CaringBridge Helped Lighten Burden During Family’s Cancer Journey

I can still clearly remember the date—Aug. 15, 2005. That is the day that we learned my husband had cancer. That is the date that divided our lives into Before Cancer and After Cancer.

The diagnosis came as a total shock, since he had actually gone into surgery for what the doctors thought was a benign cyst. Turns out it wasn’t, and instead of heading home after fairly simple outpatient surgery, Pete spent a week in the hospital, and we went home trying to learn all we could about head and neck cancer.

What followed in the next few weeks was a flurry of doctor appointments as we tried to figure out what was the best course of action to beat this disease. We were both overwhelmed with information, a bit overcome with shock, and trying to keep family life as normal as possible for our three school-aged children.

I didn’t want Pete to have to deal with anything but getting better, so I took over the job of trying to notify family, friends and colleagues about what had happened. After the first mass email, I was exhausted trying to respond to everyone.

And that is when Pete’s mother told me about CaringBridge—a nonprofit platform that allows families dealing with a health crisis to stay in touch with their support network by creating their own personal page where they journal about their journey, and people, in turn, can leave supportive messages.

I quickly set up Pete’s page (super easy to do) and after one more mass email, everyone who was interested had access to Pete’s CaringBridge page. What a timesaver!

I figured I would post periodically about Pete’s progress and that would be that. But much to my surprise, Pete decided he wanted to author his own journal entries. And he did. Every. Single. Day.

He loved to come home each night (especially after a rough day of chemo and radiation) and read the latest Comments. Some of them made him laugh out loud, which is a pretty great feeling when you are going though cancer treatment. And nearly every day, he would post how he was doing, how he physically felt, and what he was thankful for.

Through his CaringBridge site, Pete was able to feel the care and support of so many people that he never would have had the time or energy to meet with in person. I truly believe that CaringBridge was as much a part of Pete’s success in fighting cancer as were his medical doctors.

Cancer therapies are physically brutal and couple that with the fact that you are literally fighting for your life, your mental health takes a real beating as well. CaringBridge provided Pete with a huge network of support, love, and friendship letting him know that he wasn’t alone in his journey—not by a long shot.

Even though I wasn’t the one with cancer and therefore did not have my own CaringBridge page (although I could have) I still benefited from this resource. In order to relieve as much stress as possible for Pete, I was the one who was trying to deal with medical bills, search the cancer websites and patient blogs for additional information, cook the meals (or at least outsource the cooking to friends) and keep things running as smoothly as possible for our family of 3 kids, 1 dog, and 1 cancer patient.

I was also trying to figure out how to be as supportive and positive as possible even though I was scared about what the future might hold. Once I saw how much emotional support Pete was getting from the posts on his CaringBridge site, I was able to take some of the caregiver burden off my shoulders.

CaringBridge was truly a blessing to both of us, and that is why we have been strong advocates and financial supporters of this nonprofit-organization and its mission every year since then. Pete and I have committed to matching donations to CaringBridge on June 8-9 and June 15-16, up to $25,000, as part of the CaringBridge June 2021 appeal.

  • Cary Komoto

    Kim, Thanks so much for sharing Pete’s cancer story and your story about Caring Bridge. Also thanks to you and Pete for being such great financial supporters of this platform. So maybe this is how life is sometimes, I just visited the site a couple of days ago, because a great Normandale instructor just set up a site for his wife, who has a terminal illness, and whose name did I see in an announcement about donations? I miss having you in the Chemistry Department, and I feel badly for all of the students who have missed out on the excellent experience of learning Chemistry from you. In any case, I hope you and your family are well. I appreciate that our paths crossed even if it was only for a short while.