Patient tips Five things I have learned as a caregiver and daughter

Five things I have learned as a caregiver and daughter

Samantha B. is a caregiver for her father, David, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. He underwent surgeries and other treatments at City of Hope Atlanta. Now, Samantha shares some of what she’s learned since her dad's diagnosis and how it may help other caregivers like herself.

  1. Consider journaling. I’ve loved writing since I was young. Journaling was a great stress release for me when the things around me got too hard to deal with or talk about out loud. I started a journal a day or so after my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer in August 2014, and I’ve kept it up to document all his treatments, surgeries and appointments. It really helped change my perspective, to have an outlet to deal with all the thoughts I was having. I would ask myself, “Why my dad?” “Why our family?” “Will he still be here to walk me down the aisle on my wedding day?” “Will I have to plan a funeral?” I will always, always encourage people to keep a diary or journal of some sort. It made all the difference for me. Plus, you can look back on it one day, on what it was like in those moments from the beginning compared to where you are today.
  2. It’s okay to cry or get mad. I spoke with someone not too long ago who said, “It’s okay to get mad or to cry. It’s okay to feel all these feelings. But don’t get stuck there.” It really resonated with me, because it’s so easy for us to fall into a lull of dread and gloom when faced with cancer. I know, because I’ve been there. At the start of my dad’s diagnosis, there were plenty of cry fests. Anger. Resentment. A lot of resentment. So when I heard those words, it was a powerful reminder that it’s okay to do all that. The important part is not to get so caught up in it that you become stuck. I sometimes forget that there are still more tomorrows. There are still new days ahead. If we’re always crying or upset, I can only wonder how that would make our loved ones feel. It’s important to remember that, while you may still have these “off” days, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. You have to be strong, not just for yourself, but for the one who’s going through cancer. You’ve heard the quote, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.” I believe the same could be said for cancer. There’s no “I” in cancer, because everyone is going through it.
  3. Lean into your faith. It’s always good to have a foundation to lean on in times of uncertainty. In the beginning, I hardly attended church. My prayer life was depleted and not what I thought it should be. I remember there were times I actually thought, “if I pray now, now that something bad has happened, will God still hear me? Will He answer my prayer(s)?” Whatever your faith is, let it be a beacon of light to help guide you through this uncertain time with your loved one. I’m happy to say that, since then, I have found a church I attend regularly. I never knew the weight I had been carrying until it was finally lifted. It’s helped tremendously in shifting my perspective through my dad’s cancer journey.
  4. Be present today. Before my dad’s diagnosis, I didn’t take this phrase to heart much. Now, I look at it through a completely different lens. I try to remind myself to enjoy the little moments we may often take for granted—even if it’s just going to the park for a walk, driving to an antique store or sitting outside listening to the birds chirp. I’ve learned to cherish my time with my dad and us as a family, because I know he won’t be here forever. I know, I know. That sounds a bit cliché to say, but it’s true. Just remember to stay present in the moment. Find those times to spend with your loved one. Sometimes, the smallest gestures make the biggest impact.
  5. Find a way to move forward. Now that you know most of what I’ve learned as a caregiver, it only seems fitting that I share a little about my “why.” This will not be the same for everyone, but for me, something that seemed awful turned into an opportunity to help others. In February 2021, I launched a podcast called, “Why Me, God?” as a way to help spread hope and awareness to others going through cancer and to remind them that they’re not alone in their fight. I’ve said since I started it, “If at least one episode helps one person going through cancer, if it encourages them, if it gives them strength to fight another day—then it was all worth it.” The name of the podcast took some time to develop as well, but ultimately, it’s a callback to the very beginning of my cancer journey as a caregiver when I asked the question, “Why my dad, God?” To me, it serves as a reminder of where we started and where we are now. 

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