When a person is diagnosed with cancer, it can become quite isolating for both the patient and the family. Often times, friends and family may feel their visit is an imposition not wanting to “get in the way” or “bother the patient.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, at least not in our case.
A large part of treatment is the positive reinforcement patients hear not only from their healthcare professionals but from family and friends alike. Day after day, week after week, we received calls, cards, letters, and sometimes care packages that meant the world to us.
Personally speaking, we were always happy to see a friendly face. Simply knowing there were so many people willing to reach out and help, keeping us in their thoughts and prayers, brought strength in times we needed it most. All calls and visits were welcome and at times longed for.
As a caregiver, there were many solitary nights, when a simple call from a member of my family or a friend helped me through the loneliness. As a cancer patient and as a caregiver, you must stay positive and fight the good fight, because treatments are improving, success rates are getting better and you simply do not know what the future has in store. You cannot allow this disease to beat you. You must stay strong.
As my husband completed treatment, he began to experience the after effects of treatment. We were exhausted and facing yet a new set of challenges. Treatment was over, so there weren’t any weekly doctor appointments, no one to “check-up” on his progress, no one to offer any suggestions, helpful tips or words of encouragement. We were on our own.
This is when you are most vulnerable and must reach out to support groups, for both patient and caregiver. Your emotions are on a perpetual roller coaster, but with the advice of perfect strangers we were able to get through the worst of times. The best advice inevitably came from someone who had a similar experience, and she said, “Do not become isolated, reach out and talk to anyone and everyone, you’ll be amazed.” And she was right; people are amazing and incredibly supportive.
Because of the help we received, I am happy to speak or write to any new patient or their caregiver about our journey and listen to their fears and concerns for their loved ones and themselves. In fact, it is one of the reasons I wrote Destination Cancer Free. Hearing from ordinary people facing similar extraordinary circumstances helps to reinforce that you too will get through this. I want to help others face this challenge that life has presented and to stress the importance to everyone to never give up!
Sites such as WhatNext.com allow patients and caregivers to do just that. Share their questions, concerns and fears with others that have walked the path before them. Together we are stronger.
Barbara is a caregiver for her Husband who is a Head & Neck Cancer survivor, and a WhatNexter. You can visit her profile page on WhatNext by clicking here. She is author of the book Destination Cancer Free, which can be found here. Destination Cancer Free