‘Tis the Season: Three Year-Round Gifts for Cancer Caregivers

Don't just get the cancer caregiver in your life a gift that will only last a month, get them something that lasts year-round with these three ways you can help as they help you on the cancer journey.

In this messy business of cancer, it’s a sure thing that you can’t face it alone. It’s another sure thing that the caregiver who remains by your side is nothing less than a saint.

We can be sullen and uncommunicative one day, and “Chatty Cathy” the next. Our caregivers would need a crystal ball just to keep up with the range of emotions expressed. Just how do they manage to stay unrattled and maintain their sanity during all the cancer-caused chaos?

To that point, we survivors and thrivers should make our holiday gifts extra special for that extra-special caregiver. But the gifts that I have in mind won’t fit under the Christmas tree. They’ll transcend this special season, gifts that keep on giving throughout the year.

Here are three ideas for you:

1. The Gift of Appreciation

Load up on greeting cards, especially the “Thank You” and “Thinking of You” varieties, and regularly offer them in recognition of the little or big things your caregiver does for you day in and day out. We may not be too good with words, but Hallmark’s got us covered.

The day after our latest cancer rant is a good time to leave one of these cards for our patient listener. Or how about a card after our beloved has made sure that we are well-rested, well-fed and controlling our blood pressure and stress level? Or maybe after they’ve filled out our physician forms online and prepare a list of questions for us before the next doctor’s visit?

When she’s at work, I routinely text my wife funny messages with smiley faces and, her favorites, kitten emojis. I’m retired, but she’s still in the workforce as an essential worker filling prescriptions. I know she works in a demanding environment, and it’s my job to be the “court jester” to brighten her day.

Keep it light and upbeat, I say.

2. The Gift of Time

Our cancer stuff is not the only thing going on with our caregivers. They have careers to maintain, friendships to nourish and family to keep up with. Not every waking moment of theirs should be centered on us.

It’s just not healthy.

My wife enjoys studying German and French on the website called Duolingo and she is trying to get certified as an IT professional. This is her exclusive time when I make myself invisible.

She also enjoys spending 90 minutes a week on FaceTime with her mom and dad. They dropped off their extra television set at our apartment four months ago and we did a drive-by howdy-do at their home sometime back, but my wife needs to reconnect with them regularly and that’s when I butt out.

3. The Gift of Silence

Six years into my cancer journey, I’ve learned when to shut up. That’s especially true when my wife is getting off from a hard day at work. I used to talk incessantly about my cancer stuff, but I noticed that her face grew weary. So, I tried a different tactic: Save the big and serious stuff for later in the evening or during down time on the weekend.In short, after-work conversations should be lighter, less demanding.

Our tradition is to take long walks in the neighborhood when she hangs up her pharmacy technician’s hat for the day. I get a chance to ask her how her day went and talk about our families, the weather, politics, anything but the elephant in the room.

My cancer rants are few and far in between now, thanks to a long-running remission. When I do voice my anxiety, it’s directed to my online support group that meets twice a month on Zoom. That’s shifted the burden from my overwhelmed caregiver.

But even now, when a rare conversation turns to medical matters, I try to cut to the chase and avoid giving her the “War and Peace” version. This gives her more time to watch her beloved British comedies and listen to classical music concerts online.

We all need our me-time!

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it, cancer peeps. By all means, for Christmas, Hanukkah or however you celebrate the season, buy that special gift for that special someone who has stayed the course during your cancer journey.

But remember that your gifts of appreciation, time and silence are good to bestow on your beloved year-round. It’ll restore some balance in your lives, improve your relationships and make for a happier home.

Oh, yes, my wife and I wish you and your wonderful caregiver a very happy and prosperous 2021!

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