Caretaking When Your Parent Has Cancer

Caretaking When Your Parent Has Cancer

Many of us have either experienced it personally or have known someone battling cancer. When it happens to a parent, it can feel like the world has crumbled around you, and you’re left with this melting pot of emotions that you can’t seem to sort through.  Shock, grief, helplessness, and how can this happen?  As a caregiver. there’s a delicate balance of trying to pull yourself together, and being the pillar of support your parent needs during this difficult time. Coping with my mother’s illness, there were moments I felt like giving up, but I didn’t want her to see me falter. I’ve always been known for my trademark stoicism, but those years took us both on an incredibly emotional journey of laughter, tears, and facing challenges we never thought were possible. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat.  Do I have any regrets? Not one.

It’s ok to let them know how you feel. If there was ever a time for open communication it’s now.  Of course, they’re the ones coping with the physical, and emotional turmoil of the disease, but don’t feel like you can’t keep it real with them. Caregiving in this capacity really alters the parent-child dynamic and brings both of you to a level of mutual understanding wherein a sense you become a working team.

When attending doctor visits, make notes, and ask questions.  My mom would often thank me for being in the room with her because the anxiety would kick in, and she’d forget to ask about certain aspects of her care. Be sure that you’ve added to the list of contacts that may receive protected health information from both the providers of care and health insurance.  Many offices allow for email correspondence which is great for when you have concerns but don’t want to wait for an appointment.

Keep it sentimental, and take time to go through photo albums together, watch a favorite movie, or read aloud. One of our favorite pastimes that I still cherish, was a long conversation, and hot tea during chemo sessions.  I bought her an oversized fluffy blanket, and we’d chat for hours, or play board games. I’m pretty sure we were the envy of the clinic with all the fancy gear we had.

Patient care can be draining, even when it’s your own family.  It’s important to take time for yourself, and not feel guilty about it. You can only be the best version of yourself when you’re taken care of. Go for a walk, treat yourself to a coffee, or meet up with friends. Don’t hesitate to delegate care to other family members that are willing to help, or take advantage of home healthcare services.  It’s amazing how refreshed you’ll feel, and ready to care for the hero, and warrior, you know as mom or dad.

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