Shannon has pancreatitis.
It was caused
by a genetic defect.
It started 6 years ago
when she was 27.
Always healthy and adventuresome
when she was younger,
her life has now taken an unwanted turn.
First there is the abdominal pain.
It strikes without warning, a couple of times a month,
lasting hours on end.
When it first happened,
she thought she was dying.
Now she knows she won’t die,
but sometimes she says she wishes she could—
the pain is that excruciating.
All she can do is increase her pain medication,
curl up in a ball, and wait it out.
Extreme nausea has become her way of life—
most every morning, most every evening.
Sometimes the nausea strikes unpredictably, embarrassingly,
wherever she is, whatever she’s doing.
Daily she must conserve her energy carefully.
Indeed, she will always have to—
she has been told her condition cannot improve.
Shannon has become a friend of mine.
I watch her carry on day after day
with true grit, with remarkable resilience,
with persistent courage.
Her efforts, every single day,
are nothing less than heroic.
In this space that’s dedicated to the issues
of being a caregiver to family or friends,
Shannon is an important reminder to us.
It’s true that caregiving can be demanding.
It’s true there may be something of the heroic
in how some of us caregivers live out our roles.
But we dare not forget that sometimes, if not often,
the one in our care is engaged in a battle
that is even more heroic.
They may grapple with unceasing pain,
or unnerving fear, or unrelenting depression.
They may be forced to deal with symptoms
that are fatiguing, or alarming, or humiliating.
They may be adjusting to diseases or conditions
that limit not only the quality of their lives
but even the length their lives.
Such individuals are examples of heroism personified.
We dare not forget that.
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