(Editor’s Note: Gina & Russ – fellow coaches and friends in New Jersey – have different cancer experiences and collaborated on this blog for the benefit of you and those around you.)
Sometimes we are so caught up in our recovery that we forget about the needs of others. It wasn’t until almost a year after my first surgery for a double mastectomy that I became aware of what my husband was going through in terms of my cancer diagnosis. I was so involved in taking an active role in my recovery (not to say that this is not a positive action) and the well-being of my children that it didn’t even dawn on me what my husband was going through in the process and I don’t even think he thought about himself either since his primary focus was caring for me. So this one day about a year after my surgeries and treatment we were having a discussion and he described to me how difficult it was for him not to worry about recurrence of my cancer and it opened up a door to a conversation about the emotions of what he had been feeling all throughout the year long experience we had been through.
I was actually devastated at the thought that I hadn’t even been focusing on what he was going through internally. Caregivers, while they are carrying their own burden can sometimes get lost in the journey. We have to be consciously aware of the emotions that they are going through in the process as well and this is why it is so important for caregivers to feed themselves while caring for their loves ones and for us as survivors, even though we are carrying our own load, to recognize the pain of what our caregivers are experiencing and to simply say: “Thank you” for remaining by our side.
When we look back it’s all so simple, all we have to do is have a conversation, speak up, express our feelings and ask for what we need and what the other person needs in return even if we are afraid to do so.
It’s all about fluid conversations and getting past our fears so that we can remain united and healthy in facing our journey together.
So today, I ask that you tell your caregiver how much their love and support has meant to you on your journey and to ask them what they are experiencing and feeling so that you can give back to them in return.
Gina makes such excellent points. I so admire her for her strength and insight (and of course her friendship). Luckily for me, I haven’t been diagnosed with cancer. My Mom has though – Stage Zero Breast Cancer this Summer. I can say now that it has had a happy ending. She’s finished with her radiation and doesn’t need chemo. Thank goodness. We’re all very grateful.
Overall, my experience as a caregiver was positive, because of the support of those around me. I needed them just like my Mom needed me. Somewhat early on in her process of dealing with the cancer, I asked if it was alright with her if I posted about it on my Facebook, and luckily for me, she said “please do whatever it takes to get the support you want and need”. Because of the work I do as an Entrepreneur and Coach, my use of social media is rather frequent and I talk a lot about what’s going on in my life personally and professionally. For that period where I was coming to terms with what may happen and what was happening, but hadn’t mentioned it broadly, I felt as if I wasn’t living an authentic life. For me, talking about it publicly was needed. Much-needed actually. Once I announced it, the floodgates opened with love and support that still hasn’t stopped 3.5 months later. It energizes me, and my Mom, who very much appreciates the kind words from people she’s met and many she’s never met.
This may resonate with you, or you may have a very different style. Whatever you need is your decision, and I’d bet that the people around you will support you in however you want to be treated.
Here’s my message for everyone reading this: If you’re a patient, carve out just a little time for the caregivers in your life. If you’re a caregiver, take time for your own self-care. Think about what you need and then don’t be shy in telling others. Lastly, if you know a caregiver, ask them what they need and how you can best support them.
Good luck on your journey!
Gina & Russ
Gina Costa-Goldfarb is a breast cancer survivor and Certified Professional Coach. She helps women diagnosed with breast cancer cope, step by step, with the emotional and physical challenges they experience, so they gain confidence and feel in control of their life again. For more on her, go to www.newbeginningswithgina.com.
Russ Terry is a Gratitude guru who’s helping to make the world a happier and more grateful place. Earlier this year, he published his first book: My Gratitude Journal: 365 days of the people & things I’m grateful for and the lessons you can learn from them. He has two more books on Gratitude due out in 2015. For more on him, go to www.russterrylifecoach.com.