This Caregiver Spotlight features Kristina Culver (45) who is currently a caregiver for her husband, Bill (45). Though not too long ago Bill was in the role of caregiver and it was Kristina who needed support.
Kristina and Bill met in their first year of college 28 years ago, having their first daughter shortly after that. Two sons followed soon after, all of whom have now blossomed into young adults. But Kristina and Bill never dreamed they would be caregiving for each other at such a young age, when many parents are newly minted “empty nesters”. Bill was recently been diagnosed with Lambda Lightchain Myeloma. The news of Bill’s diagnosis came just months after Kristina reached remission in her own cancer journey where she was diagnosed with Stage IIIC Melanoma. Bill’s recent diagnosis has seen the two of them suddenly reverse the roles of caregiver and care recipient. “It confirms my suspicion that being the patient is quite a bit easier than being the caregiver”, says Kristina. Among many wonderful gifts of Bill’s personality, Kristina mentioned his determination and stoicism, traits that lend themselves to an arduous fight with cancer.
As this is their second trial in caring for one another, Kristina and Bill are learning to always keep each other’s health in mind and, at times, put boundaries in place for the other. Kristina continues to manage her own pain on a daily and sometimes hourly basis, and considers the physical limitations to be the most difficult aspect of caring for Bill. As devastating as any discovery of cancer is for an individual and their loved ones, Kristina recognizes the opportunity to find a transformational silver lining in the depths of the darkness. “It’s an invitation to engage and have deeper connections with people–if we let it. That’s pretty powerful to think about”.
Along with being a caregiver, Kristina is a graphic artist and storyteller–as well as a student in the Bonnie Christine Mentorship program–passionate about sharing the story of her unique lived experiences on her Instagram page @battle.chicken. Kristina believes art has a unique capability to be a safe and accessible platform of discussion, able to pull us away from a cycle of finger-pointing and toward a system of cultivating genuine conversations about inanimate objects which serve as symbols of humanity.
Kristina speaks fervidly about “opening a conversation in the state of Idaho that looks at what our healthcare needs are and what some of the challenges we face are within the Treasure Valley and beyond…Idahoans have such a beautiful way of being able to pull away from their politics and pull away from some of their beliefs and be able to sit down in community at the table with one another and visit and Be.” From hearing her speak, it’s clear that Kristina envisions a future in which the promotion of community ideals can bring about more effective responses to healthcare, job satisfaction, personal spirituality, and many other facets of life.
Other hobbies dear to Kristina are photography for cottage industry businesses, gardening, and exploration of limited mobility travel. Various road trips throughout Texas and Louisiana have given her and Bill the opportunity to reconnect on a deeper level, while also discovering the perspective-shifting power of travel. Throughout the years, Kristina has also remained involved in the ministry of her faith, which has been a great source of strength in the most difficult times, “It’s the promise that we’ll get through this day and have a next day”.
Kristina and Bill have three children and currently live in Wilder, Idaho.
-Story by Kyle Peterson