K. Eleanor Novak: A bond forged at Wellspring

May 10, 2024

Submitted by K. Eleanor Novak

My best friend’s diagnosis with a blood cancer in 2016 drastically changed both our lives. Michael found out that he had bone marrow cancer after being admitted to the ER for anemia. Our friendship pivoted from carefree Scrabble games and movie outings to hospital visits and doctors’ appointments. He had to leave his apartment for a room in supportive housing. I became a designated caregiver so I could visit him and help him with shopping. Not wanting him to face bad news alone, I attended every doctor visit. Both of us were overwhelmed by the abrupt change.

Things changed when a friend told us about Wellspring. I felt comforted from the very first visit. The receptionist was cheerful and kind, a foil to my rampant anxiety. I found some helpful brochures, and signed up for Caregivers Connect. I picked up a pair of pewter cat figurines from the donations, to remind Michael of the cat he’d had to leave behind. Almost a decade later, they still brighten his home. Wellspring was the start of our journey into hope.

Caregivers Connect gave me the emotional support I needed. I met others whose loved ones had the same “rare” cancer. I learned how to set boundaries and be kind to myself. Most importantly, I came to appreciate Michael’s empathy and stoicism. He understood that the situation was difficult for both of us and didn’t lash out at me or withdraw when he was in pain. Michael appreciated my help, and understood my terror of his dying. His ability to transcend the situation filled me with love and admiration. We were a team, fighting the cancer together. Caregivers Connect kept me going through Michael’s cancer treatment.

Michael’s cancer went into remission after a stem cell transplant. Both of us had wanted siblings since childhood, and chose each other as brother and sister. We got engraved rings to symbolize our bond. Michael’s unwavering love and support allowed me to transcend my childhood trauma, create healthy relationships, and return to school. Both of us felt a new sense of a divine, loving presence and faith in human goodness. Our lives continued happily and Wellspring faded into the background.

Wellspring returned to my life in 2021, when Michael decided to go off chemotherapy because of side effects. I again felt that his death was imminent and returned to Caregivers Connect. The only other client at the meeting spoke of “graduating” to the bereavement support group. He was at peace and looking forward to the next phase of his life. I realized that I would not be alone when Michael died. Wellspring, and my other friends, would be there. Knowing this, Michael and I can enjoy our lives together.

Throughout my journey as a caregiver, Wellspring has been like a warm, comforting blanket. Both my life and Michael’s wouldn’t be possible without Wellspring.

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