Abstract The opportunity to be a caregiver to someone who has been diagnosed with cancer is an experience like no other. Through the fear, pain and heartache, caregivers also can experience tremendous joy. Being a Cancer Patient’s Caregiver Many people know someone who has been diagnosed with some form of cancer. Few, however, have the opportunity to be a caregiver to a person who contracts that disease. For those who are given the chance, being a caregiver to a cancer patient can be shocking, frustrating, and, hopefully, very rewarding.
According to the American Cancer Society (2013) the estimated new cases of cancer in 2013 will be 1,660,290. There will likely be that many who will stand by the side of the patient and act as caregivers, normally a person who is next of kin to the afflicted. When a loved one is first diagnosed with cancer, the person closest to them feels the shock and denial in much the same way as the patient. The very nature of the “C” word is such that we always want to believe it will happen to the other person. When a doctor looks at a couple and says, “We believe this spot is malignant”, one’s mind may shut down and scream “No!
” Humans are the only animals aware of their mortality. Yet when someone very close to us is faced with that possibility, our immediate reaction is to assume there is a misdiagnosis. Shock and denial are the norm in the early stages of cancer. Frustrations begin as early as the testing stage. In the case of a colonoscopy, the patient is asleep, but not so the caregiver. One must wonder how the loved one is fairing. How much pain will the loved one be in once they awaken? How can he or she even survive that sort of test? And once the diagnosis is made, the caregiver begins to feel out of control.
Other tests are scheduled. Surgery may be needed. And through it all, the caregiver has very little say as to what needs to happen. Afterward, when the patient must undergo chemotherapy, there is more frustration from not being able to help the patient. The chemo is going to make him or her sick. The patient is going to have nausea. He or she is going to throw up. He or she is going to have headaches. That person is going to sometimes feel it is not worth it. The caregiver can offer moral support but cannot do much of anything to help.
Putting a cool rag on the patient’s forehead seems little compensation for the amount of suffering that the patient is going through. When a loved one fights so hard that they look downtrodden and gets so awfully sick that he or she says, “I don’t think I can do this anymore,” the caregiver will know true frustration. As the patient progresses through the chemo, though, there begin to be the little victories. The physician may prescribe the strongest medication to fight the nausea and it will be obvious that the medication is helping. The nausea subsides and the number of times the patient throws up becomes less and less.
The patient may lose their hair from the chemo, but the day the patient gets a wig that just enhances their natural good looks is one that can be labeled as bittersweet. The nurses in the chemo room get to know the patient and the caregiver and they may begin to make comments about how much better the patient is looking. At some point the patient finally says, “I actually think I can beat this! ” Then the caregiver can only shout, “Hallelujah! ” Within the last two or three treatments some tests are run and they show that the patient is clear from cancer.
The chemo may be continued through the scheduled number of treatments as a safeguard, but it becomes very obvious that the loved one’s cancer is now in a state of remission. At that point, it becomes just as hard to hold in the exuberance as it had been to hold in the frustration. Then comes the great day when the patient finishes chemo and can ring the bell of victory. Most chemotherapy treatment centers have a bell of some sort outside their facility. It is rung to symbolize completion of treatment and victory over the cancer.
When a patient is able to ring that bell, joy unspeakable fills the heart and consumes the mind of both the patient and caregiver. It can only be hoped that no one would ever have to go through the roller coaster ride of being a caregiver to a cancer patient. Unfortunately, the statistics show that it is very likely that some who read this will have to do so. To those who must endure it, the shocks and frustrations can be extremely hard. Staying strong and helping the patient as much as possible and just being by his or her side will produce rewards.
Those rewards may be few and far between, but they cumulatively lead up to the cancer’s remission and the loved one’s victory over that dreaded disease. Then the caregiver too can ring that bell! By John I. Cox October, 2013 Phone : 903-330-8721 Email : jicox2013@gmail. com All I ask is for copyright privileges.
References American Cancer Society, Surveillance Research (2013) Retrieved from http://www. cancer. org/research/cancerfactsfigures/cancerfactsfigures/cancer-facts-figures-2013-most-requested-tables-figures Outline I. Intro A. Many people know cancer patients B.Few get to be caregivers C. Thesis statement – “For those who are given that chance, being a caregiver to the cancer patient can be shocking, frustrating, and, hopefully, very rewarding. ”
II. Caring for someone with cancer A. Shocking 1. Good chance a loved one will contract cancer 2. Denial B. Frustrating 1. During testing 2. After diagnosis 3. During chemo a. Can’t help b. Patient willing to give up C. Rewarding 1. Little victories a. Medication b. Appearance c. “I can do this! ” 2. Remission 3. Ring the bell! III. Conclusion A. Stay strong B. Let them ring that bell!