Just for Caregivers

Despite the sadness and shock of having a loved one with cancer, many people find personal satisfaction in caring for that person. You may see it as a meaningful role that allows you to show your love and respect for the person. It may also feel good to be helpful and know that you are needed by a loved one. You may find that caregiving enriches your life. You may feel a deep sense of satisfaction, confidence, and accomplishment in caring for someone. You may also learn about inner strengths and abilities that you didn't even know you had, and find a greater sense of purpose for your own life.

The caregiving role can open up doors to new friends and relationships, too. Through a support group, you may get to know people who have faced the same kinds of problems. Caregiving can also draw families together and help people feel closer to the person who needs care. Caring for someone going through cancer treatment is a demanding role, but being good at it can give you a sense of meaning and pride. These good feelings can give you the strength and endurance to continue in the role for as long as you are needed.

Providing care for a family member in need is a centuries-old act of kindness, love, and loyalty. And as life expectancies increase and medical treatments advance, more and more of us will participate in the caregiving process, either as the caregiver, the recipient of care, or possibly both.

Caregivers are Critical

Giving care can mean helping with daily needs. These include going to doctor visits, making meals, and picking up medicines. It can also mean helping your loved one cope with feelings. Like when he or she feels sad or angry. Sometimes having someone to talk to is what your loved one needs most. While giving care, it's normal to put your own needs and feelings aside. But putting your needs aside for a long time is not good for your health. You need to take care of yourself, too. If you don't, you may not be able to care for others. This is why you need to take good care of you.

Caring for someone going through cancer treatment can be very stressful and exhausting. It takes emotional, spiritual, and physical strength. Unfortunately, caregiving can take a heavy toll if you don’t get adequate support. Caregiving involves many stressors: changes in the family dynamic, household disruption, financial pressure, and the sheer amount of work involved. The rewards of caregiving – if they come at all – are intangible and far off, and often there is no hope for a happy outcome.

Caregiver burnout is a real issue. There are several steps you can take to help assist you with caregiver burnout issues. Focus on a healthy good diet, exercise, possibly keeping a diary, receiving professional counseling and staying current on the related cancer. The American Cancer Society has information under their search engine on caregiver burnout. You may want to also try the website Caregiver 911.

"What cancer cannot do"
(Author unknown)
Cancer is so Limited...
It cannot cripple love,
It cannot shatter hope,
It cannot corrode faith,
It cannot destroy peace,
It cannot kill friendship,
It cannot suppress memories,
It cannot silence courage,
It cannot invade the soul,
It cannot steal eternal life,
It cannot conquer the spirit.

Symptom Management

(from the National Institutes of Health)

Scientific discoveries have transformed cancer from a usually fatal disease to a curable illness for some people and a chronic condition for many more. With this shift has come not only a growing optimism about the future but also an increasing appreciation for the human costs of cancer care. As patients live longer with cancer, concern is growing about both the health-related quality of life of those diagnosed with cancer and the quality of care they receive. Cancer care progresses through stages, including diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, and sometimes end-of-life care. Primary care providers, specialists, other health care providers, patients, and families all have an important role in symptom management throughout the course of cancer.

It is currently estimated that there are nearly 9 million persons with a history of cancer in the United States. An estimated 1.3 million people will be diagnosed this year alone, of whom approximately 60 percent will survive at least 5 years after diagnosis. The number of cancer survivors will continue to grow. Given these figures, addressing the effect of symptoms of cancer on individuals' lives is becoming increasingly critical to efforts to reduce the burden of cancer and its treatment.

Despite advances in early detection and effective treatment, cancer remains one of the most feared diseases, due to its association not only with death but also with diminished quality of life. Among the most common symptoms of cancer and treatments for cancer are pain, depression, and fatigue. These symptoms may persist or appear, even after treatment ends.

Although research is producing new insights into the causes of and cures for cancer, efforts to manage the symptoms of the disease and its treatments have not kept pace. Evidence suggests that pain is frequently undertreated. Patients and healthcare providers have reported depression and persistent lack of energy as the aggressiveness of therapy has increased and/or the underlying malignancy has worsened. These symptoms, alone or in combination, may be perceived and managed differently in children and adolescents, older adults, those from low income or low educational backgrounds, and those from ethnically and culturally diverse groups.

Family members and caregivers play an important role in the overall care of the patient with cancer.