Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Caregivers, The Unsung Heroes

Dealing with cancer is an unimaginably difficult ordeal. Everyday one must deal with several uncertainties and unknowns. Having someone there helping the warrior through this battle makes all the difference.
A caregiver is anyone who provides physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, or logistical support to a loved one with a chronic, disabling or life-threatening illness. He/She is an essential team member in the loved one's fight against cancer.
As caregiver you often sweep your own fears and struggles during this battle,under the carpet for fear of detracting away from your loved one.  You cannot accept praise because you consider this role to be your duty. But although you may cringe from the title, you most surely are, an unsung hero.
Learning that your loved one has been diagnosed with cancer can invoke debilitating fear in the bravest of hearts. While it's not easy to deal with this news with any level of equanimity, don't give into negativity and defeat. Muster all your courage and practice your best brave face because the battle you did not chose is coming to you.
Here are some things to keep in mind going into this fight:

1. Knowledge is Power
While everyday can bring in new trials, being prepared can prevent unnecessary fear and confusion. Eg. Knowing the side effects of a particular medicine can give you an idea of what to expect and help reassure your loved one. Being a caregiver entails quite a lot of knowledge of modern Medicine and you will have to become a substitute doctor. Become part of our support group via the cancer centre. Connect here on our site and discuss with other caregivers the various stages of cancer, treatment options, side effects etc.

  2. Striking a balance
Of course assuming this role will require you to modify your schedule. You have to make a lot of time for the cancer fighter and  do a lot of research. It's very important to not let go of your own health and relationships in this process. Make sure you eat well and get enough sleep. You have to take on the role of doctor a lot of the time and you can't afford to be fatigued and irritable.
Make sure you stay in communication with you friends. E.g. Go out for walks everyday with a close friend or go out to dinner on the weekends. There's absolutely no need to feel guilty about enjoying yourself in these times. You need it to rejuvenate and come back with more strength and vigour. Don't shy from discussing your own trials and misgivings with YOUR support system. Once again join our support group to discuss the emotional toll this disease takes on you and the cancer fighter.

3.It's O.K to be scared

From the word go you will be accosted by new and scary experiences; seeing really sick people at the doctor's office, having to perform routine medical procedures when you never even applied a Band-Aid on someone, and seeing your loved one deal with mood swings, pains, restlessness, loneliness etc. You may find it all too overwhelming at times.
Ask questions, sometimes multiple times till you are unable to grasp what the doctor is telling you.
Don't be afraid to cry out for help. The chances are you are surrounded by people who really want to help but just don't know how to. Ask what you require of them.
Listen to your cancer warrior. It's important your loved one is frank about what they’re is going through. Often they try to play things down so that you don't get worried. Establish frank communication and make a log book noting down EVERYTHING. You can then communicate with the doctor exactly what's happening so he/she can give you the right care.

4. Don't be afraid to say “No”
This can be a problem in a country like India where large swathes of people want to visit the cancer fighter. Ask the fighter if they feel like meeting. If not, do not be afraid of putting your foot down, maybe at the cost of even sounding rude. Your loved one and you, are more important than empty formalities.

5. Respecting wishes
A lot of times people shy away from discussing the feared eventuality, the loss of the loved one. It is thought to be morbid and defeatist. But this discussion may become important at some point in the battle and must be dealt with practically. If the fighter wants to discuss organ donation, burial procedures, wills etc. do as he/she wants as reasonably as possible. Tough as it may be, try and divorce this affair from emotion.

6. Laughter is the best medicine
Many people think being gay and happy around a cancer warrior is being disrespectful. On the contrary the laughter helps to distract from the pain and fear. Organise little game parties with your friends/close relatives. Eg. if the cancer warrior likes card games, organise an evening of poker when your loved one is feeling slightly better. Make sure the atmosphere is light and frivolous during these meetings. Indulge in gossip and banter, organise a comedic movies marathon. Distraction is the greatest palliative.

7. Harbouring your inner Zen
No matter what, DO NOT LOSE YOUR CALM in front of the fighter. Cancer wreaks havoc on the body and some days are worse than the others. When your loved one is particularly down, even though you are worried too, make absolutely sure you do not appear flustered. If your loved one is particularly rude and belligerent some days, never lose your temper or snap back. Remember given the pain he/she is going, everything is justified.

Meditate, read and breathe. No one said this was going to be easy. Never be hard on yourself. Whatever the outcome you have done your best at every step of the way and you deserve a standing ovation. Take one day at a time and remember, you can reach out to us at any step of the way.

“Everyone has a particular relationship with the Lord, and that relationship is evoked by the perfection of devotional service” –Bhagvad-Gita Introduction.

Thanks for reading and please keep visiting our blog to discover and appreciate more Yoddhas. 
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Thursday, March 5, 2015

He who has hope, has everything...

It is so difficult at times to look at the brighter side of things. We all have phases in life where nothing seems to be working for us. When diagnosed with cancer, the silver lining seems even more elusive and faint. 
There are umpteen studies to show that a positive mind helps us live longer, stronger and younger. While regular exercise and a balanced diet are definite requisites for a healthy life, optimism and positivity have definitely proven to be just as important. When a    person hopes and dreams, they tend to take better care of themselves. It is the conviction that gives any wrestler the strength to fight. So even when the darkest of tides seem to crash against us, we must try and stay afloat with the help of hope. It was a great poet, who said;

"Hope" is the thing with feathers— 
That perches in the soul— 
And sings the tune without the words— 
And never stops—at all—"

Every spiritual leader, religion and scripture tells us that our lives will be enriched and deepened in proportion to the amount of pain and grief we suffer. When a mountain is placed before us, as we scale it's slopes, we 
discover our own strengths and weaknesses. We acquaint ourselves with new experiences and build new memories. When the terrain gets particularly difficult, we discover ways to get past it. All the while our muscles develop so that we may challenge higher mountains. 

The trick is to keep moving on. Even if our steps are unsteady, and we are filled with doubt we must move forward with only the best of hopes in heart. So next time you feel you are going to snap beneath the burden, remember the following;

   1. God tests everyone, at some point or the other. But he always gives his loved ones the strength to pass those tests. So be thankful for those in your life, who always grasp your hand when you reach out. 
2. All of us paint pictures of ourselves 5-10 years from now in our minds. But that picture translates to reality for precious few. Life has the uncanny habit of throwing all of us unwelcome surprises. Just because it didn't turn out the way you imagined, doesn't mean   it isn't worth being thankful for. 
3.There is someone in the world at this instant, who is going through much worse than you. Think about those who have lost their homes, friends and families in mindless war,  of those who have NEVER had a meal big enough to fill their stomachs and perhaps never will. Thus be thankful for all the happy memories you have.

No one is saying this is easy, or belittling your battle. But since it IS such a big battle, equip yourself with more sanguinity. Take one day at a time. Make every moment count by doing things that give you joy. Read a book, sing a song, write a poem. Like Omar Khayyum said, "Be happy for this moment, this moment is your life".

Books of the week,
A thousand splendid suns, Khaled Hosseini 
Freedom in Exile, Autobiography of the Dalai Lama

Videos of the week,