There Are Many Ways To Be A Caregiver (Part 2)
When cancer occurs in a family, it takes a toll on everyone. Each person in the house has their own unique way of dealing with the change of the familiarity and comfort that has been compromised. Of course, the biggest toll is on the one afflicted with cancer, but an almost equal toll is on their loved ones and caregivers - especially when it's your child.
When we found out that our daughter had cancer at age 25, my husband and I were in shock. How could this be and how can we fix it? But we couldn't fix it. The child that we raised and nurtured since birth had cancer and all we could do was watch and put her life into a doctor's hands and hope he valued her life as much as we did. It was a nightmare, and as much as we wanted to take this nightmare away, it was with us, and stayed with us, for over a year.
My role as a caregiver
We were lucky in that Crystal was able to come live with us again. This helped her, as well as my husband and I. It made it possible for us to stay together as a family and support each other as much as we could. We tried to stay positive, but my husband looked at things differently. He was mad and wasn't able to be comforting, as he needed comfort himself. He was the fixer, the one who cared for all of us, but he was helpless with this. He couldn't bear to watch Crystal going through so much. Because of this, most of her care was left to me. As Crystal's main caregiver, I did everything I could for her. I cooked what she could eat and served her food to her when she didn't have the energy to get up. I drove her to appointments, did laundry, and cleaned for her. I made phone calls to her doctor and stayed with her during emergency visits to the hospital. I did everything I thought she needed, but again, as with my mother, I didn't talk to her about her feelings. If she talked to me I listened, but I never asked - why didn't I just ask?
Providing emotional support
When we have cancer, some of us need to talk. We need to share our aches and pains, but we might also need to share our fears and worries. I didn't ask Crystal. I was busy in mom-mode and made sure she was as comfortable as possible. But what about her emotional needs? I always looked at her and felt so bad. After all, she was uprooted from her new life and the few friends she made in her new city. All she really had was me to talk to - and I wasn't even there every day. I had to go to work. As I look back now I wish I could change things, but of course, I can't. I didn't ask then, but as I write this I know I still have the opportunity to let her talk about that time if she needs to. I'm blessed that she is still here and well and we're able to have this conversation, even if it's after the fact.
My point is to show how very difficult it is to talk to someone going through such a big ordeal. There are so many reasons for this, but maybe if we just ask - do you want to talk about your feelings, it might help someone to let go of that emotional anguish.
Wishing you all health and happiness!
Read Part 1 of There Are Many Ways To Be A Caregiver
Check back for Part 3 where I offer some suggestions on how to be a caregiver.
What type of blood cancer are you or your loved one diagnosed with?