“She’s doing great. It would be insensitive to say that she’s back to normal. She’s charging back but for anyone who’s dealt with a medical emergency, there’s still reality that she has to deal with,” the comedian, 52, recently told PEOPLE about Jeannie, who served as co-writer, director and executive producer of her husband’s fifth album, Cinco.
“I think society tends to view things from recovering like a common cold. Like you’re sick and then you’re better. But the reality is when you deal with the removal of a brain tumor, you’re sick and then there’s a long road back and the possibility of not getting to 100 percent,” Gaffigan shared. “So I would describe my wife at 80 percent. But her 80 percent is like most people’s 120 percent.”
The husband and wife duo, who wed in 2003, created TV Land’s The Jim Gaffigan Show, and have five children together: daughters Marre and Katie, and sons Jack, Michael, and Patrick.
As much as their family banded together during the difficult time, the actor was Jeannie’s primary caregiver. In order to bring awareness and appreciation to caregivers, the Gaffigans teamed up with Tylenol’s #HowWeCare campaign, even calling the collaboration a “no-brainer.”
“Having gone through the experience that we went through as a family, it became very apparent that the caregiving role is something that obviously I personally have an interaction with. Also it is something that is under-acknowledged in how we deal with medical crises,” he said.
Through the #HowWeCare campaign, caregivers are eligible to receive Care Cards, which can aid with transportation through Uber or with house cleaning and handyman services through Handy. “I think when people are dealing with a loved one that is going through a medical emergency, people send best wishes and prayers maybe food but what’s so effective about the #HowWeCare campaign is helping with tangible assistance,” he shared.
While recalling his experiences of supporting Jeannie after her surgery, Gaffigan praised fellow caregivers for their endless compassion.
“Being a caregiver is a great honor but it’s also an incredibly stressful, ongoing experience,” Gaffigan said. “It’s a privilege to take care of someone, especially someone who took care of you. It was also a positive example for my children to see me in a caregiving role.”
As for what advice he would give to any family member or loved one in a caregiving role, Gaffigan reminded others to find humor in a difficult situation.
“Humor is pretty vital for the well being of everyone involved. Finding moments to laugh at a situation obviously within the context of respect for the situation. Laughter is really effective tool, it’s like tears, it alleviates some of the stress,” the father of five said. “I think finding some light in the situation, obviously it’s difficult to take care of someone in pain or someone who is dealing with frustration of being away from their kids. But finding humor is pretty important. I think humor is an element that Jeannie and I leaned on as an outlet.”