Craig S. Thames
Person of the Month-March 2018
I, Dr. Karen, am the founder and Executive Director of The EPIC Foundation. I went from being a Licensed Clinical Psychologist in private practice to not being able to function at all, due to a rare life threatening illness called Cushing’s Disease. I, personally, experienced the 5 stages of loss: https://epictogether.org/the-five-stages-of-loss/
I want to share how, in the midst of my greatest adversity; I had a rock in my life in the form of my husband, Craig.
Anyone who has been through a similar journey knows that this experience can be extremely isolating. Many people in the supportive circle drift away once it is apparent that the illness journey will be longer than what was expected.
I felt like I lost everything! I went from optimistically telling clients that I would be back to work with them just one month after brain surgery to quickly realizing that I would probably never go back to private practice. My symptoms started in 2006 but the turning point occurred when, 2 days after a procedure called Inferior Petrosal Sinus Sampling (IPSS) designed to assess what side of the pituitary the Cushing’s tumor is on (In June, 2011); I collapsed in the middle of the living room floor. I do not remember most of that day. However, I can only imagine the shock and terror that Craig felt as he dragged me from our 2nd story condo to our car and navigated getting me to the hospital while having no clue what was happening to his wife. It took traveling 3000 miles from Chicago to Seattle to even begin to understand how Cushing’s was destroying my body and why I began having about 7 black outs a day.
One event after another, we realized that the journey would be much longer than we anticipated: symptoms, diagnosis, brain surgery, recurrence, removal of both adrenal glands, acquiring another life threatening illness called Addison’s/Adrenal Insufficiency, and multiple adrenal crises and near death experiences. What I have come to realize throughout all of this is that these events were not just happening to me. The people in my immediate supportive circle including my children and spouse were impacted by all of this as well!
Craig is a licensed professional engineer, with a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering, who works for the safety industry. However, he has spent the last several years being a supporter, friend, and advocate! Craig has become well versed in both Cushing’s disease and Addison’s disease. When I told Craig that I was never going back to private practice with the potential of earning an income again, but rather I was going to devote my life to supporting the community, his response was to be my biggest cheerleader but also the cheerleader of the community! He wants me to win but he also wants the community to win! Craig spent many nights up with me as I launched The EPIC Foundation, consulting with me on how to design the website, working on educational materials and databases, and telling me, “You can do it, Karen!” Without his support, The EPIC Foundation would not exist. Every time I felt like giving up, Craig said, “no way are you giving up!” Craig says that I am his hero but he is MY hero!
While I honor my husband I also honor ALL of you loved ones who have stood by our sides for the long haul! We know that being a caregiver to a loved one is not easy. Sometimes, it seems like the patient gets most of the support but the loss experience of the caregiver is seldom processed. As I honor the man in my life, I am reminded of how important you are! This is why we want to support caregivers as much as we can! https://epictogether.org/caregiver-help/
We have a patient and caregiver support team! We want caregivers to know that we want to support you and are here for you! You can learn more about caregiver support here: https://epictogether.org/advocacy/
I take this time to express ultimate gratitude towards and appreciation for my partner in life, Craig S. Thames! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
Together, WE are EPIC!!!