Kathryn E. Vinson, MS, CCRC
Each month we see new ribbons on our social media feeds reflecting various awareness months. November is a very special month – not only do we recognize stomach, pancreatic, lung, and carcinoid cancers – we also honor those that put their lives on hold to pick up our slack and to be our champion during the fight against cancer – our caregivers.
As babies and children, our parents or other loved ones see to our needs – they bathe us, feed us, dress us – all the elements of life that our tiny hands are not yet capable to do for ourselves. We grow and learn and become independent, handling these daily chores for ourselves. We grow from our childhood homes and have homes of our own. Then one day, our independence has been dealt a massive blow by the demon that we call cancer. Suddenly folding the laundry or making dinner becomes a herculean task.
Caregivers come in all shapes and sizes – spouses, parents, children, and friends – often tag-teaming so one can rest, go to work, or catch up with their families and responsibilities.
When I was diagnosed, my husband was my rock – he was by my side at every doctor appointment, sleeping at the hospital after my surgery. But my mom was also there, taking care of a rambunctious two-year-old as I recovered from surgery since my husband had to work. Mom cooked for my family while I was in the zombie-like state of being off my thyroid meds. She and my mother-in-law watched my children while I was in isolation after my radioiodine treatment. I honestly don’t know how I would have made it without the love and help of my family.
The Cancer Support Community tells us the following statistics about caregivers, which was derived from their Cancer Experience Registry:
- 98% provided emotional support
- 96% went with their loved one to medical appointments
- 82% helped with decision-making
- 79% coordinated medical care
- 80% provided transportation
- 74% helped manage finances
If you are a caregiver, or are about to become one, I highly recommend watching this short video produced by the Cancer Support Community. It contains 10 tips on being a caregiver. Remember that being a caregiver entails taking care of yourself too!
Caregiver stress is real. Here at Cancer Horizons, we have compiled a listing of resources available for caregivers – from support groups, to education, to culturally specific assistance, and even help with substance abuse – there are tons of wonderful folks out there that are waiting to help you help your loved one.
Saying Thank You
What do you say to the person that put his or her life on hold to help you during your illness? It feels like a simple “thank you” is never enough to show our gratitude, but that is the best place to start. If you feel shy expressing yourself verbally, try putting your thoughts on paper. What you think of as just a note, could mean the world to your caregiver. We also have a tremendous listing of appreciation gifts that are perfect for your caregiver. Many of these can be customized for your unique circumstances.
From the bottom of our hearts, the entire Cancer Horizons team wishes to send our love and gratitude to all of the caregivers out there – past, present, and future. Your support to those fighting cancer is so much more than the visible and tangible – the love and emotional support are truly priceless. Do you have a caregiver that has been there for you through thick and thin? Give them a shout out below in honor of Cancer Caregiver Awareness!
As always, much love, many prayers, and abundant blessings to all of the warriors out there!