Conversations About Cancer: ‘The Caregiver’
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Have you ever cared for a cancer patient? Most of us will at some point in our life, yet few reach out for help or know what to do. Cancer has impacted almost everyone at some level. That’s why Eyewitness News is launching a series called “Conversations About Cancer. "
For the next several weeks we are talking with some of the top oncologists in Wichita about the latest advancements in treatments, but we begin our conversation talking about the caregiver. Michelle Green is one of them. She’ll never forget hearing that dreaded word.
She lost her mother to cervical cancer.
“”Your world just falls apart. …She was a wonderful woman and so much fun. I want to be that kind of grandma,” Green said as she fought back tears.
No one knows caregiving like Diana Thomi with Victory in the Valley.
“When someone hears cancer there’s a wide range of emotions. The patients immediately feel hopeless. They don’t understand and they are overwhelmed. They are in shock and don’t know what to say. They are stunned,” said Thomi who founded Victory in the Valley in the early 1980′s and lost her own mother to cancer.
Advocacy for patients and caregivers was badly needed then.
“That was the time a lady in our group went to a church circle and she was served on paper plates, not the fancy china because they didn’t want to catch cancer. That was in early 80′s.” So much has changed in the 40 years, including attention on caregivers who often don’t know how to help. “The caregivers feel helpless. Caregivers struggle. They overcompensate, overdo, smother and restrict,” said Thomi.
She said patients most often want a sense of “normalcy” that family members can offer, but instead are met with overbearing caregivers who want to solve everything.
“Try not to be so critical of yourself. Try to think about taking care of yourself so you don’t overdo. Just think about the person who’s going through the cancer,” said Green.
Pressures on caregivers can be overwhelming, but now there’s help for them too. Green and Thomi advise reaching out and not trying to do it alone.
“Just give them all the love you can,” said Green.
Thomi, who’s worked with thousands of patients over the years, has a reminder.
“You can do this you can get through this. Cancer is a word, not a sentence. You are not sentenced to death. There are people walking around all over who shouldn’t be here, but they are here,” she said.
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