Support Where It Is Due

As a lung cancer patient, I certainly receive a fair amount of emotional support. Maybe some of it is more well-intentioned than helpful, maybe sometimes I don’t get what I really need, but I know it is there and I am ever-grateful for it. But as a patient, it is easy to find support in many ways, through friends and family, through community, through blogs and online forums and in-person support groups. Patients are obvious recipients of support, people who clearly need it for what we are going through. But there is another class of individual who carries an equal or higher burden and is consistently overlooked in the need for support: the caregiver.

I have said many times that I think the caregiver’s job is harder than the patient’s. After all, the patient has a clear objective: to deal with the physical effects of the disease. Everything else melts away in comparison to that primary struggle. And that everything falls into the lap of the patient’s caregiver.

Caregivers are thought to be a strong, robust bunch. But they exert all their energy offering support, often receiving none in return. Patients get all the love, all the sympathy. All the attention. Caregivers are left with their own web of stresses to deal with, their own pain, in the shadows.

Who checks in on them? When the patient is undergoing a new therapy, everyone checks on the patient. But there is a silent toll being taken by the one who watches over the progress, who sees the nuance that the patient may never reveal. And still, the shadow hangs, even as the caregiver shines as brightly as possible for the patient and, quite often, other family members who must be shepherded through this grueling patch of life with as much “normal” kept in place as possible.

They do so much more than picking up the slack in a patient’s life. Caregivers, if there are any to be had in this experience, are often the true heroes. Celebrate the ones in your life.

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