It’s probably no surprise that I don’t get out much. I spend most of my time taking care of Keith and doing the Red Tape Tango. I go to doctor appointments. I go to the school to pick up the kids or take them somewhere. I go to the grocery store, usually with one of the girls. I meet a friend for a cup of tea, but that’s maybe every six weeks or so. Then, once in a very great while, I get to go do something fun that doesn’t involve husband, daughters or caregiving.

Last night I got the opportunity to attend 11th annual Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out in Johnstown, PA. The event, benefitting the Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out Foundation, was started by Tunia Oechslin while she was fighting breast cancer and was continued by friends and family after she lost her battle. The money raised stays in the community to help those impacted by breast cancer as well as the Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center. This amazing evening celebrates cancers fighters, remembers those who passed, and gives attendees to enjoy an evening with friends old and new. I had a truly wonderful time.

Woman in black dress and hills hooking up her husband for Peritoneal Dialysis
This dialysis exchange was more formal than usual. Photo by Rebecca.

Of course, before I could go, I had to do Keith’s late afternoon dialysis exchange. I was all ready to go and got him hooked up wearing my dress and heels. Caregiving doesn’t stop when you’ve got a night out with a friend.

A night out with a friend also doesn’t stop a caregiver from feeling guilty about going out. It doesn’t matter how much you need time away to relax, or how much planning you do to make sure that there is someone there to fill in if needed, you still feel guilty. And usually, spend a large part of the night checking your phone for messages and checking in on a regular basis.

Logically I know that I shouldn’t feel guilty. I’m allowed to have time to myself to do something other buy milk or pay the water bill. But, that doesn’t stop the feeling. It doesn’t stop the voice in the back of my mind telling me I need to get back as soon as possible, that I need to make sure he’s awake if I’m running late and see if he’s going to be able to handle taking care of the exchange himself – it rarely happens but I do it on occasion so that he’s forced to do it and ensuring that he remembers how.

Two women at an event
Thanks Heather for inviting me to go with you! I had a great time!

I know it’s good to go out and talk with people. And I really did have an amazing time. It was the first time in a long time that I wore something other than slippers or tennis shoes (and my feet are paying it for me today). It was nice to get dressed up. I totally admit that I had a bit of an anxiety trying to get ready for a whole host of reasons, not just leaving for the evening.

So, if you are a caregiver and you git hit with guilt every time you leave the house to do something by yourself, I feel your pain. It’s hard for someone who isn’t in this kind of position to really understand. I’ve read some very interesting articles and posts about caregiver guilt, which can range from feeling bad about going out to feeling guilty about being healthier than the person they’re caring for. I strongly encourage anyone who is a caregiver to go out and read some articles, do some research, and recognize everything you’re feeling. It won’t make it go away, but it does help when you shut the door and have trouble walking away from the house to know that it’s okay to feel whatever you’re feeling and that you’re allowed go.

I’m sure this is a topic I’ll come back to again. It’s important to discuss these feelings and recognize that you have needs beyond taking care of someone. I would love to hear from all the caregivers out there about their experiences – you can leave a comment below or through the contact page. Caregivers need to look out for each other, so please share your thoughts. And remember, you are not alone.

Two women outside an event.
Caught up with Sherry – a friend & former coworker!

With all the serious business out of the way, back to the swanky party news! There were great door prizes and giveaways. A silent auction, a live auction and a purse auction you would not believe. They had everything from getaways to some of the latest and most sought after bags for people to bid on for a very worthy cause. It was a night for little black dresses, an adult beverage (or two…or more from the sound of discussion about designated drivers I overheard), and a lot of fun. There were some moving speeches given by Taunia Oechslin’s father, her best friend, a cancer survivor, and a local doctor helping women in our community with their fight against cancer. We learned a little about what the DNA testing is for, what it means, and how it can help women at risk be more proactive with their health care.

I had a great dinner, talked with some friends, and yes – had one adult beverage (I was driving so one before dinner was the limit). It was great to be out with so many amazing women. It was even better doing it for such a worthy cause. I strongly encourage you to check out the TOGNO website and consider making a donation if you can. The money stays in the Johnstown, PA area – and it makes a huge difference to the people it support. Hundreds of women have received free testing that they wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. As someone who lost a good friend to breast cancer after she had won the fight against other kinds, I cannot begin to tell you how important organizations like these are. As someone who has friends kicking cancer’s ass right now – there is no time like the present to get involved.

Brunette woman and a blond woman with a pink boa.
A dear friend and an amazing fighter – Suzette you are one of my heroes!

God bless the team at Taunia Oechslin Girls Night Out Foundation, the medical professionals who’ve dedicated their lives to helping people fight cancer, the caregivers, and the incredible fighters who refuse to give up. You are amazing!