Phoning It In—When You Can’t Call In Sick

man-828739_1280I have a headache. Not your run of the mill stress headache, or springtime sinus pressure. This is an ice pick to the base of the skull that radiates up and around, caressing the ear and jaw, producing guitar feedback grade tinnitus, then burrows under the eye, making me feel like leaning forward might make it pop out, headache. Woot! I never do anything small–I over-engineer everything.

It woke me at 3 a.m., then again at 5:30 and once again at 6:45. I laid in bed for another hour, listening to my Gretel snore sweetly before trying to get up quietly and get dressed. It’s not a great start (except for the hour I lay there and listened to Gretel…that was sweet.)

The past two months have been a rush; a rush to radiation treatments, a rush to checkups, a rush to get groceries, a rush out of bed in the morning to get the kitchen straight before breakfast–and it’s been stressful. Made more so (in fact almost entirely because of) the ever present shadow of Gretel’s cancer.

I’m a caregiver. That’s what my job is now but honestly, the effort is not so bad. Not because I don’t get tired. I do get tired; bone tired. That sort of deep down sluggish drain that follows you through the whole day and into the next morning. But that’s not a problem. The Army taught me decades ago how to perform when I’m in zombie mode–you just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Easy peazy.

My problems come when there’s something else wrong with me. I turned 50 a week ago and to be honest, I wasn’t in the best shape of my life. The past four years I’ve sat in front of my computer, writing or marketing my novels, leading to a mild atrophy of nearly every muscle group in my body. Again; I never do anything small–I over-engineer everything.

warning-577062_640I wasn’t quite correct about everything above though. I had said being a caregiver is my job now. That was a bit misleading. In fact, that title lumps together three jobs. My old job, making a living for the household, my Gretel’s old job of keeping the house in order, cooking meals, dealing with the upkeep of both the farm and the house in town, PLUS the new job neither of us had before of getting her to treatments, keeping her warm when she’s cold, cool when she’s hot, medicated, and basically tending to the needs of her disease.

Three jobs rolled into one with a title of “Caregiver”.  And like most people, when I stray from what I know best, and take on more responsibility, all aspects suffer. The biggest sufferer has been my writing and making a living. The few odd moments of downtime we have these days are spent snuggling or just sitting quietly–it almost seems like it would be an insult to try and squeeze a few minutes of creativity out of my sleep deprived brain in those moments. And forget promoting, social media, interviews, chatting with celebrity friends about scripts, or “who might want to make this book into a movie”.

The second job to suffer has been the “Gretel Job”. I never took her for granted before. I appreciated every little thing she did for me, the house, us, the kids, and I let her know it. But now that I’m attempting to do those things myself, I see what a magician she was. Thank god I’m a decent cook. A good dinner makes up for a lot of shortcomings and I’m proud to say, breakfast, lunch and dinner, I’m nailing it (for the most part). I love hearing the nearly erotic moanings coming from my Gretel when she takes the first bite of the meal I’ve prepared for her. It lifts my heart and soul, giving me joy and energy to carry on, even when I have none left. But the rest of the domestic life? Well, let’s just say I’m more of a need based housekeeper. Laundry? When we’re out of underwear. Dishes? When we’re out of bowls or spoons. Vacuum? Do we even have a vacuum? I’m not sure…I’ll go look. YES! Yes we do have a vacuum.

IMGP7671 IMGP7672 DSCF0650 DSCF0659When Gretel started getting sick almost a year ago, things got run down at the farm. And I drifted from my writing to try and take up the slack. Of course, my job suffered then. When it got too bad to handle, I insisted we move back to town, rushing ahead of our retirement plan to sell the farm so we had income. Almost a year later, the farm still isn’t sold, and if I thought it was hard to keep the property in order before we left, imagine how hard it is when no longer living there.

About the only thing I’m handling correctly (other than the meals) is tending to Gretel’s disease. I am 100% on top of that, 24/7. If she breaths funny in her sleep, I wake up. If she’s warm to the touch at 3 a.m., I’m up with a thermometer in my hand (infections are a super big no no when on chemo). If there’s an appointment, I’ve mapped it, timed it, prepped the car and loaded my (or rather Scott Wolfe’s) canvas messenger bag with all necessary paperwork, emergency supplies and medications, long before it’s time to go. I’m on station with an early warning system, attuned to every detail of her health and well being–I’m not losing her goddammit.

But I’m a bit run down. We’re stretching the last of our savings as far as we can go, creating stress. And the only way to create more income is by writing, which requires hours of staring at the screen which I no longer have to waste, creating stress. And waking up at midnight because she breaths funny, and 3 a.m. because she’s warm to the touch, is sleep depriving, creating stress. Sometimes it leads to a headache. And I can’t bother her with that.

So! After sneaking out of bed, I came into my study and turned on my computer. As it booted up, I took 3 Extra Strength Excedrin (the headache medicine) and sat to write this little ranty, moan while the pills took effect. I can happily report that now, after 1059 words, my headache is nothing more than a mild, dull throb–and I have now reached the end of my post as I have to go downstairs and prepare breakfast.

I’d like to thank you for stopping by to spend a few minutes with me as my head recovered. I appreciate the company. While I’m at it, I’d like to ask you to subscribe to my mailing list (it just takes a second, and I don’t abuse it ever). I actually do have a book coming out in the near future (the one I finished right before our first trip to the emergency room) and I’d like to be able to notify you when it’s released. I’d also like to ask you to leave a review for my books if you’ve read them but haven’t left a review on Amazon. The books are pretty much our only source of income and reviews do help sell books.

Okay. Thanks for stopping by this morning. I’ll catch you again in a couple days. Until then, be well and let someone know you love them.

S.L. Shelton is the author of an Amazon Bestselling Political Thriller/Action Espionage Series, (The Scott Wolfe Series). Follow him here on WordPress, on Twitter @SLSheltonAuthor or Facebook.  His wife Diane suffers from an advanced cancer and is in aggressive treatment, consuming time, energy and resources. If you feel the desire to help, you can make a contribution to the GoFundMe that their daughter set up, or buy his books.



6 thoughts on “Phoning It In—When You Can’t Call In Sick

  1. G’day SL,I’d like to keep this short, so I’ll come straight to the point. Have a think about airbnb and rent out the farm. I know you don’t want more headaches, but it’s the 2nd best idea I have come up with.  1st one was a total failure, selling your book 😦 Please know that many people are praying for you and Diane via my church in Melbourne.  Look after yourself….. your well being is very important to your wife’s health as well.  CheersGus Melbourne 

    Sent from Yahoo7 Mail on Android

    Liked by 1 person

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