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He Said: She Said: All Said with Love!

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By: Lewis & Merle Christie

Relationship Advice from Cancer Survivor Lewis and Caregiver (wife) Merle

What did you do to feed your relationships while you went through the transplant process?
Merle: I stayed very positive, saying we will get through this together. I accompanied Lewis to every doctor and hospital visit to encourage him. I even brought him home-cooked meals because the hospital food was fair and he did not have a very good appetite or no appetite at all. I made sure the doctors’ and nurses’ instructions were followed.

Lewis: Being confined in the hospital for sixty days during the two bone marrow transplants, I looked forward to seeing Merle every day. I was never sure how I was doing and she helped me with many things; e.g., encouraging me to walk, helping me with meals, making sure the house was in order (sanitary for when I came home). When I got home, we both stayed in our bedroom; Merle was attuned to every move I made. She actually followed me wherever I went, worried that I might fall.

What was done to help Lewis to stay strong?
Merle: Encouraging him at every step along the way, from the hospital to home and to every appointment. He had a lot of infusions, platelets, transfusions and I went to every one of them. I had to ensure that he was warm and that he followed the nurses’ instructions, etc.

Lewis: If it hadn’t been for Merle’s support, I don’t believe I would be here today. She made sure that while I was in the hospital, I got the best care. She was on top of the doctors and nurses to discuss the procedures, to make sure we both understood their explanations, and that we both agreed with what was recommended would be the best course of action.

What advice can you give to caregivers about what a patient needs most through the transplant process?
Merle: I kept a diary of everything that was done, from Lewis’s medications, to transfusions and his symptoms. I found that even when receiving great care from doctors and staff, it was good to keep a record of everything. We have had to refer to my records many times because we visited different doctors based on Lewis’s symptoms. Because Lewis had multiple symptoms that had to be treated, these visits included other oncologists, dermatologists, ophthalmologists, and urologists. We found walking 10,000 steps brought us very close. Besides it being a healthy activity, we talked over many things while walking.  However, the most important thing was the encouragement that we would make it through this together.

Lewis: If able, stay on top of everything. Be informed of about what is taking place and seek help when needed. Always reassure each other that this is something that we can overcome together. Remain positive.

What did you learn about your spouse through this experience?
Merle: To go through what Lewis did and see where he is today, is amazing – from having a devastating prognosis of one year to live, to being as strong as he is today; from not being able to eat anything because he had no appetite or even walk a few steps, to having a normal life now, is miraculous. He was never depressed, was always positive. Now he talks to others undergoing the same experience to support them as a peer mentor. He also was that way in the hospital. Nurses would bring other people planning to have bone marrow transplants to speak with him about what he went through and encourage them that there is hope.

Lewis: I cannot believe how strong Merle was and is. She took care of everything when I was hospitalized. She was extremely caring and we were very close throughout this experience and are even now. We do everything together, from socializing with friends and relatives to simply shopping together.

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