by Gail Hamm, program director
Dianne and I just returned from a CANSA conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. CANSA is a loosely knit organization of local, not-for-profit cancer service agencies from across the country. Some were formed in the 1940’s, as was Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana (1944), and others are relatively young (5 years or less). Some of these are 1-person volunteer agencies and others are larger with paid staff.
This group tries to gather yearly to share ideas and provide encouragement for each other. Much mentoring occurs at these gatherings, as does idea gathering for programs, and of course, a bit of fun. The ideas shared by sister agencies often show up as new programs or new ways to evaluate programs. Many cancer clients and their families across the country are benefitting from our meetings, phone calls and emails between conferences.
You can find a local cancer service agency by checking with your county United Way, a hospital or hospice social worker, or by calling me at Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. We have a list of many agencies like ours across the country, but are constantly looking for more of them.
No matter what community you live in, be sure to share your time, talents and financial resources with your local cancer service organization. What a difference we all make!
by Gail Hamm, Program Director
The caregiver is the unsung hero in the medical journey. Caregivers provide hands-on care and encouragement. They may provide care as an act of love, from a sense of duty, or out of feelings of guilt. Whether caring for a loved one at home or in a nursing facility, the truth is that nothing is the same as it was before the illness.
Schedules revolve around the needs of the patient. Hard choices abound: Is my loved one safe alone while I am at work? While I run to the store? While I head to the mailbox? There are frustrations over added laundry, money worries, lack of help. Many find it extremely difficult to ask for help and therefore create even more challenges for themselves.
As the caregiver becomes more fatigued and frustrated, feelings of resentment may arise. Previous relationship problems only complicate matters. Will I care for this person who has caused me so much pain in the past? Am I not justified in walking away? Guilt feelings abound, sometimes paralyzing the caregiver into inaction.
Additional problems arise when the patient’s needs are greater than the caregiver’s ability to provide that care. If the caregiving lasts so long that there appears to be no end to the journey, the caregiver may become overwhelmed and feel ready to give up.
Conversely, caregiving can be a most rewarding experience. It is an act of love that can draw people closer together and deepen love and understanding.
No one has to “go it alone.” There is help available if both the patient and caregiver are willing to be open to other options. Call a Cancer Services advocate for assistance. Nothing is the same as it was before the illness, but it can be good.
Each of us wants life to have meaning, to contain relationships and experiences that make daily living richer and more enjoyable. We want, for ourselves and the people we love a quality of life that makes tomorrow exciting and interesting, caring and comforting. That’s why few things in life are more frightening than hearing the words, “you have cancer.” We understand that. We also know that while life will never be the same after a cancer diagnosis it can be rich and full of many good things.
Here you will read stories of cancer survivors, stories of hope and encouragement, stories of triumph, and thoughts to make your life richer. The postings on this blog represent the heart of Cancer Services of Northeast Indiana. To learn more about the daily work of the organization go to cancer-services.org.
Our hope for you is that cancer, while life-threatening, will become something more. We want to help you find the life-affirming insight that will give you strength for the journey wherever it leads you.