One Day at a Time: A Caregiver's
When Bette's husband was diagnosed with
small cell lung cancer two years ago, she found
herself facing a disease about whose treatment
and outcome she knew little. For Arlene, her
husband's diagnosis of chondrosarcoma was
clearly a turning point in their lives.
“A cancer diagnosis is something you never think you are going
to hear,” says Arlene. Suddenly both women found themselves
in the role of primary caregiver. Throughout their caregiving experience,
they learned not only how to best care for their spouses, but also
how to care for their own emotional health and physical well-being.
As Bette coped with her husband's diagnosis and treatment,
she adopted a simple phrase, 'one day at a time.' “Take
care of today,” says Bette. “If you think too much about
all the ‘what ifs,' you will be overwhelmed.”
Both women say educating themselves early about their husbands' particular
cancer was important in coming to terms with the diagnosis and having
a sense of what was to come.
“I am someone who likes to be informed,” said Arlene. “I
began learning everything I could.” Her search for information
led her to the resources available through the Joan Karnell Cancer
Center at Pennsylvania Hospital. Arlene was a frequent visitor to
the Cancer Center's Patient Education Room. Located off the
waiting area, the room features a variety of videos and reading material
for patients and their loved ones.
Both women praised the staff at the Cancer Center for being informative
and helpful. “From our first visit, everyone we met took the
time to explain what they did and what help was available to us,” said
Bette. “The staff makes you feel very comfortable about asking
While managing their husbands' care, both women agree that
caregivers must not forget about taking care of themselves. Seeking
assistance or being receptive to help offered by family and friends
“One person can't do it all,” says Bette, who has
the help of a home health aide as well as her children and their families.
For her relaxation, Bette enjoys listening to music and reading. Her
faith has also been a tremendous source of strength.
For Arlene, her extended family has helped not only with physical
tasks, but also by visiting with her and her husband. “If someone
offers to help you, let them,” says Arlene. “It is okay
to be on the receiving end.”
To help her relax and cope, Arlene enjoys participating in several
of the Cancer Center's supportive care programs including art
and music therapy and the nutritional cooking classes.
The Joan Karnell Cancer Center recognizes the incredible role caregivers
play in the lives of patients with cancer. No
matter what phase of treatment, the Cancer Center's
staff is available to answer questions and provide
information. As Bette and Arlene have shown,
the role of a caregiver may not always be easy, but connecting with
other people and resources can make all the difference. And take it
one day at a time. “If
you think too much about all the 'what ifs,'
you will be overwhelmed.”