October is breast cancer awareness month and for those of us that have been affected by breast cancer one way or another know just how horrible and devastating this disease really is. For those who don’t know, my mother was diagnosed with stage 3 Triple Negative breast cancer in June of 2015. Triple Negative breast cancer is very aggressive and more prevalent in women of color. My mother lost her battle with this horrible disease on January 5, 2016. Cancer not only takes a toll on the individual but on the family members and caregivers as well. As caregivers you often feel so helpless and want nothing more but to take the pain away from your loved one. Thankfully, my sister and I were able to take turns taking my mother to her appointments and to and from chemo. As caregivers, it’s important to take care of yourself. I’ve compiled some tips below that may be helpful for caregivers.
1. Take care of yourself. Trust me I know how ugly this disease is and it takes an emotional and physical toll on all involved. My sister and I have spent countless hours in the hospital, but it’s important to take breaks. Even if you take a couple of hours away from the hospital to recharge.
2. Talk out your pain and frustration. It helps to have a listening ear when going through something like dealing with a loved one with cancer. Sometimes you just need to let it all out.
3. It’s ok to cry. Cancer is devastating and to watch your loved one deal with the effects of chemo and cancer is heartbreaking. Sometimes a good cry helps you feel better.
4. It’s normal to be angry. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for being angry! Anger is an emotion just like sadness. There will be times when you become so angry that this happened to your mother, father, sister, etc.
5. Just like death, cancer comes with a wave of emotions from devastation, anger, sadness, resentment, etc. It’s ok to allow yourself to feel those emotions because it’s a part of the process. If you try to numb the pain it doesn’t go away. These emotions will hit you when you least expect it.
6. Don’t let anyone steal your hope! It’s ok to have hope. Even in the most dire situations such as my mother being on life support we still had a little twinge of hope. Hope gives you a reason to get up every day and to keep fighting. Hope is a defense mechanism, if you don’t have it then you might as well give up.
7. Have faith. It’s easy to have faith until life knocks the wind out of you! People always say have faith that things will work out! Well let me tell you that regardless of your religion or spiritual beliefs it will be tested when dealing with cancer.
8. Ask plenty of questions. It’s important that you fully understand what’s happening. If you need to take notes especially at doctors appointments.