the Chronically Ill". In the book she revealed the agonizing experiences of herself and her family. What's more she provided her own advice on coping as well as that of experts.
The organization started as a result of the response to the book by people who were in similar situations, and wrote to Maggie about their experiences. She recalled, "It was an enormous relief to have found people in the same position, and to be able to bring us all together. The critical thing is for spousal caregivers to know other spousal caregivers."
Richard Anderson, 62, is president of the Well Spouse Association. He was a spousal caregiver for twenty-nine of the thirty-one years of his marriage, until his wife died in 2004. He said, "I was committed to my wife. I was just doing what I had to do."
Resources That Help
Terry Corcoran, 56, cares for her husband Vincent, 72. "I quit work to take care of him full time. I was getting crazy. I would be crying and screaming and totally overwhelmed." She too turned to the organization for help. She said, "The Association is a wonderful place to have friendship and learn about resources that can help you."
Dorothy Saunders is the caregiver for her husband David who was shot in a robbery when he was twenty-one. He's been paralyzed from the neck down for over thirty years. In a poem she wrote called "Bullet" she said in part,
"...Arms that cannot hug,
Legs that cannot walk...
For what was lost with that bullet,
And I ache with sadness"
Maggie, who brought all these caregivers together to help each other said, "Every once in a while I think about what have I done in life. It's just gratifying to have done something with sorrow."
(Previously published on the Eons website.)
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