I thought I was invincible; until cancer showed me that I wasn’t. My family and boyfriend were my caregivers throughout my ordeal with cancer and they did a fabulous job; I’m still here. I do have some tips for caregivers, from the patients perspective to make things easier for everyone and give the patient as much comfort as possible.
Talk About Dying: I needed to talk about death. It was a very real possibility for me, but it naturally upset everyone to discuss it. When a person is truly facing the end of their life, it is perfectly natural to wonder how it will feel to die, be curious about what will happen to their body, worry about unbearable pain, and feel a need for closure with their loved ones.
If the person you’re caring for wants to talk about the “what if’s”, please let them get it out. It’s much scarier when you have to keep it inside. Just because you talk about it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.
Talk About Living: Sick people also want to make plans, talk about living, and need to know that you won’t give up on them. I was put on hospice and told I would die; with absolute certainty, within 3 days. It’s now a year and a half later. I was just the maid of honor at my cousins wedding. Everyone makes their own choice about how long and hard to fight, but if the cancer patient hasn’t given up…for goodness sakes, don’t treat them like they won’t make it.
Physical Contact: I know that when someone is very ill, they seem to have tubes and wires coming out everywhere. I had three IV’s, two drains, a feeding tube in my abdomen, a catheter, and a stomach pump; all at once. Guess what? I still wanted to be held.
Everyone was so worried about hurting me. All you have to do is open your arms and let the cancer patient lay on you in a way that’s comfortable for them. Rub their hair, massage the places that aren’t injured, and hold their hand. Don’t be afraid to hug us; please!
Small Comforts: The smallest things provide the most comfort when you cannot do anything for yourself. Having something to nibble on and a drink within reach, someone remembering to brush your teeth, or going the extra mile to wash your hair with actual hot water, rubbing lotion that smells good on your legs, reading to you, or taking the time to get you dressed and help you outside to get some fresh air…all of these little things mean the world.
Guilt: We feel guilty for being sick. I hated the toll it took on my family; especially my children. I felt so guilty for being sick. I know it was hard for me, but it was just as hard for them. Realize that even if we don’t say thank you every single day, sometimes it’s just because we feel so darn bad. No cancer patient would make it without a great caregiver or a team of caregivers. You may feel guilty because you’re tired of all of it; dealing with the illness, the long hours, the worry, and the tears. That’s understandable. The best thing is to talk about it. No one should keep their emotions in check all of the time. Cry it out together.
Laughter: Laughter really is great medicine. Did you know that laughter can alleviate pain? It can prolong someone’s life? It’s true. It can even improve your immune system, according to the Mayo Clinic. It doesn’t matter if you watch The Three Stooges, tell each other knock knock jokes, or just get the giggles, but it really does help.
Celebrate: Celebrate life; each day. That is the very thing that a cancer patient is fighting so hard for, enduring the horrible treatments for…to stay here with you…for one more day.
More from Carrie:
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Cancer Treatments Without Insurance: Real Solutions to Get the Help You Need