Sara Whitman

A Day in the Life of a Caretaker

Filed By Sara Whitman | July 21, 2009 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: cancer treatment, coming out of the closet, ill sister, life reflections

Phew. The FedEx piece was exciting. I do love doing that work, shareholder resolution stuff. I believe corporations will always be way ahead of government policies- and we need them to be in order to get government to respond.

It makes a very real difference in people's lives. I especially like that part.

But for my regulars, I wanted to give an update on the day in a life of a caretaker.

I realize that's what I am now. Sure, I'm a mom and moms take care of children, but this is different. I'm taking care of someone with cancer.

Yup, I finally said it. Finally got approval to say it. We've been dealing with this big, bad word for a while now. It's not so scary anymore.

I always knew, for a long time, that I would be the one to take care of my sister. I was the only one in the family who appreciated her for who she is and didn't judge her.

That glass house thing... I'm very aware of it.

My sister was one of the first people I told I was a lesbian. She didn't understand, and didn't really like the idea, but I was her sister and she loved me. No matter what. I think I was about 16 when I told her. I didn't come out to my mother until I was 20 and even then it wasn't my choice. She asked, I paused, and the rest is history.

When my sister met a man online and decided to go across country with him, I took a deep breath and said OK. I was scared for her, no question. But I also knew she needed some tie to a safe place. I would always be that safe place.

She keeps telling me that I saved her life. I didn't save her life. I provided a safe place. I will say there were some really sweet people in Georgia, ones that cared about her. But the world she had built was based on a man, not on her own sense of self.

It wasn't safe. He wasn't safe.

It is a strange world I'm in now. Slow motion at times, at times a roller coaster. I do the laundry, cook meals and we talk a lot. The boys are with Jeanine on their way out to visit their fabulous cousins in Iowa. For now, it's just my seester and I.

Walter asked me if we've gotten closer or if it's been stressful. I would have to say both- and neither. My sister and I have always been close even when we didn't talk every day. We've always had a connection.

It's stressful because she's sick. I don't want her to be sick. I want her to jump up and make her fabulous taco salad for dinner. I don't want to talk about who to leave what in the will, but I am.

It's important. I'm not afraid of these conversations. They carry a lot of weight of responsibility for me, to make sure who gets what. I will honor whatever she wants.

It's not stressful because the sun is out, the breeze is keeping the bugs away and the only thing we have to do is eat dinner and chat.

Stay in the moment, I keep reminding myself.

We don't always agree about everything but we are respectful of each other in how we voice it. That has always been the case. I hold things at times, consider them, not because I am afraid of the confrontation but because I want to use my best words with her.

I am a caretaker now. I'd like to think of it as a being full of gentle love. Respect. I know I will not always be successful, I will lose my patience, I will become angry at all that feels so unfair.

I wouldn't have it any other way.

Because I love my sister. Always have. Always will.

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Beautifully put. Love and strength to you both.

Tech Chic | July 21, 2009 9:00 PM

Hello Sara,

Firstly, I'm sorry to hear your sister is ill and I hope she recovers and you get some of her taco salad.

The beginning part of last year I was dealing with a simular situation taking care of my ex wife, soulmate and companion through life.

We separated in 2004 and then decidied to divorce in 2005 to save our friendship, which we valued highly. We were always friends first and the marriage seemed like a formality our families required. We met in 1984.

In early 2007 she was diagnosed with cancer a second time, the first time she was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2003, we were still together and I was holding off on transition to take care of her knowing full well that she would leave me if I decided to go the surgery route.
She dodged the bullet the first time and then later that summer I finally figured out the surgery route was for me. So anyway she left, we divorced amicably and I found another girl, who I am currently with, and yes she is trans too.

Well, she went through 2007 getting a little bit better then a little worse. In Decemeber I finally got my surgery. Before I left for Thailand, my dear friend gave me $200 and told me she hoped everything would work out for the best for me. I felt bad leaving her but she didn't want me using her for an excuse. She said "go, get outta here and get it done!"

So I did, and when I came back she was still sick.
As I healed from my surgery I ran her to the hospital and to the clinic and ran over to her place 12 miles away when she needed me. Her sister and I tried to get her to talk about the will, but she "didn't want to go there."

Long story, short, she passed away last on May 31, 2008. I was the last person to see her and when I left the hospital that night I told her "I love you, see you tomorrow." Well, I did see her, but she was gone. A very sad day. We had arranged to have a lawyer visit two days before she passed.

An now her child molesting, bible thumpin' dad is getting all of her assets. The same guy who f'd up her funeral with a fire and brimstone preacher who basically said she was going to hell because she didn't beleive in JC. I guess the moral of the story is GET THE WILL DONE. Do not wait, do not postpone. Do it now.

I miss her everyday and thought of her asshole father getting her hard earned assets is too much to bear some days. Ewww-I really don't like that guy!

Don't make the mistake of not taking care of the legal stuff, you may live to regret it.

Hopefully she will not need it but better safe than sorry. She might feel better knowing if the worst does happen her wishes will be followed.

All the best to you and your sister. One day at a time. Take care of yourself too, okay? I hope your sister makes a speedy recovery.

Always, Renee

John Shields John Shields | July 21, 2009 10:26 PM

First off, as someone who was always there for my mother - who died of cancer in 2000 - my hat is off to you.

Secondly, it is very important for you to be there, and take care of yourself in the process. You can't be there if you are physically a wreck - take it from someone who knows.

Lastly, my mom died in my arms, which is one of the sweetest moments of my life. The fact that you are there is important. It's not about you, it's about your relationship with your sister.

And you'll cherish this time, forever.



Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 22, 2009 2:36 AM

A big second on John above. See your doctor and get your blood pressure monitored. (Perhaps a portable machine so you can take it when you are feeling stressed). "Do I need stress management?" is a perfect question to ask yourself and a medical professional.

Talk about everything and be sure to ask your sister if there is anything she ever wanted to tell you that she could not. My father blew me away with insights into my family which has enriched the way I think of them (and not always to the better!). :)

Above all my dear, help her laugh!

You are a beautiful person Sara...

Instead of echoing all the "Be sure to take care of yourself too!" comments, I'd like to point out two small facts that you might overlook occasionally.

1) There is a chance she'll get better.

2) No matter what, she'll remember all you're doing for her now. Your unconditional love - and hers for you - is something your mother could never give either of you. You've both succeeded at life and have broken the pattern.