Tuesday, August 8 dawned a beautiful, windy, summer monsoon day in northern Arizona. Today I walk on behalf of the friends, family, and caregivers of those with cancer.
Monday I recorded 13.2 miles on behalf of those who are on a cancer journey and chose to remain unnamed. My walking and bike rides yesterday took me through a bit of monsoon rain and I am so appreciative for the life-giving rain here in the northland. We desperately need it to nourish our land and our souls. I was thinking back to my last walk in the rain which was on the Oregon coast in June. I love walking at the beach. Water renews me.
Family, caregivers, and friends are one of the most important sources of life-giving renewal to those on a cancer journey. The the chapter on stress and resilience in Anticancer Living, Lorenzo and Jeffries offer the following advice:
“Taking Care of Yourself so you can take Care of Others: Because we are living longer, more people are forced into roles of caregiving who do not have training as nurses or aides. Informal caregivers now account for 80 percent of the long-term care provided in the United States. Caregivers face an incredible burden and it is vital that they don’t take on this burden alone. The stress of caring for a loved one can become chronic and lead to reduced immune function, increased inflammation, and disease and earlier death in the caregiver. If you are providing care for someone, here are some steps you can take to manage and control your own stress so you don’t get sick too.
- Don’t go it alone. Social support is key to maintaining your sanity and your health. This might mean reaching out to friends and loved ones and/or joining a caregiver support group where people can relate to what you’re going through. The added benefit of a support group is that they can put you in touch with other resources that could help to relieve some of the pressures you are undoubtedly feeling as the primary person responsible for someone’s health and well-being.
- Recognize your limits. You cannot be the perfect aide. If you try to provide everything, all the time, you eventually will break down yourself. Find ways to give yourself breaks from constant care, even if that means that someone else comes over for just a few minutes a day or a couple times a week. Take full advantage of that time away. Don’t use it to grocery shop or do other chores for the person you’re caring for. Take the time for yourself and engage in a mind-body practice.
- Set goals for yourself. Break tasks into small steps and establish a daily routine. Don’t take on added burdens. Say no to people who ask for your help with something outside of your caregiving duties. Limit your commitments and focus on caring for yourself.
- Accept help. The only way for you to reduce your own burden is to allow other people to help you, even if they don’t know the ways of the person you’re caring for, or they don’t do things exactly the way you would. Learn to let go whenever you can. It will help to keep you strong and avoid disease.
- See a doctor. Don’t help keep someone else alive at the expense of your own health and well-being. It’s better for both of you if you are putting yourself first.
- Engage in healthy behaviors daily. One of the biggest problems faced by caregivers is that they tend to not take care of themselves, mentally or physically. Find a way to maintain your own health, even if that means playing an exercise DVD in your home or eating cut-up vegetables instead of cookies. Little things add up. Stay on the right side of your own health by making healthy choices every day and engage in healthy eating, exercise, stress management, and good sleep habits” (Lorenzo & Jeffries, 2018, p. 136-137).
Family members, caregivers, and friends of cancer patients are on your own journey, impacted by the cancer in similar but different ways than the cancer patient. CSCAZ has a Friends and Family Caregiver support group that meets on the Zoom platform on Wednesday evenings at 5:30 p.m. This support group is an excellent place to first support yourself so that you can be there for your loved one. Check it out.