Two Roads

It is funny how the universe works when you are looking for answers. Bits and pieces of unrelated experiences floating cross your landscape to the world, while you seek relevance.

Lately I have been immersed in the world of a certain type of caregiver, the one that is having to dedicate all of their time in the care of someone that needs total care, and looking at that same situation from the one in need of that care, the question of quality of life for both patient and the caregiver are rarely spoken openly and their support through this journey is so very limited, if at all. I know that healing the mind is a key component when healing the body, yet I see little in the way of support for full time caregiver whose nemesis is not enough time and the patient when the state of medical practice, is just not there for their illness.

The other day I was looking up ideas for some fundraising event coming up soon and hit on this poem that resonated with me.

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost (1874–1963)Two RoadsTWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both              
And be one traveler, long I stood            
And looked down one as far as I could  
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,        
And having perhaps the better claim,    
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;              
Though as for that the passing there      
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay          
In leaves no step had trodden black.      
Oh, I kept the first for another day!        
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:          
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

When I first joined the ranks of the Relay For Life fighters, my first thought was that advocacy would be my weapon of choice. I would seek out the need and let their stories be my guide for the work we do. We are fulfilling many needs with our efforts, but we have so many others, going unfulfilled.

One third of the population of Canada and the US is provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed. More than 37% of caregivers have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them. Spend an average of 20 hours per week caring for their loved ones while 13% of family caregivers are providing 40 hours of care a week or more. They just don’t have the time to look after themselves. And when things begin to go downhill for their loved ones as they often do, suffer alone.

I’ve been the shoulder to cry on for a few friends going through cancer and the ones that opened my eye are the second timer, who’s cancer, had returned. Two of these people are people are is polar in their circumstances and their stance while being the same. One is on his third fight with an inoperable cancer and does not wish to go through thin chance chemo offers, for the probable side effects he will have to live with forever. The other is on her forth fight with cancer for which cancer has taken so much of her body. She wonders if the fight is worth it, when all that she was, is gone and is now need of total care.

In my mind’s eye, both these people need care, support and a voice. Caregivers spend vast amounts of time, money, sacrificing career, family and emotional health in the care for another. And the support available to all concerned when the odds are no longer in your favor and time is all but run out, are linked.

I am still lost in all this, but I have started down the path less traveled, to learn how to truly help and hope I can make a difference.

I do know we need to be their warrior
to both these groups of people
when time as all but gone
are left silently screaming to be heard
We need to be their voice.



My eyes are open and I am Lost

Over four years ago, I found Relay and like most people, it changed my life. It changed how view life and what truly matters in it. As I began to come to terms with the scope of the issues surrounding cancer, I’ve come to realize a great number of things that need addressing.

We work so hard supporting the survivors but what about the caregivers? The latest numbers indicate that in U.S., 1/3 provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend. The typical family caregiver is a 49-year-old woman caring for her widowed 69-year-old mother who does not live with her. She is married and employed.

I recently joined the discussion on a support site hosted by my Canadian Cancer Society called Cancer Connection and I have read through 100’s of postings. I’ve come to see that caregivers are so busy juggling multiple lives they just don’t have the time to fight for caregiver’s rights, recognition, financial and emotional support. We spend so must time giving support the survivor, we acknowledge the importance of caregivers, but seams to stop right there. Who and what support systems are there really available for the caregivers?

Over the last bunch of years I given support to many cancer survivors, but the ones that linger in my heart and mind, are those few that are multiple cancer survivors. They know more about the roller coaster of emotions of walking the long night of the cancer journey. They know what in store and truly wonder if they can go through it again and inevitably the question of quality of life is foremost in their mind.

The first time someone I was supporting said they were thinking of not going through with the operation and treatment. I got lucky with my gut reaction and got mad. I do know now, it might not have been the right approach but in this one case it worked, for the simple reason, they needed a wake up slap in the face because of theirs and their doctor’s attitude, were in conflict with each other.

Now I am helping another and I know this approach will not work this time. I’ve ask so many people about how to deal with this one question, and the only answer I get back is there is no easy answers. I feel that I am lost in the wildness, walking in circles.

DSCN2094These two polar issues are linked and both need to be addressed for the sanity and health of caregivers and those they care for. I just don’t know where to find the answers I seek.