Caregiver writes from spiritual perspective about his role aiding ailing wife till the end

06/26/2013 12:00 AM

06/27/2013 8:40 AM

Together, Coy Cross II and his wife, Carol, took a caregiving journey from hope to tragedy. Cross, a retired historian, cared for Carol after she was diagnosed with advanced stage ovarian cancer in May 2009. She died last year.

"For millennia, caregiving has been women's role," said Cross, now 75, who lives in Citrus Heights. "But no longer. It's men's role, too."

Statistics back him up: A recent survey by Genworth, a long-term care insurance provider, shows that 48 percent of family caregivers today are male. Almost 60 percent of them, unlike Cross, are caring for an aging parent.

They're taking an active part in caregiving, because life requires it. Even so, Cross said that many men don't fall naturally into step with caring for their loved ones.

Earlier in life, he hadn't, either: A previous marriage ended, he said, when his then-wife was injured in a car accident and he was overwhelmed with the demands of caring for her.

This time, he was determined to find meaning in the process. Now he's sharing what he's learned in a spiritually oriented book, "The Dhance: A Caregivers Search for Meaning" (Koho Pono, $19.95).

"Women will have other women around for support," he said. "Men want to do it by themselves. It's a macho approach to caregiving. But if I was going to be able to be with Carol, I knew I'd have to ask for help. I'd have to take care of myself.

"And I had to reach a place of acceptance. I had to let everything be as it is."

Once he realized he had no control over the path of her illness and once he decided it wasn't his job to fix what was wrong, he said, he could clearly focus on taking care of her.

He took care of the house and the grocery shopping, and he took his wife to appointments.

He asked friends for help when he needed to.

"I came to regard caring for her as a privilege," he said. "Here's a woman who trusted me enough to put her life in my hands.

"Being there with her during this hardest time, these final days, was a privilege."

Initially, in 2009, Carol Cross did well with surgery and during her five months of chemotherapy – so well that the retired psychotherapist was considering reopening her practice. And then in April 2011 her cancer recurred, and complications set in.

Further rounds of chemotherapy proved unhelpful. She developed a blood clot in a lung and collapsed at home, and she died at age 71 in a hospital after lingering for a couple of weeks.

"As caregivers, men's job is to nurture," said Cross. "If I had one key, one thing above all else for anyone in that position, it's coming to a place of acceptance."

Cross appears from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the Carmichael Library, 5605 Marconi Ave.

Call The Bee's Anita Creamer, (916) 321-1136. Follow her in Twitter @AnitaCreamer.


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