“On Christmas Day 2018, I took my wife to the hospital, both of us thinking she would never return home. She had lost weight, would not eat or drink and was delirious. A month before, scans had shown tumors throughout her body, but they had not determined the type. During her stay she was diagnosed with Neuroendocrine Tumors NETS — a rare form of cancer; a cancer that is treatable, but not curable. Norma was discharged from the hospital and began a monthly treatment, an injection of a type of Somatostatin. Norma then found a support group for cancer patients (no fee!) at Gilda’s Club Westchester. I was becoming more frustrated because I was cooking and trying to make sure that she eats and would drink enough liquids, and she was fighting my efforts. All I could think about was her ending up back in the hospital because I could not convince her to eat or drink. Norma mentioned that GCW also offered free couples counseling, so we set up an appointment. We were very fortunate and met with an incredible therapist who was able to help us hear the other and break down some of the automatic button pushing and resistance that we had developed over the years. We are both so grateful. We have seen her several times in person and on Zoom and have reached out to her at points of difficulty during the last three years. In addition, I began to attend the Thursday night Caregivers Group, facilitated by a skilled therapist who had been a caregiver herself. I had never participated in a group before, and it has been an incredible experience and provides the kind of support that one can only get from people who are providing care to those they love. Gilda’s Club Westchester has made it possible for me to provide the love and care my wife has needed while living with the uncertainty that cancer and its treatment bring.”
A cancer diagnosis can evoke a mix of emotions, including sadness, shock, guilt, and an overwhelming sense of responsibility. In most cases, the primary caregiver for someone living with cancer is a spouse, partner, parent, or an adult child. Caregivers are usually responsible for meals, helping to bathe and dress, and also to drive their loved one to appointments on top of their normal daily routine. Taking care of a loved one living with cancer takes an emotional toll on caregivers. Feelings of fear, hopelessness, guilt, confusion, or doubt all come along with the role of the caregiver
The American Cancer Society reports that “caregivers can develop physical symptoms like tiredness and trouble sleeping” and the National Alliance of Caregiving reported that 43% of caregivers reported that they need help managing emotional and physical stress while caring for someone living with cancer.
As Gilda’s Club Westchester member Dan Rutberg has shared through this personal story — managing your feelings when caring for someone diagnosed with cancer can be extremely challenging, so finding the right emotional and social support for individuals, families and couples can make all the difference.
Gilda’s Club Westchester provides free programs that serve to complement medical care. MyLifeLine is a free program offered by Gilda’s Club Westchester for those living with cancer and for those caring for someone with cancer. It allows users to connect with others though message boards, keep their network informed through their own private community website, and assign Care Coordinators to help manage their site.
All of the counseling and activities are offered to anyone living with cancer, as well as their family, friends, and caregivers. For more information, contact (914) 644-8844; email@example.com or visit https://gildasclubwestchester.org/i-am-a-caregiver/.