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Recently my husband, Jeff, and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary. This could be our last anniversary, too. A few months ago, the doctors found his esophageal cancer had metastasized to all four quadrants of his stomach resulting in secondary peritoneal cancer. We were told his cancer is incurable and he has months left to live.
Our love has been tested tremendously over the past 10 years. When couples say their vows and get to the part about "in sickness and in health," we often assume that we will have good health until we hit a ripe, old age. That has not been the case for Jeff and I.
Jeff has been a tremendous care giver and support for me when I experienced my brain injury six years ago and now, the tables have turned and I am having to be his main support and cheerleader as he continues along his cancer journey. Add in raising small children, a one-year-old Golden Retriever puppy and operating my Life and Leadership Development firm, Potential Unlimited, I am being stretched in ways I hadn't even considered before.
But the brain injury experience has taught me to make time for self care. I utilize tools I've learned and stick to my boundaries, even within the chaos, as a means of survival and preservation. I know I need to live 'smart' to continue to play all the roles I want to play in my life, and most importantly, to be able to care for my family.
I encourage each of you to make time to take care of yourself as a priority, even during the hustle and bustle of year-end and the holiday season.
I invite you to read my story "When Life Gets Hard." I expect my clients to be authentic with me, so I believe it is really important for me to be transparent with you. My story feels raw to me, but I believe there is something to be shared by being open with others during these vulnerable times. I open my heart to you.
Enjoy the ride!
Chief Engagement Officer
When Life Gets Hard
My husband, Jeff, was diagnosed in September 2017 with Stage 3 esophageal cancer at the age of 44. He went through chemo and radiation every day for 5 weeks and then endured a 7-hour surgery that removed most of his stomach and esophagus as well as almost 50 surrounding lymph nodes. This surgery left him in critical condition, learning to eat and walk again.
In the summer, we hoped the worst was behind us. We had an amazing vacation visiting Golden Lake, Ontario, with Jeff's brother's family. This is a special place as my husband's parents had a cottage there that was sold after his Mom died and before his Dad passed away. Jeff, I and our girls as well as our Golden Retriever Hunter continued our vacation to a beautiful cottage in the Mont Tremblant region of Quebec.
During this time away, I could see glimmers of Jeff getting stronger from the surgery. It felt like we could finally see the light at the end of the darkened tunnel. Maybe, just maybe, we could start making plans for our future again.
But on the evening of Sunday, August 26 (ironically, the same date 10 years earlier our eldest daughter was conceived), Jeff underwent a laparoscopic surgical procedure with cameras going into his stomach to see the status of his health. Doctors had suspicions the cancer returned based on a CT scan, but they weren't sure and gave us the option of doing this test. We wanted to know.
So here I was on a late summer Sunday evening, sitting in a surgical waiting room with its lights off as no scheduled surgeries happen on Sunday evenings. Only the light through the windows into the hospital atrium was gleaming through the glass. I was the only person in the room. I prayed. I meditated, and I prayed some more. Then the surgeon entered the room, still in full surgical gear with the blue cap and gown. He looked solemn. "Shit," I thought to myself but tried not to go there. I didn't want to jump to conclusions. Read more.
Today's Thought: "Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." Marie Currie
Carey-Ann Oestreicher (pronounced O-striker), Chief Engagement Officer for Potential Unlimited, works with individuals and companies to help them reach their full potential.
Nominated as one of Canada's Most Powerful 100 Women, Carey-Ann has held a variety of senior positions including vice-president level and she has worked in industries such as: financial services, automotive and transportation, publishing, cosmetics and fashion.
Carey-Ann's media appearances include CTV's Canada AM, Global TV's Survivor series, CBC NewsWorld, TSN. She has also been quoted in numerous publications such as The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine and Canadian Business magazines.