As a parent, you are always a caregiver to your child throughout their childhood. However, when your child is diagnosed with cancer, this is a different kind of caregiving and certainly not what a parent plans for. It is grueling, physically, and emotionally exhausting, and takes you to a higher calling, or it takes you out!
As a cancer parent you become part of a team of caregivers that includes care professionals who facilitate your child’s life-saving treatment. You navigate this journey one step at a time hoping your next step is not a land mine. You are your child’s advocate who knows them best, including what their needs are. Your child looks to you for confidence, assurance, and comfort because they are scared and confused, even if they can’t communicate those feelings. Many responsibilities consume a caregiver’s energy during this uncertain time, from meeting with doctors, administering your child’s medication, deciding on treatment, drug choices with varying side effects, soothing your child during treatment, and putting a hot meal on the dinner table each night. All these tasks and more will increase your growing stress level.
Add to this the anxiety and uncertainty of the global Covid-19 pandemic. Many childhood cancer parents wonder if there is a way to cope and, also do everything right for your child. Relief just a phone call, or email away. Your support system runs deeper than you think; you do not have to go through this alone. Here to Serve, can be part of your support team, if you seek us out. Here to Serve’s mission is to support caregivers of pediatric cancer patients.
November is National Family Caregivers Month. In 1994 the National Family Caregivers Association began the drive for recognition of family caregivers. President Bill Clinton signed the proclamation for the first National Family Caregivers Month in 1997, and this tradition has continued each year. In a 2020 report conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), it is estimated that over 20% of Americans are caregivers to adults or children with acute needs. Caregivers face each day not knowing what uncertainties lie ahead. The National Family Caregivers Month helps shine a spotlight and raise awareness on issues facing family caregivers. It also promotes the opportunity to celebrate the efforts of family caregivers and the daily sacrifices they make.
It is important to remember the caregiver for a child with cancer is usually a parent, but it can also include others, a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, neighbor, and family or friends. As unique as each pediatric cancer patient is, so too are the caregivers that support them. So, it is necessary to recognize these unsung heroes who volunteer their time and energy to help.
Family caregivers must remain aware they are only human, and be mindful of their limitations. The Caregivers Action Network is an organization working to improve the quality of life for more than 50 million American family caregivers; their website has information beneficial to the family caregiver’s well-being. Family caregivers of pediatric cancer patients should take comfort that even in the darkest hours when fear and uncertainty set in, they are not going into this fight alone. Family caregivers should always remember these tips:
- Be willing to receive help from organizations that offer assistance not just in finances but wrap-around support. Put Here to Serve should be top of your list!
- Seek out support from other caregivers who have been through what you are going through; they understand and can offer advice.
- Be open to receive help from others and suggest specific ways they can help you and your child. Here to Serve helps by making this easy and comfortable as they act as the intermediary.
- Remember to focus on your health, learn relaxation techniques, or use exercise to relieve stress.
- Organize your child’s medical information so that it’s up to date and easy to access.
- Caregiving is a difficult job; give yourself credit for doing the best you can.
At Here to Serve, we want to take the time to recognize the caregivers of the childhood cancer patients we support. We honor their commitment and dedication through challenging decisions and sacrifices made during their child’s cancer fight. They genuinely do their best to make a trying time as positive as it can be. And we want to let all family caregivers know that we are here to assist. We can provide resources, guidance, and advice for pediatric cancer family caregivers not only during National Family Caregivers Month but every day of the year.
By Chris Smith