Caregivers are special people

My wife, Becky, and I will celebrate 23 years of marriage this month. We will reminisce through memories of our steamy romance and the early years of our relationship. We will not celebrate that numbness in my right hand that has been there a long time, nor the tight feeling around my torso that started in the late 1990s, nor the fact that I stumbled a lot… 

I saw the first doctor in the spring of 2000. Not quite two years later I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I suspected that I had the progressive type, and that suspicion was confirmed. This is not relapsing-remitting MS. There is no treatment. I’m not getting better. In fact, I will get worse as time goes on. I told Becky to go have a life but she wouldn’t hear of it. I know she was hurting then and I know it hurts her to see me struggle now, but she is strong. When I got my first assistive device, the mobility was liberating but my confidence and self-image were really hurting. Her strength helped me through that first trip. She opened the doors and cleared the obstacles as she has done for me now for 14 years.

Becky has never wavered in her caring support. An accessible home, a specially equipped van, a custom computer work station at home, a shower chair and a ceiling track system have become part of our daily lives – and she is the breadwinner. We live in a retirement community that provides endless opportunity to positively impact the lives of 100 or so seniors. I know all of our neighbors by name. I feel safe and secure here, and I know that is a load off of Becky’s mind.

Becky works downtown; her commute is around 75 miles round trip. We get up at 5 a.m. because I need her help showering and dressing. We spend a few minutes together before she hits the morning rush at 7 or 7:30. She goes to work in the busy, high-stress corporate world and comes home 11 hours later. Then it’s time to fix dinner. She can’t even eat in peace because she has to feed me. If we’re lucky, we get a few moments of downtime before it all starts over again the next day.

The weekends are busy too because there’s always something to do. We do what we have to do, and we hope there’s time left over to relax and enjoy some fun together. We enjoy music, good friends and good restaurants as often as we can. And we both love Cardinal baseball. We don’t miss a game on TV – unless we are there in person at 10-15 games each year, thanks to Becky’s connections. And she fundraises! Becky has raised well over $100,000 for the Gateway Area Challenge Walk MS –  walking 500 miles in 10 consecutive events.

I know she gets tired. I can see it in her face and hear it in her voice. It breaks my heart. It takes a special person to care for someone with MS. I am needy. I hate it. Becky never, never, never makes me feel like a burden. She cares for me like no one else could. Sometimes I feel guilty. I wonder if I could do the same things for her if the situation was reversed. 

Becky is so dedicated and so tirelessly giving. Caregivers are special people, and Becky is a special caregiver.

Just one last thought. Becky was in charge of a big corporate conference in Hawaii this spring. She could have buried herself in her work in the tropical paradise, but that’s not my wife. Instead, she talked me into going. Imagine the challenges of getting me to Hawaii! Well she did it. Not only did she run the conference flawlessly, she made sure that I had an incredible experience as well.

I can’t imagine life without my Becky. I tell her so all the time. If you have a caregiver, be sure to thank them and tell them – often – how much they mean to you. Not just this month, but as often as you can.
Join Joe in contacting your Members of Congress today to ask for their support of respite for family caregivers.
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Joe Salacki

Becky and Joe Salacki met in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. They have lived in Wildwood, Missouri​, a suburb of St. Louis for 16 years. Joe was diagnosed with primary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2002.

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  • Kim   Nov 23, 2015 4:54 PM
    Thank you for sharing Becky, and your lives together with our community. A beautiful Thanksgiving tribute!
  • Karen   Nov 23, 2015 5:24 PM
    What a beautiful story of love! My husband also has PPMS diagnosed 2 years ago after 4 years of trying to convince the doctor something was wrong. We don't know anyone else with PPMS and really do not know what to expect as the disease progresses. Thank you for sharing your story and for the encouragement it gives us.
  • clara taylor   Nov 23, 2015 6:30 PM
    You touched my heart Joe. Becky has touched it for years. I had the pleasure of walking with Becky on her first walk. She has the same dedicaton to find a cure today as she did 10 years ago. IN the time that I have know are her life! Thank you for sharing your story. God blessings to you
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    slim-chances  Nov 23, 2015 6:50 PM
    Joe your word's struck me to the core . To hear yo speak of Becky pulls at my heartstrings . I can only hope to aspire for the strength you have , I'm my own biggest problem . Alicia my better half and caregiver is the bravest person I've ever known . 3 weeks ago she stood beside me in a hospital room ehile a team of Dr's stopped my heart and restarted it . The look on her face shown the most gear I had ever seen her give . Iv been bed ridden since june and totally reliant apon her but am in the process of a comeback . I felt like I was her protector since she was 14 and now the table's have turned and just maybe it is relinquishing that title of " protector " that has for myself stung and humbled me . A beautiful couple the two of you are , makes me miss my Alicia who is away for the night on buisness working away from home to help take care of me and put our son through university of Texas who happens to be home on break taking care of his old man . God bless you my friend and thanks for the inspiration .
  • jamie morris   Nov 23, 2015 7:43 PM
    i also have ms and my wife is the same way she takes wonderful care of me. she wouldnt hear of having her own life either
  • Doris   Nov 23, 2015 7:49 PM
    Your story is beautiful it made me cry A love like yours is rare and precious. I can only hope that they can find some type of treatment for your type of MS Wishing you a happy anniversary💛
  • Jennifer Marcucci   Nov 23, 2015 8:49 PM
    Thank you for your story I also have MS and my husband is my caregiver I have had MS since 2011 I found out when my ex husband broke my neck your story is great to hear thank you again I know I tell my husband every day how much I am thank full for every thing he dose for me
  • Daniel & Andrée   Nov 23, 2015 9:53 PM
    Hello Mr & Mrs Salacki,

    I don't usually write any comments pertaining to anyone with MS as there are enough good people that already have enough good information to share. In the beginning I wrote to support people that had just been told about this dreaded maladie but now I mostly read. Some of it's because I've already read so many stories but mostly I don't have the energy or ability to read and write too much these days.
    Your story touched me deeply and yes I had tears relating to your pain and anguish.
    Your story parallels ours so well. I also have PPMS. I had symptoms for 25 years before being diagnosed. The story is too long to convey at this time. I salut you And your wife as i do all families that are with us in this battle.
    We're married 41.5 years.. We fell in love, yes at first sight across the room in a club. I was, in my opinion, the luckiest person that ever walked the face of this earth. My wife does it all as yours does. I'm not as advanced as you as I can still get up out of my wheelchair and stand and walk for 5 minutes plus or minus. My right hand is useless as well as my left leg. The other two limbs are being affected rapidly. I've had all the symptoms as time advanced. Numbness, tingle, vision, constipation, pain, fatigue, MS hug, I could go on but I'm certain that you know all of this already. As you've probably perceived, i also have PPMS. Our life was a fairy tale, really! Not because of money or success or stature but because of how we've been blessed by our love and understanding of each other and all of the marvelous people that have touched our lives over our years together. My wife is a one and only like yours. Does it all for me as well as our two daughters and their husbands and our two mothers, both in their late eighties, as well as working and doing all the housework and much more. She is My hero even before I was your beautiful Becky, my Andrée, never ever asks for anything and does it all with a smile and a kind word. She is a victim. In many ways more than I as she could walk away but doesn't. I'm the one with this maladie but she stays devoted despite the situation. I'm on my back most of the day now so she does almost everything. What an amazing human being. She's by far, the most amazing person that I've ever been privalidged to know. But, it has always been like this. The only difference now is that she cries, most often in private, whether in the shower or car, she's so hurt for my pain. She never thinks of herself except when she absolutely has to. That would be when she is completely exhausted. Yes she should be a CNN hero, like your Becky. I had tears in my eyes and on my face when I read your story. Not because I'm thinking of myself as I read, but because I'm so very sorry that you and Becky have to live each day with this pain that you both have. I salute you both and offer my affection. Your love, devotion and dedication are something only you would understand.
    My Cinderella story has ceased to exist but we are as in love now as ever and it grows each minute. It's not what I wanted to present her with in our golden years, she deserves so much more, but she never asks for anything. How could I be so fortunate?
  • Connie Caldwell   Nov 23, 2015 11:48 PM
    Dear Joe -

    This was a beautifully written story about you and Becky. I know of your struggles and the power and strength in every day life that Becky gives to you. She is so giving of herself. We miss seeing you. When I drop in at the office downtown, I always make a point to chat with Becky.

    We hope you have a blessed Thanksgiving !!

    Love, Connie and Jim
  • Tim   Nov 24, 2015 3:43 AM
    Thanks for your story Joe, It was heartbreaking but also inspiring & encouraging. I like Becky look after my wife of 12 years. My wife was diagnosed with MS 18 months ago after 4 years of issues. We were happy to have a diagnosis finally but are learning each day what MS does and how it affects everyone surrounding it. Very little support is offered for Caregivers in Australia however the love for our wife/husband battling this horrible disease is enough to do whatever is required to make our partners comfortable. I have a long road ahead but your story has inspired me to keep going no matter what. Thanks
  • Shadow  Nov 24, 2015 12:02 PM
    I know how you feel. At this point I am able to do for myself. I have been with my husband since I was 17 and now I am 55. I told him he could leave but he says "til death do us part".I want him to enjoy life and do not want to hold him back. But he keeps holding on.
  • Darla Beach   Nov 24, 2015 5:54 PM
    I am a caregiver for my husband and appreciate the love and commitment shown by this couple. But what if you do not have money?? We have no van. We finally had a family member buy us a ramp, now we can get out of the house, but can't get in the car. He has to sit at home alone and unable to get to the bathroom while I work 5 hours a day just so we can make our monthly expenses. My love for him has nothing to do with his troubles. Without money, we just aren't going to make it.
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    Ldg1230  Nov 24, 2015 9:00 PM
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful story of love to us.
  • Kingshuk   Nov 24, 2015 9:49 PM
    Thank you for sharing your story and for the encouragement it gives us..

    I too have MS and I have a similar tale

  • Daniel Schiffner, Jr.   Nov 25, 2015 8:13 AM
    I agree and understand as I am suffering the same issues, as my Father has. We have a very aggressive MS that gives signs in the beginning decades, but once it takes off it just rips you apart fast. I have struggled with my body and mind dealing with this. I also have thought my family would be better off without having to take care of me. Family care givers deserve to be acknowledged and compensated, your story gives me some hope that in time I will find my place. My prayers will be with you always. They are still working on an official diagnosis for me, but several Dr.'s are very sure of what I have that even they just refer to it as MS. Take care and May your holidays and life be filled with lots of love and laughter. Blessings, Daniel Schiffner Jr.
  • Heather R   Nov 25, 2015 10:51 PM
    What a wonderful study! Becky you are an inspiration. My mother takes care of my father and they live next door to me and I see the struggle daily and do my very best to help when I can. Becky you are wonderful caring person and hope you understand that you are an inspiration to others.
  • Tom Termes   Nov 25, 2015 10:56 PM
    Joe, I am the Walk Coordinator for one of the MS Walks in South Dakota. My connection to MS is that I have a daughter who is also dealing with MS.

    I have to say I have profound admiration for your wife. She sounds like a wonderful person.

    Joe, you did a great job of expressing your feelings, and your appreciation for your wife. What a wonderful sprite she must be. I fear that many people with MS are not as blessed as you, to have such a beautiful wife. Let me rephrase that. Forget about MS for a minute, there probably aren't very many husbands who have such a beautiful wife.

    I cannot possibly appreciate and fully understand all of the burdens that you and your wife deal with daily, but I am committed to the MS cause, and your story only strengthens my resolve.

    Sylvia Lawry, the founder of the NMSS, never retired from her efforts to find a cure for MS. She is quoted as saying "I will retire when MS does."

    I am trapped in that I can only be who I am. There is only one me. I can only do a couple of things, attempt to support with compassion and kindness all those who are dealing this miserable disease, and continue to raise funds, to the very best of my ability for the NMSS.

    Thanks Joe for sharing your story.
  • Margaret Min   Nov 26, 2015 5:58 AM
    You are very blessed to have each other. I'm happy for both of you.
  • Margaret Min   Nov 26, 2015 6:11 AM
    I didn't have this kind of support. I lived with my family until I could see that it wasn't sustainable anymore. Then I lived in a nursing home for 13 1/2 years. I learned a lot during that time. I began to heal in body, mind and spirit. Now I have left the nursing home and am living on my own in the community. I still have caregivers, 24-7, and I am still a functional quadriplegic, but I feel I am getting stronger every day. If my former husband had been able to be more supportive, I might not have embarked on this healing path. I feel very blessed in a paradoxical way. I know my life is a gift.
  • chuck and elaine   Nov 26, 2015 11:22 AM
    joe becky and mom

    Since our first meeting I realized you were a person I wanted to learn from, then I met your family and tripled the learning experience. Your ms seems only to be an inconvenience but I can only imagine the truth. You all are an example of LOVE and HOPE at work. it is what it is but boy what you have made of it
  • Jack & Linda Day   Nov 26, 2015 11:33 AM
    Joe and Becky you are both pillars of strength. We have had the privilege of being your friends and neighbors for the past five years. Becky's devotion to family, friends, and fund raising while maintaining a very demanding job has been relentless. Joe has not given in to this disease, He has given so much of his time and talent to make our community a fun and close knit family. Thank you both, we only hope we can be as strong as the two of you. Jack & Linda
  • Barbara Shartzer   Nov 26, 2015 11:37 AM
    Joe and Becky, you have given so much of yourself to us and this community thanks be to you and God he has given you both such a Special Gift and probably you don't realize that. We are leaving the community not because of not liking the people but we need to be closer to doctors and hospitals. Curtis never say anything about his hurting knees but also numbness in his feet, we will miss all of you and your wonderful spirit. I have prayed for sometime as what we were to do. He has made it clear as when we sold we had no place to go and wanted occupancy by Nov 30, we. Asked for a few more days and we found a villa that was gutted two weeks ago and we should be in by Dec 8th, know how you and Becky have Blessed our lives as well as others. I will keep up with you guys on linkin and keep you posted on our progress. I know how hard it must be for you and how you appreciate every kind thing. My plans are to start giving of myself to other that are in like you. My back has kept me down some as to what I can do. Keep on giving and you will receive. I honor your encouragement and joy you have given me. God Bless you, Becky and PJ. Our address will be 16609 equestrian lane chesterfield mo 63005. Please stay in touch and we will be back to see you. Out Love Barbara and Curtis Shartzer
  • Rita Cunningham   Nov 26, 2015 12:25 PM
    My husband and I have lived in this 55+ community for 5 months and Joe has tirelessly kept us all informed via email of the activities going on in our little community. What a beautiful story and tribute to his loving wife.

    Thanks, Joe and Happy Thanksgiving to you and all your extended family who are with you today.

    Rita Cunningham
  • Marilyn Michalak   Nov 28, 2015 10:01 PM
    Joe and Becky,
    We have had the great privilege of having you as friends for the past four years and I can truthfully say that there has never been a more loving couple in our lives. You always have the interests of everyone in our wonderful community at the forefront of your interests.
    You and Becky, with your great love for each other, show the greatest example of what true love is as we see that you live it and really make the best of "what it is".
    May God bless you and your families and keep you in His care. Love to both of you from Art and me.
  • Shelly Burnett   Dec 22, 2015 9:00 AM
    Thanks so much for sharing your story! Your wife sounds really special! I will keep thanking my husband every day..take care
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    ebdms  Jan 29, 2016 8:13 PM
    Beautiful story! I too have an exceptional caregiver. Thanks for sharing. Prayers for you both!
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    pipp2monks  Feb 6, 2016 12:59 PM
    Thank you for sharing your story. It certainly gives me hope.
    I'm not even 25 and have only been diagnosed with RRMS, but the impact this has had on my life has certainly left me wondering about my ability to shoulder this responsibility;let alone my fiancee's.

    What a fool I was to even doubt him. From our first visit to the ER to my most recent MS relapse he has been by my side. Always patient, always there with a comforting hug, always there to encourage me and never let me lose hope.

    I am truly blessed to have such an amazing person in my life.
  • tom blubaugh   Feb 27, 2016 10:49 AM
    thanks for sharing such tender thoughts. always knew you and Becky were special guys. You remain in my prayers, always, Tom
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    livelovelaugh4ever  Mar 5, 2016 8:20 PM
    What a beautiful love story. Every woman should have a man to honor her like you did and every man should have the love of a selfless woman. God bless you both.