Caregiver: someone who helps an individual with his or her daily living activities; they come in the form of both family and friends.
I am very fortunate to have the most kind and supportive caregivers in my life. It is often hard to ask others for help; I know it was, and still is for me. We think that no matter what, we are invincible.
When I received my first cancer diagnosis, I had no idea what I was in for. I thought I would be able to handle everything I did in a normal day. Ha! Thankfully, an incredible woman, a mom who I met through my son’s school, was a tremendous help. After asking me if it would be okay, she organized and set up a schedule for friends to bring over a hot dinner while I was going through chemotherapy. Unfortunately, she had friends who went through cancer treatments like I was going to, and knew what I would be experiencing. Besides making meals, friends visited, sent emails, and drove me to doctor appointments and the kids to their after school activities. Thankfully, I didn’t need to ask. It was just done by friends who cared.
Although my siblings do not live close to me, they are caregivers in their own ways. Phone calls from all of my siblings were supportive and encouraging. When, I had surgeries, my oldest brother would stay at my house with Michaela, Max, and Wally. He continues to visit, and is a great help in times of need.
When I received my second diagnosis in September 2013 and found out I would need chemotherapy again, I knew what to expect. But, guess what? I still did not ask for help because I still find it hard to do.
After my first round of chemo in October, I met with some of my girlfriends for lunch. They asked what I needed help with. I did not really give them an answer. So these beautiful friends took it upon themselves to divide up responsibilities. They organized a meal schedule, rides for my son, and one friend would bring me to the hospital the day after chemo to receive a Neulasta injection. Perfect! All taken care of. So grateful.
As shocking and upsetting as this new diagnosis is to friends, it is especially hard for my family. My siblings continue with their love and support. Visits are great, but because of the distance between us, a phone call is wonderful too! At times I need to comfort them and tell them all will be okay…..and it will. My husband Mark, and my children Michaela and Max, who I love with all my heart, have all taken on added responsibilities at home. They are caregivers in every sense of the word.
Thankfully, I have the best husband in the world, certainly deserving of the mug that states #1 DAD. I truly believe fate brought us together. Mark accompanies me to all my doctor appointments at Dana Farber Cancer Institute. He is very comforting during these visits. He wants me to be happy, and does a great job of making this happen. Because I tire easily, he hired someone to come and clean the house for me because he knows a clean house is very important to me. Thoughtful? Yes!
It makes me sad that my children have to witness first hand what cancer can do to a family. They have dealt with it admirably. I smile when I think about how they would come home from school and the first thing they would ask me was how I was feeling, and if I needed anything. Selfish? No!
My family, and friends have been with me every step of this journey.
It is not a journey I wish for anyone to have to take. But since I am taking it, having caring, kind, and supportive people in my life makes this unpleasant situation more tolerable.
Therefore, I find it a little bit easier to ask for help now because I have learned that people genuinely want to help.
My advice to anyone who would like to help someone who is dealing with an illness, is to not just ask what they might need, but make suggestions on what you can do for them. Going to the grocery store? Ask what you can pick up for them. Picking up your child after school? See if their child needs a ride too. Free on Tuesdays? Ask if they have any appointments they need a ride to.
Thank you to all the caregivers in my life and those in others’ lives.
Caregivers, what would we do without you?!