When Autumn Colbert's mother, Patricia Colbert Brown, received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma in October 2011, she didn’t think twice about becoming her mother's caregiver.
When Autumn Colbert's mother, Patricia Colbert Brown, received a diagnosis of multiple myeloma in October 2011, she didn't think twice about becoming her mother's caregiver.
"Life is a circle," explains the 29-year-old staff development coordinator from Columbia, Md. "People give to you, and then you give back to the world."
Colbert visited her mother almost every day. She prepared her meals, drove her to her medical appointments and made sure she had everything she needed to be comfortable. Following successful treatment, her mother grew stronger and Colbert moved on from being her caregiver to being her biggest supporter. "She's been really brave and strong," Colbert says, adding that "her team of doctors has gotten her to a very stable place."
Caregiving was a part of Colbert's life from an early age. When she was a teenager, her father became gravely ill, and Colbert watched as aides cared for him to the end. Later, when Colbert's grandmother developed dementia, she helped her mother with her grandmother’s care.
Colbert says one of the most important lessons she learned as a caregiver was the importance of maintaining a positive attitude. "It's really about inspiration and edification, always making sure that the patient is in a state of positivity and that the people around them are always in a state of belief rather than disbelief," she explains. "If you have to cry, it's best to do that away from the patient because you don't want to bring that burden on them."
Despite the occasional tears, Colbert says caring for her mother brought them closer. "My mother's cancer made me think in different terms," she observes. "When we first started out on the journey, I was extremely afraid of what life would bring us. I was nervous about work, bills, treatments and everything else I could find to worry me. However, my mother’s faith and belief in healing drew me in. My doubt subsided, and we took it day by day."
Caregivers should know they're not alone, Colbert adds. "There may be moments when they feel the weight of the world and that is normal, but it will pass. Life is fleeting. Choosing to revel in the meaningful time we have is important. But we should live and learn to love it while we can."