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The Fight Against Cancer: Pacing Yourself

We need to pace ourselves at the onset for what may be a much longer race than we anticipated.
I have not only witnessed so much as the sister of a cancer patient, but also through my work with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and as a nursing student. As somebody who was so unfamiliar with cancer when my sister was originally diagnosed, I think about how different my perspective of cancer is now.

With my own family, it altered the dynamic within our home and changed the relationships that we had with each other. It also fractured a unit that I had once thought was unbreakable. As well as, in both good and bad ways, it has provided a future that none of us could have ever foreseen.

In the beginning, we came together and focused all our energy on her. That included being present, supporting her and doing anything and everything that we thought would help the situation. As time wore on, all of use made different choices as to the degrees that we have been involved. All of us had our own reasons and rationale for doing as we did, but in the end, I landed on the far end of the spectrum. I took the role of caregiver and all that entailed throughout her journey.

While I think each family member had a moment when they knew they needed to step back, that time did not come for me until quite recently. I think there were a multitude of reasons why everybody chose what they did. More than anything though, we all underestimated the energy that one exudes during this process. It takes stamina and strength to get through the long and hard days. For us, we lived like it was a summer's run when in reality, we should have been preparing for a world class triathlon.

The initial results were so dire and after those proved wrong, I think there was a sense of caution. Not to assume that the doctors were always wrong, but to be cautious when receiving both good and bad news. At diagnosis, there is so much confusion and emotions are so high that you do not really take the time needed to absorb the news that has been given. A cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event and processing through that is something that nobody really gave us direction with.

Personally, getting swept up in what was happening was simply easier than dealing with the fatigue, exhaustion and worry that was consuming me. I spent more time by her bed than in my own, and so I was never able to fully recharge. As time wore on, it became evident that it was not a healthy way to live life no matter how “functionally” I seemed to be doing it.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the General Discussions CURE discussion group.
Kim is a nursing student who is hoping to find her place amongst the phenomenal oncology nurses and doctors who cared for her sister. She loves reading, volunteering and enjoying the outdoors of Colorado.
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