I Feel Your Pain

Crisis is upon you… A loved one is fighting for their life. So many people may want to help, but they don’t know what to do. Understanding the emotional volatility of a caregiver and their family is a good starting place.

The Human Side of Caregiving

Taking care of someone you love who is dealing with a life-and-death health battle may be the single biggest challenge you face in life. Not only do you have to stretch your own life in a hundred different ways, but you’re also losing the support of someone who was once there for you if that person is a close family member or spouse. Not only are you confronting your loved one’s fears about pain, death and dying, but you are confronting your own. You’re exhausted and find yourself going blank when a doctor, nurse or health care professional is speaking to you. You are unable to set limits on how much time you spend on your loved one’s health problems.

Your emotional swings are as manic as theirs. Chronically sleep-deprived, you snap at your family, forget to care for your dog or cat, lose your car keys or glasses, and even forget why you went into a room when you get there! You feel totally responsible, guilty, embarrassed at your own fears and often are not able to articulate this to anyone. You may even feel guilty for being healthy and neglect your own health! You stop going to the health club. Your job begins to suffer. You begin to withdraw socially, never having the energy or down time for fun. You forget to laugh because nothing is funny anymore.

Unless someone has gone through a sudden life-and-death health battle themselves or with a family member they do not understand what you are feeling. You stop sharing your challenges because you feel that no one wants to hear your problems all the time and your life is consumed with challenges every minute of every day so you have nothing else to share. You may even create an invisible wall around yourself. Bottom line…you know you must keep going even as the problems mount.

Some caregivers are seen as a rock; the one everyone goes to and depends on, the one with answers and assurances. Others find themselves a puddle, incapable of doing more than being present in the room with the person who is battling for their life. Either way, as a caregiver you deal with the very real possibility that you may have to face the death of someone you deeply love and care for. Truth is, no one wants to confront life-threatening health conditions unless forced to!

Knowing how a caregiver feels is a starting point to being a supportive friend. Assure caregivers that you want to hear about their challenges. Encourage them to share. Be willing to step up if you know there is something you can do or if there are others you know who can help. Understanding how they feel is a first step in helping keep them emotionally healthy during this challenging journey with their loved one.

About Here to Serve’s Advisory Board Member Dr. Judith Sato, MD

Here to Serve is proud to have one of the nation’s top cancer doctors on its advisory board, Dr. Judith Sato. She not only brings medical knowledge, but first hand experience working with parents who face the difficult situation of caring for a child afflicted with the disease.

Not only is Dr. Sato a physician at one of the top cancer centers in the U.S., City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., but she’s director of its Musculoskeletal Tumor Program and a researcher and pediatric oncologist known around the country. A specialist in treating bone tumors and cancers found in body extremities, Dr. Sato helped to establish standards used worldwide in the treatment of childhood cancers.

Prior to working at City of Hope, Dr. Sato was clinical director and deputy head of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. She lectures around the world and is author of numerous research papers.

Our Inspiration: Paul M. Alindog-Bouvier

Though cancer took his left arm, Paul M. Alindog-Bouvier is remembered by his friends for his enduring faith and for doing more with his right arm than most people with both arms.

Stricken with cancer for eight years, Paul would study and prepare for his classes and exams during his chemotherapy sessions. He did not allow his condition damage his spirit or keep him from taking part in sports, student government and music. His peers named him “Most Inspiring Student” in middle school and high school for his boundless optimism and involvement in his activities, despite his health.

Before his death, Paul was active in fundraising for the Camp Ronald McDonald House and the City of Hope. Just as important, Paul was a friend to Bryan M. Quintas, the son of Here to Serve CEO Katie Quintas who also endured his own diagnosis and treatment for cancer. Knowing Paul is a gift from God, and though he is gone, what we do at Here to Serve honors his memory.