By Mike Snyder
Early in my cancer journey, my wife Sarah made an interesting observation. "You know what it's like to be a cancer patient," she said. "But you don't know what it's like to have a family member who's a cancer patient."
She was absolutely right. I had an idea of what my family was feeling, but I didn't really know how they felt. I wasn't the one who had a family member with cancer.
I knew how to be a cancer patient, but not how to be a supporter or caregiver for someone with cancer.
From that point on, and especially after coming to MD Anderson, I've spent a lot of time thinking about cancer's impact on the people who love them.
As patients, we have resources to help us deal with the physical and emotional toll of cancer. But what about our family members, friends and caregivers? What's available to make their journey easier?
Results tagged “Caregiver”
By Mike Snyder
By Bailey Heard
I met Andrew Heard at Baylor University in 2005. He was a seminary student who played on the Baylor football team, and I was a business major who cheered on the coed squad for Baylor.
We were set up on a blind date by mutual friends and married in 2007.
Andrew's history of Hodgkin lymphoma
From the moment I met Andrew, I was blown away by his intelligence and his drive.
One of the many things I found fascinating about him was that he'd already written a book about his cancer experience in high school.
By LeAnne Gibbs
Aside from the birth of our daughter, our life has been a flood of awful since my husband Francis was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Yet, under all this runs a strong current of beautiful moments, lessons and experiences.
On April 11, we met with an admissions specialist for hospice care. This was a big step because it felt like giving up.
This was an equally difficult and simple decision to make.
My husband, Francis, has stage IV colon cancer. Since his diagnosis, many people have asked how they can help.
Last week I shared advice on what to say and how to support a cancer patient and his or her family.
By LeAnne Gibbs
It seems that something about cancer affects our filters/manners/politeness, and in an effort to say the right thing, we say exactly the most awkward, wrong thing. I, myself, have been guilty of not knowing what to say or saying the wrong things.
I've perused the web for intelligent advice on what to say or not to say to someone with a terminal cancer diagnosis.
My husband, Francis, has terminal stage IV colon cancer, so I have some experience under my belt as well.
Here's what we've found most distressing or helpful.
Cancer runs in my family
There's an abundance of cancer in my family; almost all my relatives have had at least one form of cancer. Even my mother is a 19-year breast cancer survivor, as well as a bladder cancer and basal cell survivor.
I thought her bout with cancer was over, but I should've known better. You always have to be on guard against the ugly beast, cancer.
By Katie Narvarte
Katie is a social worker and caregiver to her fiancé Justin, who has chronic myeloid leukemia. She is a social worker, living and working in Dallas, Texas. Their wedding date is set for next October.
Do what you can do and that's all you can do.
That's my mom's well-known mantra. The phrase used to drive me -- a Type-A control freak -- completely insane. I never understood why my sweet (and oh so persistent) mom, a two-time caregiver and intensive care unit nurse, always repeated this phrase to me.
I finally began to process her words this past January as I cared for my fiancé during his cancer drug trial, the darkest time in our lives.
After a long and successful career in broadcast journalism in Houston, North Texas and Oklahoma, Judy Overton joined MD Anderson in 2008 as a senior communications specialist. Her husband, Tom, was treated at MD Anderson for renal cancer. He died in April 2007. Judy's occasional posts will cover aspects of the cancer experience from the caregiver's perspective. Read more posts in this series
I didn't think much about being a caregiver until I wasn't one anymore. It isn't something in which you test the waters. You are simply thrust into the situation as I was almost eight years ago.
Family and support groups can ease the abrupt transition, says Djuana Fomby, a social work counselor at MD Anderson. Fomby facilitates a caregivers' only support group every Tuesday, 12:30-1:30 p.m., at the Rotary House in the patient guest relations room on the MD Anderson campus.
Care4Caregivers is an opportunity for those supporting cancer patients to speak openly and honestly about their experiences. Fomby says the needs of a caregiver differ based on the stage of their loved one's cancer experience.
Master the system
In the first six months of diagnosis, the caregiver is in a state of shock.
"While they want information, they're overwhelmed," Fomby says. "Their feelings are fragile and their anxiety level is high-pitched. They don't have an understanding of what being a caregiver is going to mean. They're thinking strictly, 'Save my loved one's life.'"
Once someone has been a caregiver for three or more years, Fomby says, "They're calmer. They come to the realization the cancer will be there, the financial challenges will be there. They settle in to a new normal."
By Stephen Collazo, social work counselor
National Family Caregivers Month is here, and I want to start by thanking all of the caregivers reading this for your help in Making Cancer History. Without the numerous hours of care and support you give your loved ones -- our patients -- it would be much more difficult for MD Anderson to provide the quality of care that we do.
Caregivers of cancer patients may face several challenges while caring for a loved one.
Emotional distress and learning to cope with the patient's cancer is the most commonly identified stressor for caregivers. Not only are the actual tasks of providing care taxing, but having to see the person you truly care for suffer can make caregiving even more challenging.
Helpful strategies for the caregiver
While your job can be difficult, caregivers may find the following strategies helpful throughout their loved one's cancer experience.
By Gasper Mir
Gasper Mir met his wife, Marisa, more than two decades ago at The University of Texas, Austin. Two years after they married, she was diagnosed with colon cancer. With Gasper by her side, Marisa has been cancer free for nine years. Gasper hopes his story will encourage and inspire fellow caregivers.
This post is part of our Caregiver Week series, November 12-16.
Being a caregiver for a loved one is the most difficult, emotionally draining, frustrating, but enriching, experience.
For me, there was never a choice. My wife was diagnosed with cancer and so I became her caregiver. It was what she needed and I knew that to get through it, I would have to swallow my fears and anxieties about what was to come. I had to be as strong as could be for her.
Tough to remain positive
In those first few months after her diagnosis, it was tough to remain positive as her body went through the painful rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. It was heart wrenching to watch her face the prospect of losing her battle, and to know that I could not assure her of a happy ending.
So I did what I had to do. I was by her side as she went through her treatments and doctors visits, remaining positive and supportive as we made life changing decisions, sometimes in the blink of an eye, hoping they were the right ones.
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