Caring for a Loved One With Cancer
In April 2014 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though nearly everyone in her family has had cancer it was a strange sensation. It was still one of those things that happened to other people. Not to us. At the time she was diagnosed, she and my sister were not on speaking terms so it was up to me to relay the news. Oh being the middle man. Thus began my role in my mother's journey towards being cancer free. It's a role many others take on, and it's not an easy one. It is the role of the caregiver.
I grew up in hospitals. I have various amounts of illnesses, so I learned at an early age the importance of note-taking, listening carefully, and getting along with doctors. They are the experts. I am not. But I learned a lot from them, and from nurses and how they treated their patients. Caring for a relative with cancer can, at many times, feel like being a nurse. Essentially that's exactly what caregivers are. This article will showcase what I learned not from health care providers, but from my mom as I took care of her.
The most important part to caring for a relative with cancer is knowing the person. When my mom told me her diagnosis, I was stone-faced and factual. I asked questions about staging, had it metastasized, next steps, etc. There was no point worrying about worst cases until we had more information. But my mom needed me to cry. She needed me to show that this was the end of the world. Looking back, I should have done something, even fake emotions I was holding at bay until we got more results. Throughout the rest of our journey, she appreciated this part of my care but says she just needed something else at the beginning. Don't get me wrong, I cry pretty much all the time. Once when my husband and I went grocery shopping he picked up four boxes of crackers. I started to cry. There were so many boxes of crackers. But my mom is just as emotional. During her appointments and treatment sessions, she needed someone level headed. So I stopped thinking about crackers and started thinking about the enemy, cancer.
The next important part is knowing the enemy. My mom was diagnosed with stage 2B ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). M0 T2/3 N1 and HER2 positive to be exact. I went over every pathology report and recorded everything for me and my mom. Being armed with this information made it easier to understand the doctor and the treatment plans, and it also helped me explain to my mom next steps. Most of the doctor appointments went over her head or she couldn't fully concentrate on them, so I would go over my notes with her after step by step. It helped me process everything, too. Knowing the enemy helped us process the fight.
Another important part to all of this is sacrifice. My husband and I were barely married a year when my mom was diagnosed, and we live in a different city than my mom. To top it off, I don't drive. I took a greyhound to be there for every doctor appointment, stayed a few days after she got her port inserted, and stayed with her a week after her mastectomy which included three days sleeping in the hospital with her. I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I'm so thankful I was able to be part of this journey, but it definitely took its toll on all of us. You need to let your loved one know that the sacrifices that are made, by everyone, are not only willing but desired. At the end of her treatment, my mom got back in touch with my sister and she was able to care for my mom at times (which was easier as they live in the same city) but I still wanted to be there. I wanted to be able to take care of my mom. Any sacrifice I gave is nothing compared to what my mom has had to give up.
December 5th, 2014 my mom was declared cancer free. In that time she lost her hair, lost 20 pounds, had double pneumonia (which put her in the hospital for twelve days), six rounds of chemo, 25 rounds of chemo, a mastectomy, and has now developed lymphedema. Through it all, I've had no greater accomplishment in my life so far than being able to take care of my mom. It's not easy being a caregiver, but I wouldn't trade it for anything and I know most others would say the same.
About the Author:
N.M Sotzek has grown up nearly living in hospitals with her own illnesses. Now an adult, she has had the opportunity to care for her mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Newest Articles in Cancer
Cancer and Obesity: Do I Have Cancer?
Dr. Naresh Parajuli
Obesity is associated with increased risk of many cancers including esophagus, thyroid, colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, breast (after menopause) and uterus. If the global obesity epidemic continues at the present state, despite the new advances in diagnosis and treatment of cancers, the number of cancer cases will ever increase. But one third of cancer cases are preventable if we adopt healthy lifestyle including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, quitting smoking, and reducing/quitting alcohol....
Americans Can Agree on One Thing, According to New Survey
Turns out there is one thing that (most) Americans can agree on - stopping cancer. Nearly three in four American voters favor increasing federal funding for cancer research, according to the results of a new national survey conducted on behalf of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). Hopefully, support for federal funds for cancer research will be raised in the Republican Presidential Debates on CNN tonight....
Massage Improves Immune Function in Women With Breast Cancer
Massage is coming more and more into the field of medicine and just how beneficial it can be. This article is about the use of massage for breast cancer patients....
Natural Cancer Prevention Tips
Most nutritionists recommend that we take a good multivitamin-mineral supplement, too, since it can be difficult to get all you need from foods alone. It is known that cancer thrives in an acidic environment and it cannot survive in an alkaline environment. Many of the foods listed in this article will help you to become more alkaline and less acidic. That is a good thing to help reduce your odds of getting cancer and for being healthier....
Caring for a Loved One With Cancer
Caring for a loved one with cancer is difficult, but likely one of the most important jobs. This article details experience with being a caregiver and what made the journey easier....
Breast Cancer, The Most Frequently Diagnosed Cancer In Women
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women; however it is not a disease exclusively found on the female gender. It also occurs in men but in a much lower incidence rate....
Cause and Symptoms of Cervical Cancer
Cervical cancer is a cancer involving the cervix, a part of the female reproductive tract. Cervix functions as the short tube that connects the vagina to the uterus. This is where the menses or the superficial layer of the uterine walls flow to be expulsed in the vagina....
Other articles by NM Sotzek