Sharing your story of caring for a loved one can help you relate to others experiencing a similar journey. It’s not always easy, but you are both proud of the care you provide, and you’re even happy to do it. We reached out to you, real caregivers, and have collected some of your incredible journeys to share with each other to connect. This is Dawn’s story.

Dawn and Marc Edwards have been married for 29 years. They live in St. Louis with their dog Riley and have two sons. A few years ago, Marc battled neck cancer, and beat it. 

On March 15, 2016, Marc went to the park for a walk with Riley, the family dog. When he returned home, he told Dawn he thought he may be having a stroke. 

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The next morning, Marc woke up and everything seemed normal. But then he suffered a second stroke. 

“The doctors were shocked after the first stroke,” Dawn said. The MRI revealed the first stroke had been major.

“The neurologist kept asking me, ‘Are you sure he was ok and normal this morning?’ and I said, ‘Yes, he got up, he talked, he remembered appointments the next day, he was fine.” 

But his carotid artery was 90 percent blocked. Marc was sent to the intensive care unit. 

“It was scary. The doctors asked, ‘Do you have family? Do you have kids? You need to call them and they need to come here.’” Dawn said. “They didn’t know if he was going to make it.” 

Their two sons rushed to see Marc. The first few days in the ICU were critical, but Dawn never left Marc’s side, staying with him at the hospital the entire time. 

“It took some time. He couldn’t eat or anything,” Dawn said. “But in a few days, I thought, ‘He’s going to be okay,’ once he could start communicating with me.” 

Marc was experiencing short-term memory loss, calling Dawn his mother’s name, and using a different name entirely for her. 

“I thought, ‘Well, who is that?,’” Dawn recalls, laughing. “I had the same conversations with him over and over.” 

After the stroke, Marc had trouble with daily activities like rolling over in bed, getting out of bed and using the restroom. When he was stable enough, Marc moved to Kindred St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Hospital to begin the road to recovering these functions.  

The hospital made arrangements so Dawn could stay in the room with Marc to support him during therapy sessions. With Dawn by his side, and a team of speech, occupational and physical therapists, Marc began to learn his new normal. 

“When he came in, I had to completely advance his leg,” physical therapist Kortney Moews said. “I got pretty close with [Dawn and Marc]. You’re with them for an hour and a half every single day, and you’re watching his recovery every day. His gains are your gains.” 

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Marc’s occupational therapist explained changes the Edwards could make to their home to make getting around easier, and Dawn’s father helped install extra rails.

After some time, Marc learned to swallow, and eventually eat. Stand, and eventually walk. Talk, and eventually read. 

“I have a picture of the first day he picked up a newspaper,” Dawn said. “At first, he said, ‘I can’t do this.” Dawn said she is very proud of Marc. “I knew if anyone could do it, he could do it.” 

Caring for a loved one does not come without sacrifice. Dawn is an avid runner and set a goal to run a half marathon in every state. Shortly after Marc’s strokes, Dawn was scheduled to go on a trip to run five half marathons in a row. In order to be with Marc, Dawn put her travel plans on hold.  

“As a caregiver, I’ve had to put my life and my goals on hold for now,” Dawn said. “From all the blogs and pages you read about caregivers, it’s hard. It’s a hard road. It’s very tiring. But do you want this or do you want to not have your spouse with you? So I’d rather be tired.” 

Dawn has juggled new household activities Marc previously handled, such as bills and finances, as well as maintaining her career and caring for her husband. She advises other caregivers to take life day by day and moment by moment. To stay positive, focus on your loved one being with you and know each day it gets a little easier. You just have to find a new normal.

“He could have some good days and bad days, but his therapists hung in there and worked through it with him,” Dawn said. “They were awesome. They figured out his personality and what worked best for him. I’m so thankful we decided to go to Kindred. It was a good experience for us.” 

The therapy staff taught Marc how to go up and down the stairs so when he returned home, he could maneuver through his house. He worked hard and made a great progress.

Finally, Dawn and Marc were told he could go home on April 26. Marc was so excited, he packed his bags the day before he could leave. On his last day, Marc and his therapy team exchanged hugs and tears. 

“I watched him fight back from cancer, and I’m watching him fight back from a stroke,” Dawn said. 

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Marc said this experience has proved their love as a couple.  

“I am always amazed of how he laughs every day, and how he makes other people laugh,” Dawn said. “He has a smile on his face when I would be in tears.”  

In 2017, Dawn and Marc will celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary. Dawn has always wanted to go to Alaska—that’s what they’re working toward.