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.

  • Nancy Hesselman Turner

    Kim, thank you so much for your openness in sharing your family’s story. I was truly touched by the support you and your husband experienced through the CaringBridge. In addition, please know how much I admire your willingness to support the organization through matching donations, thereby paying forward the gifts you received, and extending those same gifts to so many others. Finally, and most importantly, what a blessing that Pete was successful in fighting and beating his cancer! May God continue to richly bless you and Pete, and your entire family, with strength, good health and peace of mind.

  • Frances Dansky

    Such a beautiful story.

  • Joan E Sternhagen

    I absolutely agree with Kim. I became so overwhelmed with trying to keep up with well wishes. I would forget who I told what and would get frustrated with time spent on communications rather than my new role as caregiver. I was familiar with CB as I followed a friends journey with Leukemia up until his passing. I am so grateful that I have this resource. My husband has had a very long fight with stage 4 colon cancer. Life expectancy is 2 1/2 years and he was diagnosed in Sept. 2014 . I also appreciated all the prayers being offered through the large outreach of this site and believe that is why my husband is still here. I continue to post about ever 2 weeks or more.

  • John Poythress

    Keeping prayers for progress for you both.

    Leigh’s brother – John Poythress

  • Michelle Lord

    God bless you Sir and your family. Your looking good 👍. I had a dear friend whose daughter set up a Caring Bridge site for her sweet mom who recently lost her mom to cancer. This website is awesome. Like your wife said. All her friends and family could stay up to date. May you be blessed 😇 and stay strong and healthy.🙏❤️📿

  • Greg Stehling

    I too support this family’s feelings about CaringBridge as it is a great vehicle to bring friends and family together for following such an important impact to a person’s life. I was told about this through a family relative and followed thru by generating a journal everyday since September 2020. It provides an avenue for the person writing the journal to express one’s feelings and is a reach-out to all connected to the site.

  • Bryson Fico

    Your story is inspiring and hopeful. I am impressed with you generosity as your fight this dreaded disease – a testament to your character. My thoughts and prays are with you and your family.

  • 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.