At our monthly Cancer Encouragement Group in 2013, Paul Guffey, a cancer survivor and talented musician, played the guitar and sang a soft, tranquil song that he wrote. I found myself wiping away tears; it made my heart swell so much with emotion that I couldn’t contain it. The song helped me realize that my love for the Lord had continued and grown despite the storms in life we were experiencing. He was giving me the strength to carry on through each day. With Paul’s permission, I will share the lyrics with you and pray that it will touch your heart, too.
In April 2011, Chris and I were asked to be guest panelists at a Relay for Life session in Denison, Texas, to share how cancer touched our lives in ways we never expected. Here are some of the questions I was asked, along with my answers:
What do you wish you had known from the beginning of the diagnosis?
It’s never easy to make plans for dying, but it’s a fact of life that we will all die someday, and it could be in the blink of an eye for any of us. Here are some tips for things to take care of, especially if the patient has a terminal illness:
Do you, as a caregiver, ever feel like a piece of your life is missing because of your overwhelming responsibilities, and you feel like no one understands what you’re going through? Studies have shown that connecting with a support group is extremely important. Sharing what’s on your heart can help you understand the puzzle as to why you may be suddenly feeling a range of new emotions such as grief, guilt, fear, anxiety, anger, sadness, resentment, frustration, discouragement, and even loneliness. You don’t want to express these feelings to the patient and burden him/her, who has enough to deal with just focusing on getting well. People who share your common experiences can provide invaluable help, whether it is in the form of providing resources, coping tips, or simply a listening ear and a hug.
Medical treatment for a catastrophic diagnosis such as cancer is expensive. Knowing what financial resources are available, having good money management skills, and being organized becomes extremely important. Here are some tips to help you get off to a good start:
Although I wrote the following with cancer treatment in mind, many of these tips can apply to any kind of medical treatment.
Realize that a cancer diagnosis and treatment changes everything about life as you once knew it. A cancer patient can become easily frustrated over things that never bothered him/her previously. Emotions can easily surface, as the patient is having to deal with a life-threatening illness, side effects of treatment, side effects of the cancer itself, changes in work status and routine, changes in physical appearance, financial stress, loss of social activities, loss of physical capabilities, etc.
To ease the stress of caregiving, it helps to have a system to organize the information you need. Develop a system that works for you. Here’s what I organized to have access at my fingertips and to keep my sanity:
A big 3-ring binder that I carried to medical visits included:
Doctors’ and nurses’ contact information (I put their business cards in a plastic binder with slots made for 20 cards per page.)
Emergency room trips are almost inevitable if a patient is being treated for a long-term medical condition. Here are some tips from our personal experiences:
Keep your automobile filled with enough gas to get to medical appointments or to the hospital in an emergency. Keep it maintained with regular oil changes and tire rotations.
Keep luggage prepacked with basics for frequent trips to the ER. Assume the patient will be admitted for at least two to three days—or longer.
Keep a checklist of things to take to the emergency room.
A huge responsibility as caregiver has just landed in your lap. Your loved one's life rests in your hands. Below are some tips to help you manage this new role.
Make sure doctors/hospitals are in your insurance plan and treatments are covered. Cancer treatments are very expensive and can continue for a long time, depending on the type of cancer. You don’t want to pay out-of-network charges.
Take a list of questions to every appointment. Write down the answers or ask if you may record the appointment. Ask the doctor to explain things in terms you understand. If you don’t know what questions to ask in the beginning, search the internet for “Questions to ask about ________ cancer” or the medical condition you are dealing with.
A year into our cancer journey, Chris and I were asked to be on a guest panel of cancer survivors and caregivers at Relay for Life in Denison, Texas. I shared some of the resources I found most helpful at that point:
Cancer support groups. Talking with cancer survivors can give you the encouragement you need to fight this devastating disease.
I chose the cover for His Love Carries Me because of the following:
Before our first appointment at MD Anderson, my oldest brother gave Chris and me a special coin to carry in our pockets representing the story “Footprints in the Sand.” This wasn’t a good-luck charm. It was simply a tangible reminder that during the tough times we’d be facing, it might seem like God has abandoned us. During those times, though, His love would be carrying us.
Welcome to my blog! This is a place where I will provide caregiver tips, resources for cancer information and financial help, and suggestions to assist those who are going through a devastating medical diagnosis. I might include excerpts from our books and some “outtakes” that didn’t make it into my book. You may suggest in the “Comments” section other topics you’d like me to cover in this blog related to caregiving or cancer.