Angela’s Corner: Becoming the Caregiver

IMG_0801As soon as my sister was out of the operating room, my new role for the next week started.  I became a caregiver for my sister as she battled her breast cancer journey.  The role of a caregiver is one of the most important roles to any cancer patient.

The American Cancer Society considers a caregiver to be anyone that helps out in one form or another: cooking a meal, cleaning the house, emotional support over the phone, being a chauffeur, or being that person to hold their hand at an appointment.

I took this new role pretty seriously, especially since just the year before my sister was my caregiver.  I was up at all hours of the night stripping drain tubes, making sure my sister had her pain meds when needed, and helping her in and out of her recliner.  I’m not going to lie, the lack of sleep (or more so the frequent interruptions) really wore on me.  I became more tired than usual, but it was a sacrifice I would not take away, or give to anyone else.

Since I was not only taking on caregiving for my sister, I also saw it was as an opportunity to help out where needed.  The dishes were always clean.  The dogs left my sister alone when needed.  Her daughter always had her homework completed, lunch packed, and was to school on time.  Sure, her husband was able to take on much of the extra slack left by Erica’s recovery, but having me there allowed for more support.

As a caregiver, I realized I needed to take care of myself just as much as my sister.  I would want to make sure everyone else was fed before I would eat, or everyone was in bed on time before I picked up a little more around the house.  It’s the mental exhaustion that got me the most.  I was missing my family terribly, but knew that I was meant to be with my sister.  I was making daily phone calls to my parents for status updates.  At times I needed to escape.  When my sister was napping or engrossed in a television series she was catching up on, I pulled out a book to escape and watch the movie playing in my own head.  One night, I pulled out my paints and canvases I brought.  I escaped into my artistic side, and in the meantime allowed my niece to do the same.

My sister and I have a strong bond made stronger from my breast cancer journey, and made even stronger by hers.  Becoming her caregiver was a role I offered without thought.  In fact, even if she said “no” I would have pushed my way into this role.  These two years have been a blessing to us both in more ways than we could have ever imagined.

Learn more about Angela’s battle against breast cancer.
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