In writing these blogs chronicling our journey through Allan’s diagnosis and treatment of multiple myeloma, I am reminded that our story isn’t much different than thousands of others diagnosed with multiple myeloma. In fact, in many ways our story, although challenging, has been and fortunately remains very optimistic. We consider ourselves the luckiest people in the world.
As I reflect back on Allan’s regimen of treatment, consisting of radiation, chemotherapy and ultimately a stem cell transplant, I realize how much multiple myeloma has and continues to play a role in what has shaped our lives for the last ten years.
Each treatment brought Allan a host of side effects such as fatigue, gastrointestinal issues, neuropathy and infections. While these are minor in light of the big picture, watching a loved one deal with these challenges can be difficult. While you understand the necessity for each treatment and are truly grateful that those treatments are available, as a caregiver, sometimes you do feel a sense of helplessness.
In speaking to other caregivers, I hear many concerns regarding the stress of caring for a loved one with a cancer diagnosis. That stress can be due to the overall anxiety related to the diagnosis itself, trying to deal with financial issues, or providing comfort and reassurance to children. For a caregiver, that stress can manifest itself in the form of loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, or an inability to concentrate.
In terms of dealing with that stress, I am reminded of something another caregiver once told me. After boarding a flight, prior to takeoff, the flight attendant recounts all the safety procedures for the aircraft. In particular, you are reminded that you need to place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others, including small children.
We as caregivers need to follow this important rule as well. We need to remember that we cannot effectively do our job if we do not first care for ourselves. It may seem at times that you have no extra time to care for yourself, but it is imperative that you give yourself permission to take that time. Whether that simply means having dinner with a friend or going for a bike ride – do something nice for yourself.
So just breathe, inhale that oxygen and know that you are a valuable part of a very special team.
Don’t stop believing,