• Caregiver looking for advice/insight/experiences...trying to make a decision about grad school. Any help appreciated!

    Asked by MeggyinSF on Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    Caregiver looking for advice/insight/experiences...trying to make a decision about grad school. Any help appreciated!

    Hi Everyone, I am my husband's caregiver.  We are both 30 years old, no children (yet).Background: a week before he was diagnosed, I was accepted to a demanding grad program.  Initially, we thought he might only have to have one surgery so I did not think of postponing my studies.  

    The docs are optimistic that after all of his treatments are over next year he will be cancer free.  My husband is currently receiving daily (M-F) chemo plus radiation treatments.  Then he will have an APR (abdominoperineal resection) which will result in a colostomy.  After that he will do six more cycles of chemo.  The doctors said it will be intense.  My first instinct is to care for him and put school off for now.  My husband says he would like me to start in the fall but I am already so overwhelmed that I can't imagine taking on more right now.  

    Note: The school told me that there is not an option to defer my admission, but that I am welcome to apply again next year.  

    6 Answers from the Community

    6 answers
    • CarolLHRN's Avatar


      I had rectal cancer and went through a similar protocol that your husband will be going through. I am single and didn't really have a caregiver except some great friends that would do a couple of things for me. I worked the entire time I went through treatment except when getting out of the hospital from surgery. Yes, the chemo can be intense but mostly, your husband will probably just want to rest and sleep. There isn't much you can do there to help!

      I had radiation/chemo for six weeks prior to my surgery. Besides being tired and some GI effects, I was pretty OK and recovered quickly once the chemo and radiation stopped. I had an ileostomy in December and was in the hospital about 6 days. I learned everything I needed to to take care of myself while in the hospital. Sure, I was sore for a couple of days but also recovered quickly from the surgery. I then had FOLFOX for 8 rounds. I would go to chemo once everyone other week for about 4 hours. The day of chemo I would come home completely exhausted and sleep for a while but I was back to work the very next day.

      I think you can handle grad school and be a caregiver as well. The things I needed most were rest, and someone to food shop for me. The rest I was able to handle on my own.

      I wish you and your husband the best.

      over 4 years ago
    • Bashiemn's Avatar

      Maggie -

      I'm kind of in a similar situation, only I'm the cancer patient AND the student. The end of last year I applied to an RN nursing program that is somewhat intense and I will be working full time as well. This was something I have been working towards for a couple of years (as a second degree). In January I was diagnosed with Anaplastic Large Cell Lymphoma and sentenced to approx. 6 months of chemotherapy. In April I received my acceptance letter to the RN program.

      I made the choice to continue with the program. First of all, it's something to look forward to. Second, I don't think I will let cancer take this much of my 2012 and then take my future goals as well.

      I'm hoping to be nearing the end of my chemo (it's taking longer than we anticipated), but I see an end in site. That said, I'm trying to work up to full time at work again so that when I start back to school in August I will not be completely wiped out.

      I figure I may be overwhelmed at first with everything, but I am going to try. The worst that can happen is that I have to go to the counselors at school and withdraw until next year due to the medical issues. I'd rather try now and hope for the best than quit now and hope I'll still be able to get back into it in a year.

      I know that the school told you that they can't defer your admission - which is another reason that you might want to give it a try - if you are a current student and "life happens" and you need to take a break it might be an automatic acceptance for next year, versus having to reapply. That's how my school works for this program.

      Good luck. I wish you the best, and hope your husband has a speedy and FULL recovery and that you are able to continue living your life and following your dreams.
      Jennie / BashieMN

      over 4 years ago
    • caissg's Avatar


      I am sure you and your husband will get through. Wish you and him all the best!

      I think you should go for your graduate program. Especially if it something you want and have worked hard to get up to this point. You can manage the caregiving alongside your studies. Get additional help maybe someone in the family and friends. Do not let go of your dreams.

      Wish you and yours the very best!

      over 4 years ago
    • blondie's Avatar

      Have friends come over when you need assistance. Local churches might sponsor Ministries or Cancer support group.

      over 4 years ago
    • MeggyinSF's Avatar

      Thank you all for taking time out of your busy lives to share your thoughtful responses and experiences with me. I spoke to my academic advisor and she suggested trying to take one or two classes the first semester to start, and see how things go. I did nto realize that was an option! I think that is probably what I will do but I still need to speak to my husband about it some more.

      I guess I was most worried about starting school the same week he has his surgery (we live an hour+ north of the hospital and my school is another half an hour north of where we live...). We do not have any family in the area and most of our friends work full time. His mother came out here from the east coast, without his permission, when he was diagnosed and it just made her pre-existing (and untreated) mental conditions worse. She is a threat to herself...among other things and just complained the entire time, making it more work for him. I felt so bad for him - that during his time of need his mother decides it is time to lose it again. I guess that is my side rant. That will be a post for another time. I also think that is part of the reason I feel so protective of him, and that was clouding my judgment.

      In any case, thank you ALL so much and best of luck to you all. Hopefully someday I can pay it forward.

      over 4 years ago
    • danellsar's Avatar

      I was set to start work on a grad school program when my husband was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. After the first talk with the oncology team, I pulled out. It was so all consuming, for him and for me. In addition, we have 2 kids that needed me.

      When my husband was hospitalized, I was spending several hours a day with him, visiting, talking to his doctors, bringing him things he needed, being his go between with the nursing staff. When he was doing chemo, he would be very weak and sick for several days after each treatment, and then slowly feel OK for a while. Depending on how often he had chemo, sometimes we'd have as little as 2-3 days of him feeling ok and not needing extra care between treatments.

      As his condition got worse, the demands on my time got to be more. I had to drive him because he wasn't able to drive any longer due to pain meds and overall health declining. I had to coordingate his doctors and meds and appointments. He simply wasn't able to do that for himself. It took a lot of time and a lot of energy.

      I guess what I'm saying is that he's going to need you a lot more than you think, more than you realize, as time goes on. You need to really think about whether this is the right time for a grad school program or not. Talk to the oncologist. What if you are it as far as caregiving? What kind of time commitment is that?

      For myself, I pulled out and will probably go back to it in another 6-12 months.

      over 4 years ago

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