Saturday, August 24, 2013

Guest Post -- Helping Your Loved One in the War Against Cancer

Helping Your Loved One in the War Against Cancer - Written by Cameron Von St. James When someone you love is stricken with a life-altering illness, it is devastating for the both of you. Your whole world will be turned upside down as everything in life revolves around that person and managing the disease. I had a crash course on what it takes to become a caregiver. When my daughter, Lily, was only three and a half months old, my wife was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, a rare and very deadly cancer caused by asbestos exposure. It was supposed to be the most incredible time of our lives as we watched our beautiful baby grow. Instead, our lives became visits to doctors' appointments, horrendous treatments, and a time of great uncertainty and fear. Seven years later, we are blessed and my wife is cancer-free, but I haven't forgotten those troubled times. We have both learned valuable life lessons and now know that we are much stronger than we ever could have believed. Today I am an advocate for the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, reaching out to others who are going through a similar battle. It is my hope that I can help others in some small way. Here are my top five tips for caregivers to help them ride out the storm when illness strikes a loved one. 1. Remember to take care of yourself. You are going to be so caught up in your loved one's illness that you may tend to forget about yourself. This is the last thing you should do. If you are run down, weak, or make yourself ill, you will be of no help to anyone. Be sure to eat healthy meals and get exercise. Being physically active will make you stronger and help you to relieve the overwhelming burden of stress that comes with your loved one’s illness. You need to get your rest as well. There will be times when you just need to take a break. Don't feel guilty about this. You are human, and the more energy and rest you have, the better care you will be able to give. Turn to family and friends to relieve you when there is a need. 2. Take that helping hand and hold on tight. When the battle against your loved one’s illness begins, you are going to have an outpouring of love and concern. People are going to want to help you. Let them. This is not being selfish. You are helping them to deal with this troubling time as well. Accept offers of food and time. If someone volunteers to babysit or run the car pool, graciously say thank you. Turn to support groups, community centers, and any resources that are provided through the hospital as well. 3. Do the research. Become educated about the disease, the treatments, and what is to be expected after they are over. Learn about home remedies and give them a try. You have nothing to lose by being open-minded. Learning everything there is to know about your loved one's ailment will mean no surprises. You'll know what is coming, what is normal, and find out if there is anything you can do to make the journey easier. 4. Get organized. Your life is going to be difficult enough without having to worry about disorder and chaos. Get yourself a planner, a calendar, and a filing system. Keep all of your information about doctors' appointments, treatments, bills, and medications in one place. While you're at it, you'll probably want to simplify the rest of your life as well. This might be a good time to ask friends and family to help you get rid of any clutter to make it easier to keep up your home. 5. Get your priorities straight. You need to sit down and think about what needs to go to the top of the list in your life. You'll find that your loved one, any other family members in your household, and yourself matter most. All of the rest is going to have to come later. Don't expect everything to run smoothly. You need to go with the flow, make the most of good days when they come, and work your way through the bad days. Keep loving and hoping for a brighter future.

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