Navigating Cancer has just announced the results of their recent Caregivers survey. There are millions of cancer patient surveys out there - what kind of cancer, how long have you had it, what stage at diagnosis, treatment etc. Then there are a few more million surveys and questionnaires on how well you are protecting yourself against cancer through lifestyle, exercise, and eating habits. Caregiver surveys and issues are seldom addressed. Or should I say addressed too infrequently.
Navigating Cancer looked at the issues caregivers face and the emotional, financial, and physical strains they cope with. They surveyed over 300 current and past caregivers - most of whom are spouses or other family members. I can easily compare this with my life in the past three years where my husband was my caregiver during my treatment and I was my husband's caregiver through his surgery and (long) recovery from his colectomy.
It is nice to see in the survey that we are not alone in dealing with the same issues. The number one item that was provided by caregivers is moral support - also known as 'smiling on the outside and crying on the inside'. "Yes, you'll be fine (I really, really, really hope)."
Our big coping mechanism is humor. While I was going through chemo, my husband accompanied me and we would play scrabble while sitting there for hours of infusions. My husband would tell me he liked it when the drugs kicked in and I couldn't form words longer than 2 letters and he would easily win.
But cancer is very isolating as are many other medical ailments. Your caregiver becomes your rock who supports you through the roller coaster of treatment. You don't get to choose your caregiver, they just sort of happen. You know who they are, they know who you are and what you need. But they are greatly under appreciated. They make sure you get to appointments when you can't go by yourself. They change bandages, look at yucky things and tell you they really aren't that bad. They help with drains. They remind you to take your pills. They hold your hand when it hurts.
Go give your caregiver an extra hug for their support.
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