When Nick was diagnosed with cancer our world stopped. Literally. I worked at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library and was an editor for a local magazine. I stopped working at the library and tried to keep up with the latest magazine deadline. I stopped exercising which has always been a priority in my life. I was overwhelmed by Nick’s needs, understanding his treatment protocol, making sure Stephen was taken care of, and completely ignored my house. If my friends and family hadn’t stopped by the hospital or my home, I wouldn’t have seen them. I was constantly in overdrive and to even think about doing the things I used to do before Nick was diagnosed was impossible.
As I look back at those life changing four months from diagnosis through treatment to losing Nick, I often wonder how I could have done things differently. I don’t mean with his treatment (although every parent puts themselves through the ‘what ifs’), but I mean with taking care of myself so that I could have taken care of my children better and made clearer decisions. I also ask this in order to see how Nick’s Fight to be Healed Foundation can help parents during their child’s battle with cancer.
|Finding different athletic events helps me deal with the stress of missing my son.|
I felt that there were five ways I could have worked out the stress and fear that I felt every day while caring for Nick. For those of us who have lost our child, every one of these ideas can help you deal with the grief.
1. Exercise: As someone who exercises almost every day, working out is a huge part of my life. I would have benefited from going for walks, and did a few times with friends, but not enough. So taking the time to walk with your child or if you have someone who you trust to stay with your child, walk with your spouse or go for a bike ride with family members. If you enjoy any type of aerobic classes, keeping that connection allows you to step away from your situation so that you can come back to caring for your child with more energy and a clearer mind.
2. Keeping a journal or blog: When we write down a problem or fear, that act of connecting a pen to paper or fingers to keyboard opens up another part of our brain and can clarify an issue, help us make a decision or just get the anger off our chest. Your journal can be personal, it can be a history of your child’s diagnosis so you can look back and see how far your child has come. It can be a way to keep family and friends updated on your child’s journey. www.caringbridge.org is a great tool to stay connected.
3. Sleep: Of course sleeping in the hospital chairs that turn into beds aren’t the most comfortable options, but if you are staying in the hospital with your child try some of these ideas. Get a Pilates mat to place on the bed. It fits perfectly and adds comfort. Get an eye mask for you and your child as the hospitals are always lit even with the lights out. Have soft music on your handheld device, such as waves, rain, classical, anything to help drown out the beeping and voices surrounding you. Go to sleep when your child does so you can be well rested. When Nick was in the hospital for a few weeks stretch we watched the George Lopez Show before going to sleep. A little laughter and time together is relaxing.
4. Eat Well: With all the traveling back and forth to the hospital, administering medicine, and trying to keep up with your job and family, it’s easy to skimp on meals or choose unhealthy fast foods. A healthy diet is essential to helping your child get better and it’s vital to keep you on your toes and well.
5. Stay Connected and Laugh A lot: Visit with your friends and family or have them stop by often as long as your child is healthy enough for the visit. Go for walks, watch funny movies, play board games, or go out for a quick dinner. Laughter heals and visits help the entire family.
As caregivers, I can’t stress enough the need to take care of yourself and stay connected to your life. The cancer journey can be a long one, so your child needs you to do this. By exercising, writing, getting good sleep, eating well and staying connected to others in a joyful manner, you will be prepared to get your child through the hardest journey of his life and your body and soul will thank you for caring for yourself too.
If you have ideas that have helped you get through your child’s cancer diagnosis or caring for a loved one, please share it with us!