To the Caregivers Who Try to Be Strong Enough for the Both of Us

Halfway through my sophomore year of college, I was diagnosed with a brain tumor. I spent that spring and summer in doctors’ offices and hospitals and bed. My family and friends spent that spring and summer right by my side. For months, I was unable to walk on my own; I lost parts of my vision; I couldn’t sleep or keep food down; I was angry and
was depressed. My family was strong and resilient. So one night, in a hospital bed a week into my longest and most trying stay, I wrote them this letter.

My loves,

It’s been a hard few months for us. We’ve been through a lot, and we have more to come. This isn’t easy, but we are doing the best we can. You are doing the best you can.

Thank you for being by my side. Thank you for every time you’ve held my hand and every time you’ve told me we will get through this, even when I didn’t believe you. Thank you for lying to me when I ask you if I look OK when I’m self-conscious about my bed-head. Thank you helping me up when I’m dizzy but have to use the bathroom. Thank you for pretending you aren’t watching me with held breath and a worried mind when I want to walk on my own. Thank you for lifting my wheelchair in and out of the car a million times. Thank you for the forehead kisses and for holding my hand during every needle or poke or prod. Thank you for driving me around to doctors and errands.

Thank you for loving me the same. Thank you for being by my side.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry you are so tired, which I can tell from your eyes. I’m sorry for the days when I’m irritable and frustrated. I’m sorry for the times I can’t muster up a smile or a good attitude. I’m sorry all we talk about is my health, but I promise I care about your life, too. I’m sorry life isn’t very fun right now. I’m sorry all your free time is taken up by my doctor’s appointments and running back and forth to the hospital. I’m sorry I’m not always myself.

I know this is hard for you. I know I’m not the only one in this fight, and I know you are hurting too. I know you aren’t as sure as you pretend to be when you tell me it’ll be OK. I see you when your eyes tear up, and I know your heart is full of worry; that is OK. You are trying to be strong for me, and I love you for that, but you don’t always have to be. I know there will be days when you are frustrated and tired. There will be days when you do not have enough strength to be strong for both of us; I will pick up your end on those days. We can take turns.

This is going to get harder. I’m going to be scared before I start treatment, but your hugs will help. I’m going to be tired and grumpy while I recover, so you will need your patience. I’m going to be bored and bedridden post-surgery, so I need your friendship and

But I promise we will get through this, and I will get better. And when this storm passes and we find brighter days, I won’t forget you were by my side. I won’t forget every time you made me laugh when I was scared or hurting. I won’t forget the days you spent with me just lying in bed knitting or watching TV or entertaining me when books couldn’t. I won’t forget the hours you spent sitting by my hospital bed or the energy you used to push my wheelchair. And I hope you never face any storms, but we all do, and when your forecast isn’t so bright, I promise I will be by your side.

I love you,

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