Cancer Caregivers – the Battle they didn’t choose!
It takes a village to raise a child. Cancer, in some ways, strips patients of their independence and brings them back to the feeling of being helpless, like a child. It takes a loving and caring family to bring upon the healing that is necessary to see remission and longevity for the patient. It takes a village. We often speak of the patient, the child, and how this is a battle they didn’t choose.
It’s true, they didn’t choose this. But we leave a piece of the story out. The village, the caregivers, did not choose this either. No one chooses cancer. Cancer chooses us. It chooses those afflicted to bestow upon great trials and tribulations and powerful lessons. It shows us the importance of community, and that it really does take a village, to raise the inner child within us.
There is difficulty in addressing the real truth of how cancer affects those who are caregivers. They’re not technically sick, so feeling that arise of sorrow, depression, fear, and hopelessness is followed by guilt and shame. They believe they need to be strong for their sick loved one.
They think that because it’s not about them, they don’t deserve to feel these emotions. What we don’t recognize, is that these emotions are valid. They’re important to process, address, and heal with loving support. If we don’t handle these emotions, they could grow into mental illness. Something that seems bigger, scarier, and follows us around with everything we do.
It’s normal to experience sadness, fear, anger, and feelings of hopelessness during this time. The reasons behind these emotions may appear frightening, too.
Feelings of, “why did this have to happen to me? Why is this my life now? Why do I have to be strong? Why do I have to take care of them?” These are normal, healthy questions that the mind asks during this time.
Cancer is a difficult disease for us to mentally process, and it takes time, patience, and community to unearth answers from within. We have a vision for our life, a plan. Cancer doesn’t care about that. It stomps over what we had envisioned and slaps a new reality for us to face.
If you’re taking care of someone with cancer, your life may not even feel like your life anymore. It may feel like you live to take care of a loved one. It’s important to remember during this time that everything in life is temporary, and the life you see is the one you live.
What do you choose to see? Caregivers experience such a lack of control, as if their life and loved one is slipping through their fingers like sand. What caregivers can control during this time, is their perception and the love they surround themselves with.
Caregivers have been chosen from a greater power to be warriors. To be resilient, strong, and healing. They did not choose this, rather they were chosen. They were chosen because they are capable of going through it. No matter how difficult, how dark it may seem at times, they have to trust that they were chosen to be warriors of love.
But even warriors need love, in order to give love to their sick loved ones.
It’s important to express compassion towards caregivers. What is compassion in this particular situation? It means holding a safe, loving space for them to process what is going on inside their minds and hearts.
Ask them how they’re feeling, how they’re doing. Do not judge them, criticize them, or make them feel guilty or shameful for opening up to you. Make them feel understood, heard, and loved for just as they are.
Most importantly, tell them that they are strong for continuing on this journey. That though they did not choose this battle, they are more than capable of seeing through it. They can make it through.
Above all, make sure they know that you are there for them. It’s so important to feel community, acceptance, and love during this time. This feeling of others accepting their struggles will help them accept their own.
Just like how it’s a caregiver’s job to take care of a patient with cancer, it’s the surrounding communities job to take care of the caregiver.
We all need to take care of each other to continue the circle of love and healing that this disease needs. Much of what was discussed earlier, the mental illnesses that can arise, do for many. Many are facing this illness of the mind while trying to take care of those with an illness of the body.
Each needs compassion to create an equal cycle of energy exchange, a full circle of love that circulates amongst all parties dealing with this disease.
What helps the caregivers invoke this feeling of compassion for self, from within? Along with a supportive community, comes a supportive self. Self-help practices are equally essential to maintaining strength during this time.
Anything related to affirmations, yoga, healthy food, meditation, expressive art, exercise, these are all healthy outlets that inhibit feelings of gratitude and compassion for self. Having a place to productively channel all of these thoughts and emotions discussed is an essential part of continuing the warrior of love path.
Artscape recognizes this piece of the puzzle. Every week and fortnight, in cities such as Mumbai and Guwahati, provides a free service for underprivileged patients and caregivers to explore this form of expressive art therapy. By partnering with leading cancer care hospitals and other organizations, they are able to provide a safe, open, and therapeutic environment for these individuals to focus on their healing and strength.
There are hope and light in this dark journey. It’s important to remind caregivers, patients, and surroundings communities that this healing is possible. Cancer is curable. It happens every day. It can happen to them. But they need to believe, and trust in the journey. It’s up to everyone to be there for everyone.
Especially to those (caregivers) who feel like it is their sole responsibility to take care of their patients. Cancer is like a battle, and warriors (caregivers) need their weapons of love, strength, and support to reach the victory of healing patients.
Any help, assistance, or support you can offer to them, please give it. As stated, caregivers often feel like the world is stacked upon their shoulders, and it’s up to them to hold this weight for themselves and their patient.
Again, through compassion and art therapy, we can help these warriors of love defeat the vicious disease of cancer. This mentality of powerful strides towards strength is essential. The mind needs to know that it is capable, it powerful, and that it is strong.
Cancer clearly does affect more than just the patient. Such as all things in life, it creates a ripple effect that brings strong winds and powerful currents to the rapids of our minds. It is strong, yes. It can create mental illness, yes. But, we are stronger. Caregivers are stronger.
This battle that they did not choose was in fact chosen for them. They were chosen to be warriors of healing and love. There is a way towards the healing, the love. There is always a way to remission, to light, it’s eternally possible. However, it takes a whole village. A whole community to raise those afflicted up during times where it feels as if they’re being pushed down by illness.
Through compassion, patience, support, understanding, self-help, art therapy, and love caregivers can receive the care they need in order to care for their patients. Healing begins with recognizing there needs to be a cycle of love and support from various parties for the light to come full circle. In order for caregivers to help, it is only wise to recognize that means they will need help, too.