Tag Archives: care-giving

Safe and Free

Before he got sick, Jim used to go to the Jersey Shore several times a year. Part of his shore routine was to get a massage at a local spa. Monique was his massage therapist there, and he often told me stories about her—he thought she was a gifted masseuse and an interesting person.

When Jim was sick, we spent some time at the Shore, and one day he wanted to get a massage. We were at a coffee shop near Monique’s spa so rather than call, we just went into the spa to make appointments.

Monique greeted us and I scheduled massages for the following day. When I gave her Jim’s name, she did a double-take. “I didn’t recognize you,” she said apologetically.

“I have brain cancer,” he stated simply.

Tears welled up in Monique’s eyes. She stared at Jim, searching for some feature she could recognize. “I’m so sorry,” she muttered. He shrugged his shoulders as if to say, “What can you do?”

The next day, we went back for our massages, and at the end of my massage, Monique recommended a new practice for me:

She suggested that at the end of the day, just before I go to sleep, I take a deep breath, exhale and say, “I am safe.” Upon waking in the morning, she suggested I take a deep breath, exhale and said, “I am free.”

Safe and free—two things I was not feeling at the time. I was much more aware of the threats and dangers I was facing and all the times my insides were tied up in knots.

I felt ill-equipped to care for someone who had brain cancer, and I continually feared I would make a mistake, a fatal mistake. I had never before given anyone injections or infusions, and each needle stick terrified me. And then there was Jim’s frequent falling and my worry that he would seriously injure himself.

Safe and free? Not so much. So I thought her suggestion was worth a try.

Over the coming days, weeks and months, I practiced this breathing exercise and mantra. Every night I would remind myself that I was safe and every morning I would declare that I was free.

After a few weeks, I added a line to my morning mantra. I would take a deep breath, exhale, proclaim, “I am free,” and then remind myself, “Be free.”

It was one thing to say it and another thing to live it, to live as if I believed it.

I started to become more aware of when I was not feeling safe or free, and I would restate my claim, “I am safe” or “I am free.”  It helped.

I still get emails from the spa at the Jersey shore and I keep deciding not to unsubscribe. Every email reminds me of my lesson from Monique—I am safe and I am free.