Notes from a Caregiver
by Meg Lindsay
Inspired by the doctor and poet, William Carlos Williams, who wrote poetry on his prescription pad when on house calls, the poems in Notes from a Caregiver originated in waiting rooms and doctors’ offices when Meg Lindsay’s husband collapsed with multiple myeloma, a cancer, causing bone fractures. Lindsay writes of her personal journey as a caregiver, not clichés and ‘feel good’ sayings, which can be isolating and make one feel inadequate. Instead, she uses poetry to reveal authentic emotions, often odd and unpredictable, ranging from compassion to despair to anger and even to humor.
About the Author
A semi-finalist in two “Discovery”/The Nation Contests and a finalist in an Inkwell competition, Meg Lindsay has had poems published in Tricycle, Pivot, Salamander, Alimentum, Connecticut River Review, etc. and earned an MFA in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College.
Because she is also an established painter showing for decades in galleries and museums, her chapbook about the emotions and difficulties of painting, A Painter’s Night Journal, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016. Writers love to write about paintings, but most writers confine themselves to the subject matter of a painting, not the process, since after all most do not paint.
The subject of her writing dramatically changed direction when her husband, an athlete never ill before, collapsed with cancer in his bones, multiple myeloma, that same year. She gained direct knowledge of what it means to be a caregiver, a different and extraordinarily difficult learning process from anything she had ever known before.
In Notes from a Caregiver, Meg Lindsay reveals the deep truth about what happens in a woman’s world, inner and outer, when her husband and life-partner is diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of plasma and bones. With white-hot honesty and emotional clarity, she faces into the authentic core of her experience.
In the midst of a deeply personal, life-altering crisis, Ms. Lindsay engages the authority of a skilled and practiced poet to show us the effects of this illness upon patient, caregiver-life partner, and the deep bond at the core of a long-tern marriage. She uses her personal struggle to come to terms with the trauma contained in her experience to guide us into and through the difficult transformations, which occur when one is confronted with the challenges of living with cancer, be she, or he, patient or caregiver.
Notes from a Caregiver is a ‘must read’ for anyone, caregiver, patient, family member, or friend, who finds herself or himself in the chaos of a critical illness. I wish I had had it to accompany me when I was the primary caregiver for my husband in similar circumstances. In addition, as a psychotherapist in private practice, I see Meg Lindsay’s book of poems as a guide for medical professionals, psychotherapists, and technicians, who treat people suffering from life-threatening illnesses, and their families. We can all become more educated to the sensitivities, and vulnerabilities, of the psychic shock that comes with this territory.
Just as Dante called upon Virgil, his poet-ancestor, to guide him into and through the Inferno, so Meg Lindsay calls on her own poetic genius to accompany her, and then she, in turn, carries us in and through the Valley of the Shadow of Death and beyond.
—Bonnie L. Damron, PhD, LCSW, Archetypal Pattern Analyst
When a wife suddenly becomes her husband’s caregiver, everything changes—”because the rules of this road are different.” In poems that are brutally realistic and deeply tender, poet and painter Meg Lindsay tells us what it’s like when this new road is traveled. When her husband, collapsed with aggressive Multiple Myeloma, neither was prepared for the journey ahead. Just as Doctor William Carlos Williams wrote poems in between patients, Lindsay writes in exam rooms and waiting rooms, writes as her husband receives infusions and endures tests—and her poems tell of a new marital intimacy, one that emerged from the physical tending required by bed bath and commode, and from the emotional support demanded by a spouse’s pain and disabilities. These are important and moving poems, beautifully transparent, and a roadmap for others who may be walking this same unfamiliar path.
—Cortney Davis, author of Taking Care of Time
(Winner, Wheelbarrow Poetry Prize, University of Michigan Press)
Through her capacity for deep and sustained attention, Meg Lindsay has transformed the burdens of caregiving into a strange sort of beauty. Small, painfully human moments and mundane tasks reverberate with profound meaning. We can feel Lindsay using language to heal the rupture that illness has created, and thus, her poetry becomes a salve for all of us, who will inevitably experience the suffering of someone we love. Notes from a Caregiver offers comfort, companionship, wisdom, and even humor, to those on caregiving’s arduous journey. Lindsay’s writing teaches us that to look closely and to struggle to put what we see and experience into words, is a powerful form of love.
—Charlotte Friedman, Adjunct Professor,
Narrative Medicine, Barnard College, Columbia University
Meg Lindsay’s poems are deeply moving and sometimes even humorous. Each verse guides us through the twists and turns of a bone cancer diagnosis too late to avert injury, treatment, repair. Her words gently illuminate the arduous road she and her husband are traveling and the continuous dialog between caregiver and patient. Their unrelenting partnership and love offer us a way forward.
—Jen Walker, Attorney, Literacy Advocate and Multiple Myeloma Caregiver
This new collection, Notes from a Caregiver by Meg Lindsay, is laden with imagistic gems which brave the paradox of hope, when the “facts” are not in your favor. But there remains hope to this author, and hopelessness, inexpressible will and work and grief—all as true as any “fact.” Lindsay writes “Death is a dash/or could it be…. Theoretically.” I love the provocative questions which Lindsay insists be answered—answered with a dash—
This is a large-hearted, beautifully sequenced, well-crafted, and careful collection.
—Kate Knapp Johnson, poet, author of The Wind-Bike
“These poems are fierce, passionate paeans to love—love of self and love for a beloved husband whose sickness has interfered but not destroyed the intensity of the relationship.”
—Julie Bondanza, Jungian Analyst