AARP AARP States Colorado Caregiving

The Caregiver’s Cairn: Medical Roller Coaster

Jane Barton

Greetings one and all…

It is another glorious morning in Denver. I have been enjoying some quiet time on our back porch—soaking up the early morning sunshine, listening to the birds, and delighting in the myriad of flowers blooming in our gardens. My morning meditation also afforded the opportunity to reflect on the events of the past month—it has been quite the ride! As noted in my previous posting, my medical adventure began in late May with the diagnosis of pleurisy. Since then, I returned to Urgent Care for further testing which revealed a different diagnosis that necessitated a visit to ICU in the hospital for a couple of days. The medical roller coaster has proven to be challenging, frightening, and frustrating. And to be honest, I am ready to disembark the ride—ENOUGH! However, it’s not that simple. Whether I like it or not, the ride is projected to continue for another 4-6 weeks as I continue to heal.

Although the ups and downs of this medical adventure serve to enhance my appreciation of life, I am not oblivious to the day-to-day reality of this ride. When knee-deep in the journey of caregiving—as the caregiver or care receiver—it is often difficult (if not impossible) to appreciate the blessings of life. There are moments when it takes everything we have to deal with the logistics of daunting medical challenges. Maintaining a balanced perspective—realistically optimistic— serves everyone well. However, achieving that beneficial perspective often requires a bit of time, intention, and patience.

One of my greatest struggles over the past month is feeling totally out of control. This is not what I had planned for the Summer of 2017! Sound familiar? I am sure I sound a wee bit arrogant right now. In fact, Life is probably laughing out loud at the mention of “my plan.” So I have an important choice to make. I can be self righteous and rage at the vagaries of Life. Or, I can accept my reality and adapt to the changed circumstances. The choice is mine. I obviously can’t control everything that is happening in my life right now. But I retain the ability to choose a response to life—a choice that will determine my overall experience of the medical roller coaster.

I am also struggling to be patient with the process. I was raised to believe that patience is a virtue. Well, over the past month, I have learned that I am far from a virtuous person! My plans were derailed in the blink of an eye. So, I want to get back on track in a similar fashion—meaning right now! However, the reality is that my recovery will take some time. So, I have another choice to make. I can accept the reality of my situation and take one step at a time. Or I can stew in my own juices for the next 4-6 weeks and thereby miss an incredible opportunity to grow and to evolve as a person. I did not choose to ride this medical roller coaster. But it is the ride I am on for now. Whether I am diminished or enriched by this experience is ultimately up to me. Today I am determined to ride this medical roller coaster in a manner that serves my family and me well. No doubt there will be ups and downs before the conclusion of this ride. Perhaps by having realistic expectations, the magnitude of the highs and lows can be moderated and thereby better tolerated. We’ll see!

Thanks so much for stopping by today. I invite you to share your perspective on the caregiving journey. Make suggestions. Pose questions. Provide resources. Share your story. Coming together and sharing, we will improve the process for one and all. I look forward to continuing the conversation next month. Til then, enjoy the moment...Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at and we will be in touch soon!

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging,  serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

About AARP Colorado
Contact information and more from your state office. Learn what we are doing to champion social change and help you live your best life.