by Karen Keller Capuciati
I came across this interview on NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show of author and journalist, Gail Sheehy, in which she discussed her latest book, Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos Into Confidence.
The book details Sheehy’s experiences caring for her husband, Clay Felker, for 17 years as he battled various forms of cancer.
As part of her introduction to Sheehy, Diane Rehm said, “She talks about how we can make it through the life-altering task of caring for a loved one and actually benefit from the challenge.”
I was struck by the latter part of this statement. I might expect advice on how to manage such an ordeal, but how would you benefit from it?
But Gail explained all that during the interview. She talked about how she and Felker engaged in life after the diagnosis. They weren’t going to take this lying down, she said. In fact, one of Felker’s doctors suggested to them, “Go out and do something wonderful you wouldn’t have dared before. Do it together.”
And that’s what they did.
She related how her husband, as a longtime magazine editor (Felker created New York magazine and was a former owner and publisher of Esquire), loved to help young people in the industry. Through the help of his many friends, what Sheehy called a “circle of care,” they found a position for Felker at the University of California, in Berkeley.
While Gail needed to stay in New York City for her career, she commuted to the West Coast. Though it was difficult to be apart, Gail explained that “what happened was it made us feel young and in love all over again. It was a new experience and that lymphoma went away.” Gail said she believes that this infusion of life boosted Felker’s immune system.
Sheehy has done exhaustive research and interviews for this book and it’s all included in the pages of Passages in Caregiving. She offers great advice on how to deal with the health care system, creating your own circle of care, and how to get the whole family working together.
The book offers stories we can certainly relate to — creative solutions, ideas and tons of resources. Kim and I are both ordering the book today.