June always reminds me of my unofficial birthday. The birthday that I celebrate to remember my bone marrow transplant, the day that my cells and system got a do over on a hot summer day in Washington DC. Except that as momentous as that day was for me, I really did not do anything special other than laying there, letting the medicine work its way through my body. The people who did something…were my doctors, my nurses and my family. Even my ex-fiance and my ex-almost in laws. These caregivers were the ones who during those months, during that year, got me to where I needed to be. They were the ones that took my emotions and mood swings in stride and simply held my hand. They are the ones that remember the conversations in the room that, –because of the many medicines that clouded my brain, are fuzzy memories almost too far off to remember.
So on this day, May 22, the American Cancer Society’s 100th birthday, I am thankful for my caregivers. For the many caregivers that are unsung heroes… playing a crucial role to help finish the fight against cancer. There was my oncologist whose wife had just had a baby boy when I met him, who treated me like a person instead of a patient. There was my chemo nurse that let me vent when I needed to complain about my ex-almost mother in law. There was the CT technician with a Boston accent who went out of his way to not treat my arm like a pin cushion and held my hand before I went into the machine crying each time, hoping that the scan would be “clean.”
Although it sounds predictable (and maybe even cheesy), when I think about the importance of caregivers in any fight against cancer, I think about my parents.
My dad, who despite his medical training, suddenly had a daughter that he could not fix. My dad, who…if I am being honest, I had not particularly been nice to for a long period of time, but held my hand and let me cry anyway. My dad who learned hebrew prayers all over again so that he could say them with me when I needed them.
Then there was my mom. Truth be told, my mom and I have not always been close. Growing up I talked back to her, and never felt that I could confide in this woman who was my mom. But now, there she was. Transplanting her life for months at a time to be there for me, even when I was miserable to be around. Bringing me pate’ from the grocery store, or frozen meals of macaroni and cheese because I refused to eat the hospital food (and trust me, an Italian mom buying FROZEN pasta from the grocery store…is a HUGE deal). My mom who more than anyone understood how much I disliked (ok, hated) being the patient, and the lack of control that I had over my own life…bore the brunt of my moods, my moments and my insecurities.
Yes, that is what parents do. But…knowing how to be a caregiver, or rather, learning how to be a caregiver for your child….your child that once upon a time you could just hug and fix with a bandaid….that is different. I cannot imagine the fear, the strength, the daily emotional fight that it took for my parents. But just as much as the new cells fought the fight against my old and wounded cells, my caregivers fought my fight to end my cancer.
May 22, 2013 is the American Cancer Society’s 100th birthday and they are determined to finish the fight against cancer. The 100 Caregiver Stories series is a blogger parallel to ACS’s 100 Days/100 Stories series, which features researchers and volunteers who are taking action to help ACS finish the fight against cancer. ACS wants to shine a light on 100 amazing caregivers by the end of 2013; sign up here if you want to share a blog post.
I am a member of the American Cancer Society’s Blogger Advisory Council. This was my story. No financial compensation was received to publish this post.