What if you suddenly
found yourself in the role of caregiver to a loved one with cancer? Do you know what you would do?
We are learning
through our interviews with cancer patients that most go through a
process. Whether they felt 'intuitively'
they had something wrong with them or their diagnosis comes as a shock, they
suffer an initial disbelief that they themselves, have cancer.
Through the process
of medical tests, doctor visits, treatments, experiencing the physical side
effects of treatment, surgery, radiation or whatever their particular case
entails, they eventually reach a point of acceptance. They accept they have cancer or have had
cancer. If circumstances are such that
the cancer will take the patients life, they come to accept that too, most
often with peace.
Our interviews with
caregivers are teaching us that their experience of cancer is an entirely
different one than that of the patient.
They feel compelled
to try and do something about the diagnosis.
Many run to the
internet, seek out friends who have had experience with cancer to learn what
they can over and above what a doctor has told them, to see if they can find a
way, a loophole if you will, wherein will lie the 'cure'.
They feel if they
can get their loved one in for a second opinion they will learn that there is
in fact, no cancer. A mistake has been
They feel afraid to
leave their loved one alone - afraid that in their absence 'the worst' will
occur but if they are around, eagle eyed and watchful, then things will hang in
the balance at 'okay'.
They feel compelled
to ask again and again, 'How do you feel?', 'Are you okay?'. They hold their breath while waiting for the
answer, which they can only hope will be, 'I'm fine.' They never believe the answer 'I'm fine',
though. The person has cancer, they
cannot be fine. They are only saying
they are fine because they don't want me to worry. So they worry more, wondering what is not
fine about how the patient is REALLY feeling.
The stress is
astronomic. The level of responsibility
they feel is enormous. Exhaustion sets in for which there is no
This behaviour of
the caregiver is very difficult for the cancer patient to understand. Perhaps it is because when ones body is
seriously ill, the mind undergoes a process which takes them on a long journey
from disbelief, to acceptance, to peace, but for a caregiver, they are often
stuck in denial or disbelief or overwhelmed with a feeling that they must take
action even though they are not sure what it is. Caregivers rarely seem to move to acceptance
and if they do, peace doesn't seem to be attached.
If you know someone
who is a caregiver to a cancer patient.
Give them a hug today. They need