Caregivers are present at the beginning, middle and end of cancer. Caregivers are the people who go to the first doctor appointment for “just a quick x-ray” or “a routine blood draw.”
They are the people who answer the phone call from the doctor and tell their children that the routine check-up is no longer routine and that mutated cells are taking over their body. They hold hands during the port access and decorate hospital rooms with get well signs and homemade drawings from Mrs. Johnson’s 2nd grade class.
Caregivers pick up the clumps of fallen hair from the ground and buy new clothes as muscles deteriorate and weight is lost. They research protocols and second opinions.
Caregivers receive well wishes and not-so-helpful advice from strangers who truly mean well. They coax and beg their children to hold out their arms for IV’s and find the best nurse on the floor to access the vein.
They advocate. They love. They cry. They hold. They mourn. They are brave.
Caregivers, I see you. I know of the sleepless nights and constant worry. I see the fear in your eyes and can feel the ever-present pit in your stomach. You never let your little one see this and I am astounded by your courage. Thank you for loving your sick children so beautifully.
My mom, friend, and caregiver recently passed away this spring and the following is a list of things I forgot to thank her for.
- Thank you for making sure my favorite blanket was packed before we left the house for a week of chemo.
- Thank you for the countless trips to Caribou Coffee to get me a piece of lemon poppy seed cake.
- Thank you for sleeping on that horribly uncomfortable couch every night so I was never alone.
- Thank you for switching the DVDs when the disk of The West Wing needed to be flipped.
- Thank you for making me my own food instead of ordering hospital food.
- Thank you for playing along when I pretended to be asleep while the doctors did their rounds. (Sorry about this one. I just couldn’t do rounds that day.)
- Thank you for being in the recovery room after I woke up from surgery with a melted bowl of ice cream because you knew my throat would be sore from the intubation tube.
- Thank you for being an advocate. You always fought for what I needed.
- Thank you for teaching me how to care for sick loved ones.
- Thank you for letting me go to an out-of-town football game with my friends. (I’m still not convinced you didn’t follow us there and watch from a distance just in case.)
- Thank you for making sure the night nurse did not turn the overhead light on in the middle of the night.
- Thank you for holding me when I cried and couldn’t understand why this was happening.
- Thank you for teaching me what selfless, not-counting-the-cost love looks like.
- Thank you for buying me a journal on that first day in the hospital. You knew I needed to write.
- Thank you, Mom, for being the greatest caregiver in the world.
Caregivers, you’re doing an incredible job. Keep advocating and loving and crying and laughing and moving forward.
Written by Katrina Siebels
Katrina was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma when she was 17 years old. Now nine years past her cancer diagnosis date, she works as a Gift Officer at Children’s Cancer Research Fund. To read more from Katrina, read her pieces Photos During Chemo – A Survivor’s Perspective, Do You Want a Warm Blanket and Nine Years Later.