Thursday, April 16, 2009

Care-giving gets sad: family members and friends turn cold

It is not easy to be a care-giver 24/7. Sure, we got the "Easter Reprieve" from family members.

And as patient advocates and care-givers, when you have those precious few moments of peace and respite . . . savor them. They definitely do not last. And frankly we cannot expect the respites or even unconditional support to last forever. The other family members have lives -- our lives are all about the ill person who needs us.

For the last two days (wasn't Easter this past Sunday?), I have been IMHO disrespected by family members who were apparently offended by the post I wrote about "Easter respite" because I was too harsh on my mom's brother.

I invite all of you to re-read that post. You'll have a tough time even finding the reference.

I believe that one common experience with cancer patients is that they lose friends and family member and find great new ones! Cancer is a strange bird. It changes people. Some people hear their friends have cancer and they immediately feel uncomfortable. Perhaps the person (or family member) is afraid that the cancer patient will be depressing or sickly or needy.

Both cancer patients and care-givers get hopes up and get exhausted. They are not always "themselves." Many friends and family members prefer their lives to be "less messy."

Some family members dislike the fact that I blog about the personal issue of cancer . . . . denial? That discomfort is irrelevant to me. I am part of a community of people who are trying to help one another stay strong and be positive, healthy advocates.

I could not even care less if my family communicates or purports to be supportive of me. All I expect and demand is that family members be supportive, caring and loving of my dad and his wife.

FOR THE REST OF YOU: Accept the fact that some friends (and maybe even family) simply cannot handle cancer or serious illness or injury. Maybe for a short while or maybe forever, these people will be absent from your life. Try very hard to not take it personally. (You may cry - it will be hard.) You need to focus on care-giving and getting healthy. Redirect your energy to resuming a healthy life (lives).

Embrace the people who knock on your door. The people who email you and call and visit ---- they are beautiful souls. They are God's angles and you need to be the recipient of the goodness as much as they need to be comforting.

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