November is National Family Caregivers Month.
I feel that this is one group of people who are sorely left out and overlooked during a loved one’s cancer journey, even though they are so incredibly important to it.
A cancer diagnosis is a team sport.
I’ve always said, that a cancer diagnosis is a team sport. You have your star quarterback (the cancer patient) and then all the team players on the field – family, and friends that are there for you day in and day out… One of my podcast guests called them co-patients. “They’re always with you and they’re good when you’re good and bad when you’re bad.” ~Tim R. Tinnin
Then you have the fans in the stands – the doctors, nurses, physical therapists, mental health therapists, your hairdresser (to the extent you have hair or before you lose it all), someone to clean your house, or a personal chef (if you are lucky enough to have one), or even friends making meals via a meal train, the people at your work, your place of worship, your Mahjong group, your book group, etc.
And then there’s everyone else –your community at large, people who may not even know you have a cancer diagnosis, etc. In my case, I worked in a large hospital and most of my co-workers (doctors and nurses) didn’t know I had cancer.
Caregivers take care of more than the patient.
When I talk about caregivers, I mean the people closest to you that help you in myriad ways during your journey. For many, it is a spouse or family member (mother, father, child). They work hard to “hold down the fort” as the patient is working hard to survive, heal, and regain strength.
Many times, they have emotional trauma of their own as they see their loved one suffering so much and they don’t get the same attention or support therapies the patient does. They don’t get support groups, they don’t get therapists to talk about the scariness of their loved one’s existential crisis, or just even to express sadness about how their loved one is feeling (since there are many moments/days of feeling bad).
Taking time to care for patients and other issues.
The other thing we don’t talk about much when it comes to caregivers is the time they take off from work to take care of their loved ones. Taking time off from work is a right afforded to many individuals due to the FCLA (Family Care Leave Act), but it doesn’t guarantee pay during time off, only that the job will still be there for them if they take the time off. So, taking that time could create financial issues.
Resources for caregivers.
If you are a caregiver, I’ve got two podcast episodes worth listening to – Episode 36 with Stephanie Saffer and Episode 39 with Tim R. Tinnin. In these episodes, I spoke with my guests about the hardships and emotional and mental toll of being a caregiver. They were honest and sensitive about their roles as caregivers. If you are a caregiver, I hope you will find these episodes deeply comforting.