2016 Caregiver - Dan Crail
How does the caregiver Get Busy Living in their daily life?
I think the Dan has tried in earnest to keep true to himself and stay the course. He maintains his strong beliefs of commitment, fairness, hard work, and the notion that everything will be ok. By helping to maintain a schedule and sense of normalcy; our house feels comfortable and safe especially for our children who were too young to remember pre-cancer times and my trials with treatments. Helping our children, especially during the chemo period, with outside activities such as soccer or summer camps to create the typical childhood for them and instilling in them a sense of community.
While “normal” is all well and good, it can get boring. As a family we enjoy lots of activities together: attending Scottish Festivals, listening to bagpipers, fishing, hiking, traveling, visiting friends and family out-of-state, keeping up with his favorite podcasts (there really isn’t anything he doesn’t know, you’ll want him on your pub trivia team!), he’s a total Star Wars nerd which is reflecting in our children. But our favorite family past time is camping! By being in nature, reconnecting to the Earth and each other while enjoying smores are some of our best memories. Keeping to your hobbies, enjoyments, etc. is one of the best ways, I feel, to get busy living.
Another aspect of the Dan's getting busy living attitude is his role in volunteerism. He is always ready and willing to lend a hand to an organization or an individual. This will be his 5th OMG/CancerCon and has played a large role in helping Stupid Cancer, whether it be serving on CancerCon’s welcome committee, helping to set up meetups in Denver and being our tech guy when we needed a little extra support, participating on a caregiver panel for a Boot Camp, and manned a SC table at a local survivor day event. He is always promoting and encouraging survivors/caregivers to seekout SC by wearing his SC bracelet daily and wearing one of his many SC t-shirts frequently. Besides volunteering for Stupid Cancer, he has helped with several activities with First Descents, including the 80s ski party, tributary events, helping with the FD cookbooks, and manned a booth at the Denver beer festival. He has been a parent volunteer at our sons’ school and with the Cub Scouts. The nominee assists yearly with the Annual Chugwater Chili Cook-off which raises funds for the town’s volunteer fire department. (And doing all of this in a kilt.)
How does/did the caregiver support the patient/survivor to Get Busy Living in their life?
Besides being my spouse and caregiver he has been the best of friends to me and those around us. He has always had the attitude of “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” We were all in survival mode when the diagnosis and treatments came but now he helps me to be the person I want to be. He is always, always been supportive of my many volunteer activities, my love/hate relationship with running, all my soap boxes, my work projects, and my doctoral pursuits. He once told me that he never considered himself a caregiver, that he wasn’t worthy of the title. It wasn’t until he went on a First Descent caregiver trip did he realize that he too has been greatly affected by this event and that it was ok. That this new title was just that, a title, not a confining name of his personal character.
How does the caregiver address their own physical emotional and/or spiritual needs?
Dan has always been aware the importance of self-care and realized it more so after I was diagnosed and he had to now care for three people in our house. He will admit that those months in 2011 he did not practice good self-care; because of the time commitments to his work and family there was not a lot of room for himself. However, he does discuss with others the one day he left work a little early and hit a bucket of golf balls before returning home. With that said, self-care for normal people is a challenge especially living in this fast paced world. He now speaks highly of this topic to other caregivers when giving advice.
Some of the things he does now to help his mental well-being. He now stands at his work space during the day, walks outside when a break is needed. He has also returned to shooting a hobby of his since his teenage years. Something else he has done recently has become a tractor puller. A good friend of ours has introduced him to the sport and he enjoys working on the tractors and “hanging out” with the men. He has even placed third in competition. Of course, if the weather is good, he tries to golf as much as possible.
Since there are not a lot of caregiver support groups his loneliness and feelings of isolation must have been great. (We still haven’t talked about all aspects of the turbulent times during treatment.) I think the first time he met another caregiver our same age was at OMG 2012 in Las Vegas. While he came to support me, I think, he got more out of it than I did! This is one of the few times of the year where he can feel included, supported, and understood by our peers without those weird questions, strange looks, or awkward moments of silence. Being able to discuss and share his experiences and views has helped him to adjust to the new normal and find that closure that can only come from sharing and helping the next in line. We look forward to seeing our SC “family” every year at CancerCon. It truly is a family reunion! And our family gets bigger every year!
How has the nominee impacted you directly?
He has been nothing short of amazing during our cancer journey. His level of support and dedication to me and our boys is nothing short of miraculous. So many relationships end in the general populous but to add cancer to the equation only ups the chances of marriages ending in divorce (see the literature). I see those around us having difficulty in their relationships; however, he has never wavered or doubted our relationship and we have come out the other side stronger. I look forward to all the things we will be doing together in the next stage of our lives and relish in the memories we have made together. He doesn’t want me to nominate him because he is so humble; however, his exemplary patience, perseverance, and kindness to others prevents me from keeping quiet.