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Cindy Kip: Alex’s Caregiver

Cindy Kip: Alex’s Caregiver

This is Chapter 4 in the on-going story of Alex Kip, 23, and his battle with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (Type B) cancer.

That all-too-familiar nauseous feeling is starting to bubble up in Alex’s gut – and he motions toward the trashcan.

What goes down, must ... well, you get the picture

Cindy Kip quickly pushes the trashcan to the side of her son’s bed. Seconds later, Alex – who is at The James, in the midst of a 24-hour chemotherapy infusion in preparation for his upcoming stem cell transplant – starts vomiting … two, three, four times in a row. It’s not a pretty sight.

“I’m sorry,” he tells Cindy, after he’s finally emptied the contents of his stomach.

“Don’t be sorry,” she says.

“What’s that?” Alex asks, pointing to some spots on his mom’s pants, worried he just threw up on her.

Cindy smiles: “It’s just water.”

They both laugh.

%%%%%%%

Since Alex was diagnosed with cancer in the spring, Cindy – who works in the human resources department of Nationwide Insurance – has been his primary caregiver, with a lot of help from her husband, Nick, and daughter, Liz, who attends the University of Kentucky.

In the battle against cancer, caregivers are the unsung heroes.

“She’s been my shoulder to cry on, the positive outlook on my situation, the insurance negotiator, the financial support and my strength,” Alex says. “My whole family has been there for me, but especially my Mom …  I’d be lost without her.”

Cindy has been with Alex every step of the way, through countless doctor’s appointments, chemo sessions, through all the nausea and vomiting, hair and weight loss, all the emotional ups and downs, stress and uncertainty  – and she has become a bit of an expert on lymphoma and stem cell transplants.

“I make sure to go to every appointment with him,” she says. “It’s important to have a second set of eyes and ears. One person can’t take it all in. Even if all three of us (Alex, Cindy and Nick) are there, each of us hears something different.”

Cindy has been with Alex every step of the way

When Alex was diagnosed, he was at University of Michigan, finishing his final year in the school’s prestigious theatre program. There was a lot of family debate about whether Alex should remain in school, start his chemo treatment there and graduate, or come home – to Gahanna – immediately and begin his chemo at The James.

“He wanted to finish school, and I wanted him home,” Cindy says. “The hardest part is he’s now an adult, but I’m still going through his transition from being a child to an adult. Part of me just wanted him to be a child again so I could just bring him home and take care of him. Part of Alex wanted that – and part of him didn’t.”

Alex remained in school – and Cindy and Nick made frequent visits to Ann Arbor. Since he graduated, Alex has been living in his parent’s house.

“What 23-year-old wants to live in his parents house?” he says with a shrug. “But I have to be at home.”

The Kips have rallied around Alex, drawing strength and determination from his strength and determination, and from one another. Cindy knows it’s important to remain optimistic and positive, but there have been times when this has been difficult. She is living a mother’s worst nightmare: her son in the clutches of a terrible disease, and she can’t make it go away with a hug and a kiss or a few loving words.

“I think I’ve put too much pressure on myself, thinking I have to stay positive all the time and you can’t, you have to let yourself go through all the emotions, but I don’t want to do that in front of Alex,” Cindy says. “We have to stay positive for Alex and for one another, but you also have to let yourself feel bad about it sometimes.”

This is a common predicament for the family members of a cancer patient – and the Kips – Cindy, Nick and Liz – recently attended a family therapy session to help deal with it.

“It helped,” Cindy says. “There was someone to tell us it’s OK to not have to hold it in all the time, that we’re allowed to express these feelings. As the mom, I’m worried about everyone in the family.”

But who worries about Cindy?

“That’s hard, but I’m trying,” she says.

&&&&&&&&&&

After Alex has finished vomiting, Cindy gets him a damp cloth and some mouthwash – and he cleans himself up.

Leave it to Liz to style up her hospital mask

A few minutes later, Alex’s girlfriend, Kate, arrives in his room.

“You missed the main event,” Alex says. “I just threw everything up.”

Kate takes a seat on the side of Alex’s bed. Cindy and Liz are sitting a few feet away. Because it’s the cold and flu season, everyone is required to wear a hospital mask, which made it tough for Liz to eat the Burger King meal Cindy brought when she arrived after work. Liz finally devised a successful food-intake method: she held the mask out, away from her face, with one hand, and used her other hand to eat her burger. The cup of chili proved to be more of a challenge.

“I feel like an alien, with everyone around me in masks,” Alex says.

Kate is sitting between Alex and the trashcan – and knows from past experience he may still need it.

“I think I’ll sit on the other side of the bed,” she says.

“That’s a good idea,” Alex says.

Alex was only supposed to spend one night in the hospital, but wound up staying two “because they couldn’t get my vomiting under control.” He’s now home, his appetite is back and he’s eating his way through Central Ohio in an attempt to fatten up in preparation for his stem cell transplant.

Click here to read Chapter 3 of Alex’s story.

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2 Comments

  1. Pingback: Eight Million Stem Cells – Give Or Take A Few Thousand | The Blog | Pelotonia

  2. Lee Schneider - January 22, 2011

    I rode next to you on Bikepath from Athens to Nelsonville. I listened to you on that early morning stretch and learned why you were riding Pelotonia 2010 . You inspired me so much that I was able to complete the entire 180 mile tour, my first time. Would like to talk with you again if convenient. Best wishes to you! Lee

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