Caregiving Before Cancer

Caregiving Before Cancer

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer on December 5, 2019, I wasn’t at all surprised. I had felt the lump long before, but I was very involved with my mother, who had Parkinson’s and dementia. I had to frequently rush over to help her with her latest crisis, whether it was to take her to the hospital or just to help her understand why going home (to be with her mother who had died 40 years earlier) was problematic. I knew that I should go to the doctor myself but didn’t want to confuse my mom more by not being there when she needed me. 

 When I finally did go to the doctor, it had metastasized. I had 6 weeks of radiation and then started chemo, and infusions of herceptin and perzatuzumab. After I finished with the chemo, I had full body scans and was told that my tumors had all either disappeared or were greatly reduced and was started on a pill, letrozole. I continue with the herceptin and perzatuzumab. 

 I am so blessed that I have been surrounded by the most wonderful support – medical, family and friend support. When my doctor called to tell me how happy she was with the scan results, she sounded more excited than me!  And when I was too weak to cook, my sisters-in-law didn’t offer, they just came with all the food we needed. And my friends are always calling just to see how I’m doing and asking if I need anything. 

 I had such great support, but when Sharsheret called, I quickly discovered that Sharsheret wasn’t just there to offer a shoulder to cry on, or to help get certain resources (like a wig, which I already had). I was put on the Sharsheret email list and discovered some wonderful programs, some educational, some fun, that really helped me cope. I noticed a “Paint with Me” online class that was being offered. I have always wanted to try painting and here was an easy way to try it. Because of that class, I have done a few paintings. While I will never be a Monet, I am having great fun!  And then I noticed a webinar that I thought might be interesting. I didn’t learn all that much since I have such a wonderful oncology doctor and nurse who are both so helpful and thorough, but the webinar still managed to teach me a few things that were beneficial. 

 Sharsheret sent me a care package that just amazed me. There was so much information that I’m still learning from it. It included resources for getting a prosthetic (much better than stuffing your bra with various odds and ends!) and connected me with the sweetest woman who is working hard to get me the proper fit for the prosthetic and bra. I learned that there were specific exercises for lymphedema which I now do and my arm swelling has gone down – almost back to normal. In addition to the valuable information, the care package included things like cream and lip balm, free from harmful ingredients. 

 Everyone at Sharsheret (I spoke to a social worker in the Illinois regional office, and someone in New Jersey as well), has been so sweet, caring, and interested only in helping me and I will never forget that. I am extremely grateful to this wonderful organization. 

 I may have cancer, but I am getting stronger every day and consider myself blessed.