A Day in the Life of a Cancer Caregiver

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It has been seven months since I began this blog. A lot has changed in life; not just mine, but my family’s. This disease forever changes a person. It is a hate-hate relationship that annoys oneself everyday. You begin to look for the better of the worse and find any good news to celebrate and cherish.

My mom was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that metastasized. This journey has been full of downs, some ups, and a reevaluation of what life is really about. Today I have to say was a good day! Her new chemo treatment has stablized the disease with slight improvement in the lung and other areas. Hence, we celebrated this news!

Today’s blog is to hopefully help any affected by cancer. I have been on my own journey and struggles with this disease and thought I would share what I have learned so far!

What I have learned about being a caregiver to a cancer patient:

1. CANCER SUCKS!

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Let’s get straight to the point! This disease is not wanted. This disease is not fun. This disease is a daily annoyance. I have never heard someone who has cancer or who is affected by cancer say they like this disease or do not mind it. Can you situation be worse? YES, but no cancer patient is happy with the diagnosis. It just plain sucks. And so do all the emotions that come with the disease.

2. Do not tell the cancer patient what he/she needs to do.

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As a caregiver, it is difficult to know when to encourage and when to back off because everyday is different! There is so much that goes through a cancer patients mind and a caregivers mind, that sometimes you just do not know what to do, what to say, when to say things, how to say things, or even how to get through the day itself! One thing I encounted when researching cancer was diet and how important it is. YOU CANNOT MAKE SOMEONE CHANGE HIS/HER DIET UNLESS HE/SHE WANTS TO!!!!!!!!! Don’t do it. Don’t force it on the cancer patient. You most likely will upset him/her or make him/her angry.

3. Get a notebook and take notes.

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This advice was given to me from a co-worker who is a cancer survivor. I have to admit, it is great advice. From the initial disgnosis until the end, take notes and date them. This has been so helpful! There is so much information given, so many new terminology, tons of appointments, and then there is chemo brain! I swear it is contagious!!! With so much information, the brain just cannot remember all of it. Do yourself a favor and save everyone a headache and take notes! Or atleast ask for print out of the bloodwork.

4. Cherish and make time to spend with your family.

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This is so important. Cancer puts a perspective on life that many people take for granted. Cancer patients simply cannot enjoy life the same way they did before being diagnosed. Take time to call your parents. Go see your grandmother and grandfather. Plan into your busy schedule TIME TO SEE YOUR FAMILY before it is too late. I am not going to lie. I talked to my mom a lot before she was diagnosed with cancer, but I should have made more of an effort to go see her. I was always too busy with LIFE and did not see her as much as I should have. SPEND TIME WITH YOUR FAMILY!

5. Take care of yourself!

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As a caregiver, it is so easy to forget about yourself. This is what happened to me. I found myself anger and on the edge. I thought I was anxious before, well anxiety can hit the roof at times. There are days that you just do not want to be bothered or do anything. But you have to get help if you need it, exercise, and talk to people about your feelings. I began going to to a cancer support group and it does wonders! It is just so nice being in a room with people who understand exactly how you feel! My group made me realize how much weight I actually gained; almost 30 pounds. If I did not go to this group, I would probably be up to 50 pounds by now. But my point is, the caregiver needs to fight this disease as well. It is a challenge at times to eat better, or go exercise, but your body needs it. Also, exercise relieves stress way better than eating a cake!

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The Day my World was Turned Upside Down

I had just gotten back from Orlando, Florida when I received the phone call from my mom. I sat down to work on some grad school assignments, but that ended up not happening. On Friday, June 2, 2017 at approximately 7:30 pm, my life forever changed. My mom gave me the bad news; she has stage IV Lung Cancer. I cannot tell you the amount of emotions that ran through my body that night and into the weekend. Still, the emotions are overwhelming at times. Quite frankly, I felt numb. I felt like someone punched me in the gut as hard as they could. I looked it too from all the crying and lack of sleep.

This blog is the journey of me and my mother. I hope this blog can be supportive for anyone who is fighting cancer, helping a loved one fight cancer, or someone who just want to try to make a difference in the world. But I also hope others who are not fighting cancer take time to read my blog. I want families to realize that life is too short and you never know what can happen down the road. DO NOT TAKE LIFE FOR GRANTED! Spend time with your family and cherish all the moments you can, because one day, it will change. Had I known my mom would be diagnosed with a terminal disease, I would have spent more time in her life than my own. My mom and I are very close and I always make sure to talk to her, but I would have visited more often than I previously chose.

Take time to hug your loved ones and tell them you love them.

That first weekend in June was one of the worst weekends in my life. I felt like death and looked like death probably. My moms cancer diagnosis was a whirlwind – all happening so fast. In less than a month, my mom was diagnosed, had every scan possible conducted, seen oncologists, nurses, surgeons, orthopedic doctors, spine doctors, you name it. My mom even requested an anesthesiologist, Dr. Tolani (I am not sure if this is the correct way to spell his name), for the installation of her port. She made his day as she was the first to request him EVER, but at the same time he was so sad she had requested him coming to find out it was cancer and a port being surgically installed.

This anesthesiologist brought smiles to my mom and I will never forget his face! My mom felt to safe under his care in surgery and she trusted him. My mom has a lot of allergies to medicines and according to my mom, “He used just the right amount of whatever to not make me feel completely whacked out for the next few days.” If she ever needs another surgery, she will be requesting him.

My advice on choosing doctors to family members who have a loved one with cancer:

  • Make sure you like your doctors – surgeons, oncologists, and who ever else you might see – it is important to the patient and makes him or her feel better!
  • Do some research one them – your family member deserves nothing but the best care!
  • Ask them questions!

Overall, when the initial diagnosis is revealed, it’s hard to think of anything at all. But my mom needed me more than ever. I could not be a huge mess. Now the roles are reversed; she was my support system growing up and now I am hers!

Just like the picture at the top shows a fish jumping out of one bowl to another; that is how I feel. Change has come in my family’s life and there is no going back.