Finding a Caregiver in the Most Unexpected Places
Last updated: February 2023
Most humans put others before themselves. It is in our nature and part of our makeup. Many people find this very difficult when we are presented with a situation where we must put ourselves first.
Often, however, physically or emotionally, to a lesser or significant extent, we need some support during a cancer journey. The type of support we need, how much help we need, and by whom may vary at different stages of our journey. One thing for sure is most of us will rely on different caregivers during our journey.
November is National Caregivers Awareness Month
But what is a caregiver? Well, it can be summed up in these words:
A person who cares for people who need help taking care of themselves. Examples include children, the elderly, or patients who have chronic illnesses or are disabled. Caregivers may be health professionals, family members, friends, social workers, or clergy members. They may give care at home or in a hospital or other health care setting.1
As you can see, it can be many different people in many different settings.
Support during the bladder cancer journey
The surprising yet most supportive thing to me during my bladder cancer journey was the unexpected giving of care.
While I never took any caregiving for granted and, in fact, grew an even greater appreciation for my immediate medical team, immediate family, and close friends, it was often the non-conventional caregiving in the most unlikely of places which at times made such a difference.
I was so touched by the many acts of kindness from those not close to me or who I didn't know very well.
Unexpected and abundant support
I spent my 41st birthday in the hospital before my surgery. My sister's mother-in-law made a surprise visit and brought me a birthday card and a gift.
There was my stepdaughter's boyfriend's mother. We had never met. Yet she took the time to handwrite a note and enclose it with thoughtful, personal care gifts such as a shower gel. Having a new fragrance while taking a shower in the hospital makes all the difference.
My husband's manager sent lovely flowers and allowed him all the time he needed to visit and care for me.
Healthcare professionals are caregivers too
The cleaner came to clean my room each day when I was in the hospital post-surgery. She wasn't medically trained, yet I could tell she grasped the magnitude of what I had been through. Her, "How are you today?" or "You are looking better today!" meant more than she would ever know.
There was a healthcare assistant in the ward. She knew I struggled with drinking the warm water from the jugs handed out regularly. She also knew drinking plenty of fluids was vital for me and my recovery, so she would climb several floors to a level with an ice machine to put ice in my water.
There was one of the ward's head nurses. Yes, of course, her role included providing care to me to ensure I was comfortable and had the medical care I needed. Yet she provided care beyond that. She often took time out of her busy schedule to sit with me. To comfort me, as the enormity of the surgery which lay ahead was just too much to bear.
There was the nurse who visited me once I was back home. She always had time to listen and openly shared how she was overwhelmed by all I had gotten through to be there. It was December when she was visiting for the last few times. I was starting to get stronger. I love Christmas so much, and my tree was already up. She brought me a little angel to hang on my tree.
This is by far one of the most valuable decorations to me on the tree. It takes pride in place every year, and every year it brings a tear to my eye. A tear for the compassion shown when I needed it most.
Caregiver support and bladder cancer
So, you see, you can Google or look up many definitions of what we officially define as a caregiver. Still, without looking too hard, you can find people giving care in many unexpected places and ways.
How has a caregiver made a difference in your bladder cancer journey? Tell us in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
How long did it take for you to receive a bladder cancer diagnosis?