A podcast where we share stories of hope for family caregivers breaking through loneliness to see God even in this season of life.

Stories of Hope for living content, loving well, and caring with no regrets!

Stories of Hope with Minty Swanson

Episode 177

When Minty Swanson agreed to join me on the podcast, I knew her story would resonate with anyone who has ever loved deeply and fought fiercely. Minty bravely opens up about her role as a caregiver for her husband, Chris, weaving through the complexities of multiple cancer diagnoses during the isolating highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her narrative is a testament to the resilience and humor that can spring from the heaviest of hearts, providing a beacon for those navigating the rough seas of terminal illness within their own families.

Our conversation takes us into the heart of caregiving grief, a type of mourning that begins far before a final goodbye. Together, we uncover the small, cumulative losses that quietly stack up, from the missed bike rides and date nights to the shifting dynamics of a partnership in the shadow of illness. Minty shares how the brain’s defense mechanisms kick in, and we ponder the spiritual solace that can arise in the mist of nature or the sanctuary of faith. With a course on the horizon to support those in the caregiving trenches, our discussion offers a roadmap to acknowledging grief as the first step on the path to healing.

In what becomes a soul-stirring reminder, Minty and I explore the vital importance of self-care amidst the demands of caregiving. She shares how she anchors herself in the present, finding joy in life’s simpler moments and the creative outlet of mixed media art. In prioritizing her own well-being, Minty offers a blueprint for caregivers to maintain balance and lean into the steady embrace of faith. This episode is more than a conversation—it’s an affirmation of the strength found in love, hope, and the shared bond of those who answer the call to care for others.


  
Caregiving Journey and Stories of Hope
 
Understanding Grief in Caregiving
 
Finding Contentment and Self-Care in Caregiving

 

This Episode is brought to you by:

.      

Minty Swanson

Minty Swanson

Family Caregiver, Mixed Media Artist

Minty and her husband Chris live in Georgia. They have been married for almost 9 years, and together they have 5 grown children, and 8 grandchildren.

She is a mixed media artist, loves working in her flower garden, cooking, and is beginning to write a little bit.

Transcript

*Transcript is an actual recount of the live conversation

[00:00:00] Rayna Neises: Welcome to the best of 2023 on A Season of Caring Podcast. This is Rayna Neises, your host, and I’m excited to be able to share with you in the month of December the top four, listened to podcasts for the year of 2023. Thank you so much for joining me for stories of hope for family caregivers, where we break through the busy-ness and loneliness of caregiving life to see God, even in the middle of the season. Today. I know you will enjoy this Encore episode of my interview with Minty Swanson.

[00:00:33] Minty is a caregiver for her husband. They live in Georgia. They’ve been married for almost nine years, and together they have five grown children, eight grandchildren. She’s a mixed media artist and loves working in her flower garden, cooking, and is beginning to write a little. Welcome, Minty. I’m so glad to have you here today.

[00:00:53] Minty Swanson: Thank you, Rayna. Thank you for having me.

[00:00:55] Rayna Neises: Well, I so appreciate your story. I know that you’re still in the thick of your caregiving and a lot of times my guests are on the outside of it, so it can be a whole different emotional rollercoaster while you’re still in the middle. So start out by just telling our listeners a little bit about you and Chris and the journey that you guys are on.

[00:01:16] Minty Swanson: In October, we will have been married nine years. And in May of 2020, he was diagnosed with Non-small Cell Lung Cancer, which has since metastasized to his brain, and he also has Carcinoid Cancer and Liver Cancer. We have a few battles on our hand.

[00:01:36] Rayna Neises: So 2020, we all know what that year looks like for the rest of us to be going through all of this with Covid, that that had to have been even more another layer to getting help at this point.

[00:01:52] Minty Swanson: Well, he and he actually had his first lung scan and they saw something on the lung scan, but because of Covid, we couldn’t do a follow up.

[00:02:01] Rayna Neises: Hmm.

[00:02:01] Minty Swanson: And we kind of joke now that Covid quarantine was practiced for cancer quarantine. But eventually after a few months he was able to get the scan and we were able to start. Yeah, but it delayed us a lot of things and of course I wasn’t able to go with him to appointments in the beginning, which was really hard.

[00:02:20] Rayna Neises: That’s tough. I can’t even imagine. So at this point, you’re three years into the journey and lots of different treatments, lots of different things. How is Chris doing?

[00:02:32] Minty Swanson: Right now he, he’s doing okay. He’s struggling a little bit. He does have pain daily and a lot of fatigue. And he’s lost probably about 50 pounds in the past six or seven months. Cuz he just doesn’t have an appetite. And I think. You know, he’s got a really great attitude and holding onto his faith, but you know, you get tired of constant pain and tired of not being able to do what you want to do or what you used to be able to do, so.

[00:03:06] Rayna Neises: Yeah, I’m sure that’s really hard. The mental part of illness is so challenging. I haven’t, thankfully haven’t had to live in a lot of pain. I took a spill down the stairs when I was caring for my dad and I had a frozen shoulder for about a year. And that was a constant pain. There was no comfort laying down, sitting up.

[00:03:25] It just was always there. Sometimes worse than others. But man, it makes you irritable and just like you said, even concentration when you’re in pain is different. So that has to be really hard. And I’m thankful that he has his faith, cuz I’m sure that’s, All the way. That’s what’s dragging him along,

[00:03:42] Minty Swanson: Yes,

[00:03:43] Rayna Neises: in there. So, so you have a favorite caregiver story that you could share with us?

[00:03:49] Minty Swanson: One of our favorite stories we have a weird sense of humor. We’ve always had a weird sense of humor even before cancer, but cancer’s made it worse and a little more warped, but A little over a year ago, we were staying at an Airbnb cabin with one of our daughters and her family and for the weekend. And Chris and I, one of the nights we were in the kitchen making some pasta and our son-in-law was, Sitting at the counter reading one of those little decks of conversation icebreaker cards that they had there.

[00:04:25] And he would, you know, pull a card, ask one of us, and we’d answer it. And we’re just, you know, going around, ask each take and turns. Well, he pulls a card and asks my husband, where do you see yourself in three years?

[00:04:37] Rayna Neises: Mm.

[00:04:39] Minty Swanson: And we just all had this awkward silence like, Thinking about the heaviness of that question. And I turned to Chris and looked at him and kind of threw my hands in the air and I said, alive. And he said, yes. Alive and retired. And we just laughed and we thought it was hilarious. Our daughter, not so much, didn’t think it was very funny, but, but humor helps us a lot. And we hold onto that in those fun times.

[00:05:08] Rayna Neises: They say, if you don’t laugh, you cry. Do you find that to be true?

[00:05:11] Minty Swanson: And we, and we do both, but it’s more fun to laugh. So, so yeah.

[00:05:17] Rayna Neises: It has to feel so different having that expiration date, you know, in your mind. I mean, just even thinking three years doesn’t feel like that long, so I’m sure that’s really hard. Daily do do you think about that daily or how do you handle that?

[00:05:35] Minty Swanson: I dunno if I think about it. Daily we, because Chris has always said he doesn’t want to know. And you know, we’ve told all our kids that and he, he wants to live for the moment and live for now. But at the same time, we make plans or, you know, end of life wishes, you know, end of life services and you know what we wanna.

[00:06:01] Rayna Neises: Don’t avoid the conversations.

[00:06:03] Minty Swanson: No, we don’t avoid the conversation. All our plans and papers are in place. So it’s that balance of being as prepared as you can and but not living in the,

[00:06:16] Rayna Neises: the dread of it.

[00:06:16] Minty Swanson: the dread of it. Exactly.

[00:06:18] Rayna Neises: Yeah. You know, my experience has been with both of my parents having Alzheimer’s. It’s this long journey that you don’t know how long it is. And really, that’s true for all of us. But when we have a diagnosis, we have a tendency to focus on that more. You know, that, oh, is this the end?

[00:06:33] Is that we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop? Those kinds of things. So I can imagine that definitely is A talent or even a time that it took to kind of get to that balance of living everything you got in the moment, but knowing that the progression’s gonna happen, I guess.

[00:06:48] Minty Swanson: E Even yesterday We were just laying there talking and I just looked at him. I said, I am going to miss you so much.

[00:06:56] Rayna Neises: Hmm.

[00:06:57] Minty Swanson: And he looked at me with this little grin and said, well, I’m not gonna be missing you. No you’re going to be with Jesus.

[00:07:05] Rayna Neises: Exactly. Well, dang, that seems not fair.

[00:07:09] Minty Swanson: up here so.

[00:07:13] Rayna Neises: That’s beautiful. Thanks for sharing that. I’m sure that’s hard.

[00:07:16] Don’t you just love Minty’s, vulnerability and willingness to really just share where they are. I so appreciate her story of caregiving for her husband not because it is so physically hard, but because it is so emotionally difficult. And that vulnerability to share those struggles with us is just priceless. Thanks Minty for doing that.

[00:07:39] Here we are just a few days before Christmas and I have so many things planned I’m so excited. I just have to get them all done. So the very first thing I want to let you know about is our Take Heart Community of Christian Caregivers. I’m not quite ready to open the doors yet to this Christian Community Membership, but I am so excited.

[00:08:00] I have so many ideas and I really looking forward to being able to pour into you, both in prayer and scripture and practical tips and support. . Remember, you can get on that wait list @ www.Aseasonofcaring.com /im-ni, or just visit the show notes page. And you can just click that link. So I would love to hear from you that you’re excited about being a part of this community. Remember that your subscription will also pay for your monthly edition of Content Magazine, which I am putting, finishing touches on January right now. So I’m so excited to be able to be going monthly with Content Magazine. So lots of exciting things going on here at A Season of Caring, and I just want to throw out if you would like to be a guest on the podcast reach out Rayna@ASeasonofCaring.com and we can talk about being able to share your story of hope on next year’s podcast. Let’s jump back into our conversation with Minty.

[00:09:01] So, what’s one thing that surprised you about caregiving?

[00:09:06] Minty Swanson: I think one thing that really was unexpected to me and I feel like I’m right in the middle of learning about it now, is the process of grief. I think before cancer, I tended to think of grief as something that happens when someone passes.

[00:09:24] Rayna Neises: Mm-hmm.

[00:09:25] Minty Swanson: And with this journey, there’s so many losses along the way. That really grief is part of the process while people are still living, which, which can be really hard.

[00:09:37] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:09:38] Minty Swanson: so, and I think about I mean there’s losses for him. There’s losses for me, there’s losses for other family members. So,

[00:09:46] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:09:47] Minty Swanson: I think realizing that it was grief was helpful to me.

[00:09:53] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:09:54] Minty Swanson: So like some of our losses Chris can’t drive anymore and that was a big one for him.

[00:10:00] Especially since he, he would use drives alone as his prayer time, as his worship time and as his reflection in getting away and and to have that gone was more than just the driving for him.

[00:10:17] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:10:17] Minty Swanson: And even silly things like we have always loved to play games and we have a favorite card game called Hands and Feet.

[00:10:25] It’s a favorite among our family and friends and we’ve just always loved it. But calculating plans and strategies right now is hard with some brain function changes. And so even a little thing like losing a card game, that’s part of your relationship. Little things you do together, when that’s gone, there’s grief there

[00:10:47] Rayna Neises: Yeah,

[00:10:47] Minty Swanson: and there’s loss there.

[00:10:48] And it’s hard. It’s hard.

[00:10:51] Rayna Neises: it is hard. I think grief is really, really hard. And like you said, I think identifying it begins the process of learning how to deal with it. What? Your process of, of dealing with grief is, that’s not the right way of saying it, but I think each of us have to have a process of processing grief and learning what that looks like for each individual person.

[00:11:16] I mean, there’s common things that are helpful to us, but I think there are a lot of things that each of us just have to find what works for us.

[00:11:23] Minty Swanson: Yeah.

[00:11:23] Rayna Neises: And it is important to learn to do that, and until you even realize that’s what it is, you can’t start learning how to process it. So,

[00:11:32] Minty Swanson: And I, yeah. Cause I think there was some resistance at first. Like, he’s still here. Why am I. grieving. But you know, and again, we’ve talked through that and, and it kind of got me interested in wanting to learn about brain function and grief and just beginning to start, I’ve just begun to start reading about that and the protection process that the brain goes into when it senses loss or danger or trauma and the struggle there.

[00:12:04] And it’s just, it was really amazing me, to me to think that God made our brain like that on purpose.

[00:12:12] Rayna Neises: Yeah.

[00:12:14] Minty Swanson: And what a, how amazing that is. Painful, terribly painful, but how amazing that is, that he created our bodies. And how they react in adversity and so that’s been kind of helpful. It’s still hard. It’s still really hard, but it’s helpful to know that he made us that way and that we’re not alone

[00:12:36] Rayna Neises: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:37] Minty Swanson: in that,

[00:12:38] Rayna Neises: I love that you’re taking ownership of the research to learn and to understand. I know really, so much of the brain science is new

[00:12:46] Minty Swanson: Mm-hmm.

[00:12:47] Rayna Neises: that we’re just learning about all the things, the way that our body holds on to trauma actually in the cells, and like you said, just the reactions to grief.

[00:12:58] I’ve done some studying as well just because there seems to be so much new information out there to really be able to put together. I’m putting together a course that should be available by the time this airs about just peace in grief and really it’s a resource for brokenhearted caregivers because we are all brokenhearted.

[00:13:17] This is hard at a level that so many other things don’t compare. I think, and part of a big piece of that is the lack of understanding of grief and the impact that it has on so much of us, not just the emotional side, which I think we can stuff for a while, but the physical, the mental, all of those things that you’re talking about.

[00:13:39] Putting together that resource for people to be able to go in and, and just get a little nibble into what’s out there so that they can start to educate themselves more and learn both. I think it does help for us to have intellectual knowledge, but also then move into how do I process this?

[00:13:55] Minty Swanson: Thank you.

[00:13:57] Rayna Neises: Because really that’s all we can do with grief is process the grief.

[00:14:02] And like you said, the most important thing is knowing you’re not alone and that God’s there with you in the middle of it, and he’ll help you to be able to move through that. Not by taking it away, but rather by being present now.

[00:14:15] Minty Swanson: Walking us through it. Walking us through it.

[00:14:18] Rayna Neises: definitely. So how has God shown up for you in your caregiving season?

[00:14:23] I know a million ways, but

[00:14:24] Minty Swanson: A million ways. A million ways every day. One story that comes to mind is early on when Chris was having a lung biopsy done. He was in recovery and we still had to be at the hospital for a few hours and so I decided to go for a walk. The hospital had this sweet little walking path around its grounds, I guess, and it was a beautiful day and.

[00:14:49] No one else was out walking. I don’t know why, but they had these little benches along the path and I noticed that one bench was facing the opposite direction of every other bench I had come across. And as I came upon it, I realized it was turned that way to face this beautiful little pond, and there was all these wildflowers blooming around it.

[00:15:12] And, you know, big magnolia tree and ducks were playing in the water. It was just, I idyllic and I thought, I just, what a gift from God that I could sit there in this little mini paradise and calm my soul. While I’m waiting for Chris, you know, amidst all this anxiety. And, and so even just like the gifts of nature, really speak to me. Things like that, walk in that park and, and in my flower garden, I think he’s, he gives me peace a lot through those things.

[00:15:46] Rayna Neises: That little oasis that he seemed to provide right there in that moment. And I love too that I think we learned to find those when we know, like you said, your flower garden is one of your places, that we learn when our heart longs for that to go get our hands in the earth and go and do those things for ourselves. He’s so faithful to remind us and to give us those things that just draw our eyes right back to him.

[00:16:10] Minty Swanson: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely

[00:16:13] Rayna Neises: So this one’s a little tricky too, as far as a question I ask, but what’s one thing that you do that helps you to live content, love well, and care without regrets, or we need to put that as, or Raya, because not all of those things are easy to do every day, but would be one thing that you find helps you with it.

[00:16:30] Minty Swanson: Well, I, I know that when I first started this journey, I hated the word self-care.

[00:16:36] Rayna Neises: Hmm.

[00:16:37] Minty Swanson: That just self felt selfish to me. Now, I wouldn’t have told anybody else. It was selfish for them,

[00:16:42] Rayna Neises: Right?

[00:16:43] Minty Swanson: me it felt selfish. But, and that’s a lot of what you hear. But over the years I’ve realized it’s because it’s as important as everybody.

[00:16:53] It tells you it’s, I know. So, and we need to keep hearing it. So I think I try, try to be in the moment a lot, like noticing the pond or noticing the flowers. Spending time with my grandkids brings me a lot of smiles and giggles and,

[00:17:12] Rayna Neises: They definitely help you stay in the moment, don’t they? I don’t know what it is about being childlike, but they do just right in that they notice every little thing, and so it does help you. You notice those things

[00:17:24] Minty Swanson: yes. Yeah. And I’m a mixed media artist. I have not been painting for the past few years.

[00:17:30] But I’m starting to get back into the studio and, and I do process really well, journaling with words and with paint. And so trying to make, bring that back in as a. Doing it more often. I feel like I have a little more time than a lot of caregivers, cuz Chris is pretty self-sufficient. I mean, he is still working from home and can do things for himself.

[00:17:56] So I’m a little, it’s e a little easier for me time-wise to choose those things. And I think together as far as finding contentment, we’re just trying to be aware, and of how we wanna spend our time and choose things that we can do together. Especially since some things that we always did together are no longer part of our life. Find new things that are, that we can enjoy and do together. And try not to make cancer everything when cancer is everything.

[00:18:32] Rayna Neises: Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. Thanks for being honest about self-care cuz I struggle with that a lot in, in the podcast and being able to share the importance of it. But I know people get sick of it. I got sick of it and so it does take adopting it and understanding what it looks like for you, to realize that it is as important as everybody says it is.

[00:18:52] So that’s hard. I don’t know how to share that message in a way that we can receive it better, but I appreciate you saying that cuz I know that a lot of people feel that way. So, oh, let’s wrap up with one golden nugget that you might pass on wisdom to other caregivers.

[00:19:09] Minty Swanson: I would like to leave us with a line from one of my favorite Puritan prayers, and it says, the first line of the prayer says, My father, in a world of created changeable things, Christ and his word alone are unshaken, and this journey that we’re on. We say we live day by day because we have to, because we don’t know what test or scan is going to turn up or how he’s going to feel, or how I’m going to feel, or our world can be shaken in a moment. But just holding on fast to the fact that Jesus Christ and his word are unshaken and they’re are, they’re a rock. So hold on to that.

[00:20:00] Rayna Neises: That’s beautiful and it’s so true. And when we know that, we know that, we know that we can hold on to that truth it does change how we do everything.

[00:20:10] Thanks so much, Minty. It’s been wonderful to be able to visit with you and just to be able to share a little bit of your story and Chris’s story. Thanks again for joining us.

[00:20:18] Minty Swanson: Well, thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

[00:20:23] Rayna Neises: Thank you for joining us listeners, and this has been Stories of Hope from Minty. This episode has been brought to you by A Resource for Brokenhearted Caregivers: Peace in Grief . You can find that on my website at a www.aseasonofcarig.com. I would love for you to be able to really embrace the grief and begin to learn how you need to process it.

[00:20:44] A Season of Caring Podcast has been created to share stories of hope, of living content, loving well, and caring, with no regrets. If you have legal, financial, or medical questions, be sure to consult your local professionals and take heart in your season of caring.

            Meet Your Host

Rayna Neises

Rayna Neises, ACC

Author of No Regrets: Hope for Your Caregiving Season, Editor of Content Magazine, ICF Certified Coach, Speaker, Podcast Host, & Positive Approach to Care® Independent Trainer offering encouragement, support, and resources to those who are in a Season of Caring for Aging Parents.

Her passion is for those caring and their parents, so that both might be seen, not forgotten & cared for, not neglected.

Would you like to be a Guest?  |  Email Rayna

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