Through the Eyes of a Military Caregiver

Blog Post By: Margo deWindt, Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor Caregiver

Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW) enrollee Cmdr. Gregory deWindt was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2014. deWindt, stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, is now in remission and returning to active duty. His wife, Margo deWindt, shares her story through the eyes of a caregiver.

As the wife of a career Sailor there are many exciting adventures, but one must remain flexible in order to succeed.

Last summer our greatest adventure was upon us. On Aug. 22, 2015, just four months into our new duty station in Hawaii, my husband Greg was diagnosed with stage-4 cancer involving his tonsil and lymph nodes. Immediate action was required, and his 24-year naval career was suddenly put on hold.Military Caregiver and spouse, Margo deWindt poses with her spouse, Cmdr. Gregory deWindt

Surgery was not an option, which meant months of daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments.

Over the course of my husband’s treatment and recovery I consistently reminded him that his job was to get better, and my job, as the caregiver, was to provide him with the best support, attention, protection, and love I could muster.

The medical staff informed me that he would be ill throughout the treatment process, but I was not prepared for the depths of sorrow I would feel as I watched him suffer.

Because we were new to the island, we had few friends and no church or local family. I felt unprepared, alone and afraid. I could not let these feelings overcome me; I had to take care of my husband.

Many times I was the sole decision maker. My husband was just too frail. After he completed three weeks of treatment, he lost more than 20 pounds – 8 of those in two days. Emergency surgery was necessary to keep him alive and a stomach peg was inserted. While waiting in the Intensive Care Unit, I met with a representative from Navy Wounded Warrior – Safe Harbor (NWW). They sat with me and listened, which helped me not feel alone.

We continued making the daily 40-mile round trip drive to Tripler Army Medical Center for treatment. During each trip parking proved to be a challenge, as unpermitted customers were using our permitted spaces.

His new feeding requirements also meant numerous visits to various nurses’ stations throughout the hospital in hope of obtaining feeding supplies. Knowing that this was not an acceptable process, I reached out to NWW.  They were able to correct the referral process and help set up home delivery of supplies.

I had not slept well in weeks; however, my mind kept me alert as well as my husband’s groans of pain.

Throughout this unplanned journey in life I was determined to remain strong for Greg, forgoing my feelings of being alone and frightened. I was the caregiver.

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