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When Gwen Keane’s husband Bill had a massive stroke, it was an earthquake for him…and her. Thrown off balance physically and emotionally, rocked by forces beyond her control, Gwen became a full-time caregiver. Gradually, the first shock died down, and the new normal (that was not normal at all) became her everyday life. Bill would never walk again. He depended on their bed as a place of comfort for him, and his “command post” where he gave ever-changing directives to her.
No one, including Gwen Keane, who assumes the role of the caregiver is prepared for all these changes. How can we know what is going to happen to our loved ones as they age? She was plunged many times into so much she didn’t know, so much that had to be done and so many decisions to make. It was a fast learning curve, always changing, and exhausting in its possibilities and outcomes.
This book is the story of her journey that was an everyday challenge–always adapting the changes in her husband of 32 years, in herself and in the circumstances of her life. It is the story of incessantly letting go; letting go of the Bill who used to be; letting go of who she used to be with her husband; letting go and at the same time taking on new attributes like patience and more patience.
Fix It is a narrative that details Gwen’s struggle--learning to slow down and tune into the needs of another human who is angry at his circumstances. It changed her. She became angry, dealing with his daily demands and the responsibility of holding a person’s life in her hands. It is not a sugar-coated saga on the meaning of life, but a real, and, at times, savage tale of tending to someone who is dying. This is the paradox: Trying to fix something when so much is out of your control.
Fix It is the story of Gwen’s struggle to care for her husband at home during his terminal illness and the brutal truth about her a journey. Part of her life since Bill’s death has been writing about her experience, illuminating and expanding her understanding of what happened, and bringing into perspective and acceptance what changed her. And through it all, there is an awareness that no matter how unique her voyage was, it also touches on so much that is universal, cutting straight to the heart of life, death and love.
It is easy to describe the medical diagnosis, but the realization that the outcome is terminal is something a caregiver lives with every hour of every day. Such was the task given to Gwen. Overnight she became a caregiver without any experience or proficiency, without submitting an application for the job. In the five years she cared for her husband Bill at home, she became almost invisible. She scurried around behind the scenes, single-handedly managing his care, trying to keep him safe. The stark reality for her was that, until Bill’s stroke, they had traveled extensively. Now, she was faced with a mountain where she subjugated her needs. In the process, she lost her voice and the ability to check in on herself daily, to care for herself to see if she was okay.
Who was caring for the caregiver? While Bill lived with his disability 24/7, so did Gwen. It was always on her mind – the cognitive impact of his stroke, his anger at being incapacitated, changes in his diet, and his inability to tell her what he needed. She always said she was lucky she was physically capable of helping him to honor her vow to care for him at home. But this book is the real story of the behind-the-scenes struggle to maintain your sanity while your life-partner is losing theirs. This is her journey, hijacked by a stubborn passenger named “Survival.”
Is it truly possible to love someone, yet resent their needs?
Fix It embraces that question with brutal honesty and leaves no doubt that it was the hardest journey of her life.
Jeanne Johansen, Publisher
High Tide Publications, Inc.