We interrupt this 100-hour week (memo to my friends: I'm not dead -- yet -- and I need you to forgive me for not answering any of my emails for weeks and weeks) to send out a cry for help, precipitated by a sympathetic yet frustrated reading of this post by Lymphopo at As the Tumor Turns, formerly Liz/Grannyvibe, whose fortunes I have been following since before she was diagnosed with the aggressive Stage IV lymphoma which she seems, rather amazingly under the circs (or indeed any circs) to have beaten.
In this gruesomely funny post, Liz charts her meltdowns and the reasons therefor. It is, as her blog warns, not for the squeamish, nor yet for the faint of heart.
But here, on behalf of the more or less ongoingly well, is my question. I had my own long-drawn-out experience as an intermittent 'carer' last year and early this year, when my sister had a horrendous post-operative complication after surgery on her right hand. It involved acute chronic pain, a reasonably high level of impairment, serious work and financial worries and uncertainty, and a drawn-out series of treatments which were, if only for a few hours, worse than the condition, which is saying a great deal.
She suffered the tortures of the damned. She is my baby sister and my own empathetic, guilt-ridden, proxy suffering was quite bad enough to be going on with. I was the only person close to her who was in a position to do chauffeuse duty, home carer duty and so on, and I did, on and off for over a year.
She and I have sibling issues going back fifty years. We are very attached to and protective of each other, but if put in the same enclosure at a human zoo would tear each other to pieces within hours of our incarceration. Last time I was in Carer mode I was supposed to stay with her overnight after one of the ghastly treatments (think three injections deep into your neck, one after the other), but by about fifteen minutes after we got back to her place it took every ounce of willpower I had to stop myself storming out the door and going home.
So here's the question. What is a carer to do? What is the correct response of someone who's well to someone who's in a state of shocking pain and fear, and quite possibly gaga from their meds as well? How do you deal with emotional meltdowns, particularly (but not only) when they are directed straight at you? How do you manage your own vulnerability to attacks from someone you cannot possibly attack back? What are you supposed to say? What are you supposed to do?