By Jenna Hearndon
Jenna Hearndon, wife and caregiver to Navy Wounded Warrior (NWW) – Safe Harbor enrollee Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Joshua Hearndon, shares her powerful story with NWW as a contribution to Warrior Care Month, bringing awareness to the selfless dedication of caregivers.
On March 11, 2011, I became his wife. On Sept. 29, 2014, I became his caregiver. Through a series of MRIs and a brain biopsy, the doctors diagnosed my 27-year-old husband with gliomatosis cerebri . It was stage 2 brain cancer. It’s been a year since then and although it’s been a struggle, we have made it. My husband underwent three months of radiation, followed by a year of chemotherapy, which he is still going though.
As his caregiver, I learned two things real quick. The first thing I realized was that I wasn’t alone in this. We both had our own cheering section of family, friends, and people whose sole job was to offer support when needed. The second thing I learned was to provide what I can. Although I wish I could, I can’t give everything to my husband. I can’t take away the effects of treatment, but I can make sure he has everlasting memories. I splurge on hockey tickets. We go on trips to places he’s never been. We go on dates and enjoy our time together.
In the midst of those two things, the major thing I realized I had to do was find a support group. During his treatment, I was so focused on him that I forgot about myself. It wasn’t until I was standing in the grocery store, completely at my breaking point and crying in the middle of the aisle, that I realized I needed to take care of myself too. Luckily for me, his support group offered a group just for caregivers. It’s a place for us to talk with one another, share advice, or just listen to each other. We all have one common thing; a person we love has been diagnosed with cancer. At first I didn’t want the title of caregiver, and at age 26 I never thought I would be one. However, the title has introduced me to so many things. I realized how strong I can be, how determined I am, and how much I am loved. I saw my husband for who he really is — a fighter. I saw our marriage grow in so many ways. We don’t have all the answers and we take one day at a time, learning lessons along the way. For now, I am doing what I do best– caring for the one I love.
Editor’s note: NWW is the Navy’s sole organization for coordinating the non-medical care of seriously wounded, ill and injured Sailors and Coast Guardsman, providing resources and support to their families and caregivers. Caregivers are critically important to the recovery and rehabilitation of wounded warriors.