It was March 18th, 2021 when I arrived at a frenzied Emergency Room to have two protruding lumps in my neck evaluated. The ER was the only place to go at this point in the Pandemic and although I did receive a CT scan (without contrast dye) and a rather vague diagnosis, on that very difficult day I was mis-diagnosed. Or rather, not diagnosed with the Stage IV Metastatic Cancer which was spreading in my lymph nodes and neck. Precautions were just being implemented and I recall the ER physician had a make-shift plastic shield around her face and head. No one came into my room in the ER, except to tell me to get a ride home. It was sheer panic as the news broadcasts had our nation and the entire world glued to the screen for updates on how to simply walk outside your own home.

I knew that day, something was very wrong with me. See, I had been a caregiver for so long for so many other loved ones I put my own health on the back burner. I even saw a very learned Psychologist from Harvard who told me I was going to develop “caregiver burnout” if I didn’t stop. Not just mental burnout, but physical illnesses would begin to set in my body and he was unfortunately right.

And this was not the first time I would be facing a very scary medical situation while caring for my loved one with cancer. He has since passed as have all those I have cared for and I realize in hindsight how well I cared for them, while neglecting my own self. First the carotid artery blockage only a month or so before my daughter’s big wedding day, now this. Cancer of unknown origin, needed immediate treatment! Who would now care for me?

I had not planned well for the negative (health and other insurances) and was actually working in retail (with an MBA in hand) on my feet 50 hours per week. When the coronavirus shut down the upscale location of my employment, it was actually a blessing. I could take the time to find out how this happened and what came next?

It is 9 months later. With the help of my grown children and the support of distant family and friends i can say I am on my way to recovery and healing. Five (5) extractions of teeth, with a great deal more dental work to go, I have so much gratitude for the long and peaceful hours of my days I felt as if I must write and share this ‘part’ of my story today. There is so much more involved, but the point is, caregivers of any kind, paid or unpaid, related or not, caring for children or pets, or dying old souls all need to focus on self-care first. If I had not pushed to follow up and had a great doctor and dentist on my birthday last July the cancer would have had much more time to spread.

We all do so much every day for others, especially Moms who are multi-tasking jobs and meals and groups and social media platforms. If you are taking care of everyone else, ask yourself t#his one question? Who is taking care of you?