I've Got This Under Control – or Do I?
We plan our days one day at a time, make agendas, look forward to vacations, and get up in the morning with expectations of what we’ll do and what will happen that day. We have our days and our plans in control. But then………… cancer strikes.
It creates so many changes in our lives that we never anticipated and certainly didn’t plan for, many of which we can’t control.
Webster says control is the power to influence or direct events. When cancer strikes, do we have the power to influence or direct events? Maybe to a point: we can influence or direct which doctors are seen, which treatment options are chosen, which pharmacies will fill our prescriptions. But can we influence or direct the cancer itself? I don’t think so.
Finding control as a caregiver
As a caregiver for a prostate cancer patient, there are some things that can be controlled. When our energies are waning and we’re too tired or consumed with patient care, we have the control to reach out to others to do some of the things we typically take care of.
Sometimes we’re fortunate enough that people just step in and take care of chores, provide meals, cut the grass, without us asking. But most people, while they want to help, don’t know how and are hesitant to ask. They don’t want to remind us that things are different, that we may not be able to do life as we normally would.
But as caregivers, we do have control. We can ask for help. Be specific: ask someone to pick up groceries, shovel the snow, run some errands. I found asking was hard to do, and because of that, it led to burnout, exhaustion, depression.
Caring for ourselves
And that leads into another area where caregivers have control. We need to take care of ourselves, our health, our needs, our nutrition and exercise, and it's up to us to make sure that happens. While it is harder to figure out how to fit that in than it was in our pre-caregiver days, we can’t forget what we need to do for ourselves so we can be the caregiver we need to be.
We can control some of the negativity that comes into our lives. Don't read that article about how badly someone suffered, don't listen to the neighbor who tells the story over and over again about what happened to his father. Surround yourself with encouragers, people who lift you up, people whose positive attitude is reflected in everything they say and do. Actually, keeping those people close is a good practice for all of life, not just the cancer journey.
We need to let ourselves grieve. Cancer changes people, changes relationships, changes life. Right after my husband’s diagnosis of prostate cancer, I found I could think of nothing else, I couldn't sleep, I couldn't concentrate, and I couldn’t do much of anything. I became almost paralyzed with fear. I think that’s all part of the grieving process, and we need to recognize and accept it.
Then…… we take control again and march on. We learn what we can do as caregivers. We learn as much as we can about the disease. We schedule and attend doctor's visits and procedures. We limit visitors to make sure our patient gets the rest he needs. We provide nutritious meals. We encourage. We are grateful for and celebrate small victories, whether they be a good day or a lower PSA.
Yes, when cancer strikes, there are many things that are out of our control. But we need to recognize that we do have a voice and an important role in the battle. Grasp that which can be controlled, take charge, and move forward.
What was the most difficult part of your diagnosis?