When a loved one is diagnosed with cancer, taking care of that person can fall on your shoulders whether you choose it or not. Whether you have time or not. Whether you are young or old. Whether you are related to that person or not.
Firefly Sisterhood interviewed many people for our Caregiver blog series, and we learned that caregiving is a labor of love. Love that is real, raw, and doesn’t always feel good. Love that looks like:
- Debbie’s*, who, as an adult, was simultaneously taking care of her dad in hospice and mom in chemotherapy. She found that “it was extremely challenging to keep my head on right while working full time, maintaining my home life, and trying to stay healthy while getting very little sleep, eating very poorly, and putting most of my relationships on hold.” Read about adult children as caregivers for their parents HERE.
- Kara’s*, who, as a teenager, was taking care of her mom. “I started having to learn how to cook and I had to take not only my own chores on but her chores. . . . It was always hard and very stressful.” Listen to young children and teens share their experience as caregivers HERE.
- Jane’s*, who finds herself in situations she could never have imagined as caregiver for her friend Karen. “I have seen Karen with her shirt off after surgeries and I’ve stripped her drain tubes. I’ve helped her write her healthcare directive and living will.” Read how friends navigate caregiving HERE.
- Emma’s*, whose daughter has Stage IV breast cancer. To cope, Emma has joined her daughter for therapy sessions and keeps a journal where she can express her thoughts and frustrations and “get rid of them.” Emma admits, “I never want to read it again.” Read about parents as caregivers to their adult children HERE.
- Jayden’s*, whose newborn baby just “didn’t look right, with bumps all over (a) terribly distended tummy.” At 10 weeks old, her baby was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma and Jayden admits, “I kind of lost myself and either became numb or couldn’t stop crying.” Read how traumatic parenting a baby or young child diagnosed with cancer is HERE.
- Chris’s*, whose wife’s cancer “became like the third child in our marriage. It was super needy, very unpredictable and could be the biggest pain in the (butt).” Read how cancer changes day to day life for a spouse caregiver HERE.
- Cindy’s*, whose marriage changed dramatically with her husband’s diagnosis and treatment. “Nobody talks about the physical intimacy issues, and that just wasn’t there—my husband just didn’t have the energy for it.” Read how cancer causes changes in self and marriage HERE.
If you find yourself a caregiver to someone with cancer, there are local resources that are available to help and support those who are caregivers:
- Pathways: holistic health events, classes, and sessions for caregivers.
- Gilda’s Club Twin Cities: support programs for anyone impacted by cancer, including survivors, caregivers, family, and friends.
- Jack’s Caregiver Coalition: support and events for spouses who are cancer caregivers.
- Angel Foundation: their Facing Cancer Together program offers support for children and families in which a parent has cancer or is a cancer caregiver.
- Brighter Days Grief Center: for caregivers anticipating or experiencing the loss of a loved one.
Online resources are available for caregivers to find support as well:
- CancerCare: free caregiving online support, podcasts, and information by cancer type.
- Springboard Beyond Cancer: resources for caregiver “self-management” (all of the actions you take to deal with problems and prevent new ones).
- Caregiver Action Network (CAN): resources, forums, and more for caregivers.
- National Cancer Institute: Information on being a caregiver, taking care of yourself, and long-distance caregiving.
- Family Caregiver Alliance: Taking Care of YOU Self-Care for Family Caregivers article.
We are incredibly grateful for the men, women, and children who have shared their stories with us—and you—for this Caregiver Blog Series. May their experiences shine a light on the stress and challenges unique to caregivers of any age, and may their honesty and wisdom inspire you, whether you are a caregiver or experiencing cancer yourself.
For a downloadable pdf of the above resources and blog series, click the following: Caregiver Resources & Blog Series
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality.
This blog series has been a labor of love, as I (Amy Tix, Firefly Sisterhood’s Communications Manager) have interviewed each caregiver—listening to their experiences, sharing their tears, and being reminded again and again how easy it is to take for granted the caregivers in my life, especially those amazing family and friends who took care of me through my own breast cancer experience 12 years ago.
“One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.” –Jim Rohn