This is a copy of an article in Newsday Magazine written by a friend of my cousin. She is one of their regular writers and fighting a battle against brain cancer. She is a wonderful writer and her message is so important I wanted to share it with all of you too since you are heroes, everyday.
I'm also enclosing the link so you can visit the Newsday website if you choose.
Measureless gratitude to unsung caregivers
Life, With Cancer
November 21, 2006
My husband looked curiously at the pile of greeting cards and notes I have accumulated from well-wishers over the past two years. And then he posed a question.
"Do they even make cards for relatives or friends of people with cancer?" he asked, to no one in particular. Not that he would ever want someone to send him a card. He's not that type of guy.
I haven't checked the Hallmark aisle recently, but it raised the question of how we recognize the thousands of people who are fighting alongside us in the cancer war - or in any bout with a serious injury or chronic illness.
Society calls them informal "caregivers." I call them daily miracle workers who plod along with a quiet humanity that often gets overlooked.
Nurses will occasionally get a tray of cookies from grateful patients at the end of a particularly civilized hospital stay or when they manage to get the IV into your arm on the first try. And doctors are frequently the recipients of a patient or family's eternal gratitude or a bottle of fine cognac.
But the fact is, with Thanksgiving approaching, it's hard to find the appropriate way to thank the unsung warriors who make your life easier.
That would be the spouse who makes midnight ginger ale runs. Or who is with you at every scary medical appointment, in a sterile examining room where time is marked by the tick of a wristwatch or an anxiously beating heart.
There doesn't seem to be a suitable way to acknowledge the friends who will take your frantic phone calls past midnight, wash your dishes without even being asked, bear the brunt of your descent into rage when your hair starts to fall out, or are willing to take off with you on a whim, even overseas, just because you need to get away.
And let's not forget mothers, fathers, sisters or brothers forced to watch with an ugly, helpless fear as their child or sibling goes through the hell that is cancer treatment. There is no balloon bouquet or greeting card for their pain.
Yet, these are the people who are expected to go on with life without missing a beat. They go to work each day and still manage to take care of us, performing a delicate balancing act as they neglect their own emotional or physical needs. And after the war is over, for better or worse, they are also left with scars.
The medical establishment has begun to acknowledge the nation's 50 million caregivers and the fact that they are growing in numbers, largely because sick people are living longer and better managing chronic illnesses through medical breakthroughs.
But it also notes that caregivers, particularly spouses, have a dramatically higher risk of depression and physical illness themselves.
"The bottom line is that illness in a spouse not only worsens a partner's health, but also substantially increases a caregiver's risk of death," said Dr. Nicholas Christakis. An internist and social policy researcher who teaches at Harvard Medical School, he recently authored a study of caregiving for the elderly that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. "That's how much illness in a loved one can affect you," he added.
The National Alliance for Caregiving, in a recent study with Evercare, a division of UnitedHealth Group, said 72 percent of caregivers neglect their own health, routinely missing doctor's appointments.
November is National Caregivers' Month. It's also Thanksgiving time. So say thank you, though those two words don't seem adequate to acknowledge the sacrifice those around us routinely make.
To get help
National Family Caregivers Association: thefamilycaregiver .org; phone 800-896-3650.
National Alliance for Caregiving: caregiving.org; e-mail to email@example.com.
Gilda's Club in New York City, support groups for relatives and loved ones caring for cancer patients; 212-647-9700.
Check with an area hospital or cancer center to see if there is a caregiver support group near you.
Copyright (c) 2006, Newsday, Inc.
Here is a link that might be useful: Link for Lauren