Cancer Caregiver Journey

Barbara Baroff Kavanagh, MSW, LCSW

I am so honored to be able to share my Cancer Caregiver Journey with you. And, I am grateful to AARP Colorado for the opportunity to share what I have learned to help others.

It is a Journey filled with Love, Faith, Courage, and Hope. I met wonderful people I might never have known if it wasn’t for Cancer! I have overcome challenges I never dreamed of and lived and loved more fully than I ever imagined.

My Journey began 27 years ago on April 20, 1991 when Jack was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I confess. Selfishly I would trade it all if my husband Jack never had cancer, suffered so much, given up so much of his life, and our life, to fight this disease.

During his company annual physical, Jack’s physician noticed something ‘wrong’ in his blood and referred him to an oncologist in Boston where we lived and worked. Jack didn’t want to worry me so he met with Dr. Ken Anderson at Dana Farber Cancer Institute alone. Lucky for us, Dr. Anderson was one of a few hematologists specializing in myeloma research and treatment at this time.

Jack called me after his appointment and said, “I just saw the doctor. How about meeting me after work to ‘talk’?” I knew this wasn’t good news.

Over dinner, Jack explained that he had a rare bone marrow disease but they had ‘caught it early.’ I was frightened and numb! I couldn’t think. I kept asking myself: “What does this mean? Why Jack? Why us?’ We learned all of this just a month before our wedding.

We had met through my consulting business. Both of us were divorced. We were so happy to have found each other and excited to start a new Chapter in our lives. We knew very little about multiple myeloma and tried not to think about it as we prepared not only for our wedding, but a job transfer from his office in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Holland. We were moving to another Country, another Language and we were going to be on our own!

On our wedding day, May 26, 1991, there were ‘3’ of us standing at the alter: the Bride, the Groom, and Cancer! We were so happy and in love but both of us were fearful of what the coming days, weeks, months, years, would bring. We told only our families and a few close friends. We didn’t want Jack’s company to know.

Thus the ‘secrets’ and the Living with Cancer Journey began.

Follow me for next month’s Blog post as I face the challenges and take on the hardest and most rewarding ‘job’ of my life: Being a cancer caregiver!  Let’s all come together to share, learn and build a true Cancer Caregiver Community.

Warm Regards,

Barbara