If you’re a caregiver, much of your day-to-day life consists of taking care of your family member or loved one who is ill. It’s a job filled with prescription changes and pick-ups (you become really good friends with the pharmacy staff), daily menu tweaks (some days toast and coffee, other days nothing), phone calls to doctors and insurance companies. You spend a lot of time on hold (healthcare customer service reps could use a refresher course on empathy), while you multi-task folding laundry and going through the mail. There are days when all of the pills look the same (small and white) and then you realize that those little pill trays aren’t always that helpful. Some days you wonder how all of the pills got on the floor and then you realize your loved-one tried to take his or her medicine without any help.
It’s a “job” that, at least for me, was fulfilling and exhausting at the same time. My favorite time of the day was 1 a.m., when all was quiet. But I did it for my mom. Lung cancer took away my mom’s ability to do all of that herself. She was very, very independent and she used to be able to do 3,212 things at once (not exaggerating). As my mom’s lung cancer progressed, it literally stopped her in her tracks. The first three years of being a lung cancer patient, mom took it all in stride and maintained as normal a life as possible. But in that last year, she needed more help than she wanted to admit. As I think about a friend on Twitter whose dad is fighting lung cancer, I am reminded that all I did for my mom was not in vain. I remembered that even though it felt like I wasn’t doing everything exactly right, my mom appreciated all of it, however clumsy or awkward I may have been as a caregiver. I left my job because I couldn’t concentrate on working AND being a caregiver. I left my job because lung cancer forced my mom to abandon her independence. And how helpless does one feel when you can’t even go to the bathroom by yourself?
I just wanted to take some time to send a quick shout-out to caregivers, family members and others who are taking care of their ill family members. Just know that everything you’re doing is appreciated. This is not just for those who are battling lung cancer. Because when it comes down to the end, the VERY end, how they got there doesn’t really matter. It’s how you spend the next few hours, days or weeks. Regardless of the cancer or illness, we all have to complete the same to-do lists and have the same end-of-life conversations. Let’s not stigmatize or ignore people with lung cancer. In the end, they hurt just like everyone else.