Kate Washington to talk with UntitledTown about caregiving in America
By Rachel Sankey
Since COVID-19 began spreading rapidly around the globe in early 2020, two words have become increasingly used: caregiving and burnout.
For Kate Washington, she said those two words became familiar to her years before the fast-spreading virus surfaced. In 2015, her husband, Brad Buchanan, was diagnosed with a rare form of lymphoma.
When they started looking for answers to the lumps on Brad’s throat in 2014, Washington said she had no idea the toll of becoming a caregiver would have on her.
“It wasn’t just a question of giving care to Brad, though; his illness also meant I took on the entire responsibility of caring for our children, our home and all the other details of our lives,” Washington wrote in her book Already Toast. “My mental load as a household manager and my emotional labor as a wife and mother were both heavy during Brad’s treatment… An uncomfortable stew of resentment, guilt and duty simmered beneath the surface every day.”
She said Brad’s illness was most intense between 2015-16, and he struggled with the aftermath of the cancer into 2017 as well.
Washington said she has been writing all her life. At the time that Brad got sick, she said she was freelancing, but had to stop soon after.
As she continued to care for her husband, Washington said she started to feel like she needed to write about her experiences, especially since she struggled to find resources out there that she felt spoke to what she was going through.
So she said she started writing Already Toast: Caregiving and Burnout in America.
“The writing that I did about Brad’s and my situation was part catharsis,” Washington said. “So, I stayed in a writing group that I was in… just to stay in touch with some kind of writing practice. And I think it really helped me stay in touch with the self through some of the more draining parts of caregiving.”
The couple kept a blog during Brad’s illness to keep family and friends up-to-date. Washington said the posts helped out when forming the basis of the book, because there were a lot of technical details that would have otherwise been missed.
“The book has a memoir piece,” she said. “It has a kind of researched piece that is more sociological, demographic and economic, looking at the effects on caregiving and on caregivers, and that leads into a kind of piece about policy and what we could be doing as a society to better support caregivers.”
She said the book started to take shape in 2019, and by March 2020 was in the thick of revising.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is just a couple weeks of lockdown. Like, should I really put it in the book?’” Washington said in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I’m really glad I did… In some ways, it felt a little bit like the rest of the world was catching up to a place that we have already experienced, in some depth.”
When Already Toast first came out in March 2021, Washington said she received a lot of positive and meaningful feedback from other caregivers.
“I’m always really touched when people do reach out, because I know it means a lot, especially from caregivers who have taken time out of what is often a really busy and overwhelming time in life,” Washington said. “Not only to read the book, but then to seek me out and get in touch and the fact that people have said they feel seen by the book, or they feel less alone in their emotions and their complicated journeys of caregiving, is just really fulfilling.”
Local virtual event
UntitledTown, an area literary organization, will host a virtual event at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 5 with Kate Washington for Already Toast. The first half of the event will be a structured discussion between UntitledTown’s co-founder, Wendy Wimmer, and Washington, while the second half will be open for questions from the audience.
Rachel Sankey is the Arts and Entertainment Reporter of Green Bay City Pages. She can be reached via email at [email protected]