A nonprofit's new website section offers resources to caregivers of people with lung cancer.
Andrea Stern Ferris is the president and chairman of LUNGevity Foundation.
You've just heard a devastating diagnosis: Your loved one has lung cancer. You freeze and try not to panic — but what now? There are so many questions to ask, so many things to do and so much still unknown. I know this feeling, because I have lived it.
My mother was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006, and when that happened, my father and I found ourselves with new roles. I became more than my mother’s daughter. I became one of her caregivers and part of her support team. I was also a support to my father and my brothers. Being a caregiver means helping a loved one with everything from meal planning to getting to and from doctor’s appointments to ensuring that medical bills are paid on time.
Finding yourself in this position can be overwhelming, but if you do, you are not alone. In fact, 43.5 million people in the U.S. are caring for loved ones with cancer and other illnesses. This year, it is estimated that 221,200 new cases of lung cancer will be diagnosed, representing 13 percent of all cancer diagnoses. As caregivers, we play an important part in our loved ones’ fight against the disease. It’s not just the person with cancer who is affected — it’s all of us.
When my mother passed away in March 2008, my family and I founded Protect Your Lungs to help in the fight against lung cancer. In 2010, we joined forces with LUNGevity Foundation and have grown the organization into the nation’s largest nonprofit focused on funding research and providing support to the lung cancer community.
This year, LUNGevity has partnered with the biopharmaceutical company Celgene Corp. to create Your Journey Together, a program providing tips, videos and information to help with some of the most pressing issues lung cancer caregivers face, including transitioning to the caregiver role, keeping family and friends informed and finding time to take care of yourself. Specially curated tip sheets and videos, which feature — and were designed with — input from caregivers, delve into how to ask for help from friends and family, ways to de-stress and stay healthy, what questions to ask your loved one’s health care team, tips for talking about and planning for the future, and many others.
As a caregiver, two things that I did not do, but in hindsight wish I had, were asking for help and taking care of myself. I wanted to do everything for my mother and to support my father, but I struggled while also being there for my husband and children and balancing the rest of my life. Being able to ask for help as a caregiver, so that you, too, can stay healthy, is very important. Support like this is the cornerstone of Your Journey Together.
The caregiver experience is different for each person, and not all needs are the same. Those differences helped to inform this program, and we hope that the resources available can help alleviate some of the burden on you and your loved ones during this difficult time.
For more information on Your Journey Together, including our tips and resources, visit LUNGevity.org/caregiver.