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Ultimate caregiver

James and Shirley Tompkins are pictured as they celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary five years ago. Jade Beckman, the Tompkins’ adoptive daughter, submitted this picture of her parents in the True Love Campaign that honors prostate cancer caregivers. Shirley Tompkins won for being the ultimate caregiver for James Tompkins, who suffers from prostate cancer and several strokes.

By LEANA CHOATE

lchoate@newsexaminer.com

A local woman has been recognized as the ultimate caregiver as she has pushed through everyday struggles to take care of her husband of 56 years. 

Shirley Tompkins, who has called Connersville her home for the entirety of her life, was selected by actress Kristen Bell from hundreds of submissions to be honored as one of two winners in the True Love Campaign by the Prostate Cancer Foundation out of California. The campaign honors the caregivers of prostate cancer patients.

Tompkins has been a caregiver all her life, said Jade Beckman, the Tompkins’ adoptive daughter. After having a child of their own, Shirley Tompkins was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The child the Tompkinses had together had a daughter and, in their late 40s, the Tompkinses adopted her. Sensing she needed kids her own age around, they then dedicated their lives to being foster parents, helping rear close to 100 children during that time.

“I was 11 when they fostered me, and I was 14 when they adopted me,” Beckman said. “They (the Tompkins) had four teenage girls at one point living in their house,” Beckman laughed. “They were brave.”

“My parents took us on vacations and did everything with us,” Beckman said, sharing memories with Shirley Tompkins. “They just care so much about us.” 

To be considered for selection, a story must be submitted to the PCF about a caregiver who has gone above and beyond to take care of someone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. 

That’s exactly what Beckman did.

“I just happened to see on my Facebook feed that they were taking submissions for the True Love Campaign, and I knew I had to write in about my mom because that’s what she is: a caregiver,” Beckman said. “She is 73 years old and she does everything for my dad. Even at my age I don’t think I can do everything she does.”

James Tompkins, 78, has been diagnosed with prostate cancer and has had several strokes. He is unable to walk and care for himself. 

“Everyone knew my dad,” Beckman laughed. “He never knew a stranger. I used to hate going out in public with him. A simple trip to McDonald’s would take forever because he would talk to anyone and everyone.” 

So, when James Tompkins suffered from his cancer and strokes, it was hard to see him in his current condition.

No matter how hard it got and continues to get, Shirley Tompkins stays by his side to make sure he never goes without anything he needs.

“She didn’t think, she just did it, she just took care of him,” Beckman said. “My mom has always been that person, she’s always been a caregiver. No matter how hard it got on my parents, if it was my birthday or my siblings, she always made sure she got us a gift and that we had a birthday party. She is the most caring person I know.” 

Shirley Tompkins can’t leave her husband alone at any time.

“If he needs to go to the bathroom, I have to lift him up help him to the bathroom. I cook his meals and take him to doctors’ appointments, I give him showers, I check on him and give him his medicine and shots,” Tompkins said. 

Shirley Tompkins has no time for herself. While she says it’s hard on her, she refuses to put him in a nursing home.

“It’s all about the personal care,” Tompkins said. “The only place he can get the personal care he needs and deserves is right here.”

The Tompkins’ insurance doesn’t cover much, Shirley Tompkins said, so almost everything her husband needs they pay for out of pocket. That makes it impossible to afford home health care, Tompkins said.

“It’s so expensive, I just can’t afford it,” Tompkins said. “Since I am the only one here to take care of him, I get maybe half an hour to an hour to myself.” 

“It’s just a daily routine, we do the same thing everyday. I would like to have a van with a lift so that we could maybe get out, even for a drive, just to get both of us out of the house,” Tompkins laughed. 

“This is hard, I’m not going to lie,” Tompkins said. “But God wouldn’t have put me up to this if he didn’t think I could do it. He has prepared me all my life for this.”

 

About prostate cancer

According to the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, more than 4 million men are living with prostate cancer in the U.S. In 2019, nearly 175,000 U.S. men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer, and nearly 32,000 will die from the disease. One in nine men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind lung cancer.

• Jade Beckman's story about her parents and stories about all of the winners can be found at www.PCF.org/true.