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One Carer's Journey
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A look at the effects of Breast Cancer from the viewpoint of a carer

Cancer is not a cut that can be stitched, healed and forgotten. Over time, the scars may be less-obvious, even unnoticeable in some cases, but they remain nevertheless. Unfortunately, because Ruth now looks well and seemingly able to function normally, those who haven't known her, or what she's been through, expect far more than she is capable of. Assumptions made in this regard are deeply hurtful to the patient and frustrating for carers. I ask myself: why are people so lacking in compassion? Why can't they understand that appearances deceive and the person before them is merely putting on a brave face because it's the only way they can cope? How can they be considerate one minute when sufferers are undergoing treatment and wearing a bandanna, but so apathetic and unforgiving a few months later when the hair has grown back and they look the same as everyone else?

I believe I know why - they have only glimpsed cancer in passing; it hasn't attacked them personally, or changed their lives as it has ours. I would ask those whom it hasn't yet touched to be sympathetic and considerate towards cancer sufferers, their carers and their families. The pressure on this ever-growing section of the community to "get back into the swing" is enormous and continuous. Attempting to comply places extra strain on relationships, jobs, daily routine and financial stability, all of which have been sorely tested and may even be at breaking point. Support groups and associations provide invaluable help during and after treatment, but without the understanding of ordinary people, the eventual return to normality will be difficult for most, impossible for some.

The post-cancer syndrome is particularly hard to appreciate unless it is experienced first hand. And even then there can be misunderstandings. I was lucky in that I was able to retire early to look after my wife full-time. Now the medical part is over, Ruth has taken back many of her former chores and we are beginning to enjoy life once again. It must be remembered, however, that we were already planning our retirement from the work-force. It just happened a little sooner than we'd hoped. But I know it isn't the same for everyone. Younger sufferers, especially those with families, will find it harder to recover than us.

Jobs have been put on hold, changes have been made to find the extra time for medical appointments, social commitments have had to be deferred or cancelled. No matter that the increased burden was anticipated and hopefully allowed for, the stress of meeting the challenge must inevitably take its toll. Employers and workmates will be growing tired of making sacrifices to accommodate the unlucky victim and their carer, both of whom have had to take time off. Children are starting to resent having to miss out on attention and being themselves when, in their eyes, everything is back to the way it was before Mum got cancer. Even the dedicated carer's ability to cope is wearing thin.

Families going through this level of crisis desperately need the help and understanding of everyone around them. From associates at work, to friends, extended family and especially institutions and government departments which may have an on-going interest in the affairs of those affected by cancer, all need to be more sympathetic than might be deemed reasonable. Victims want to return to the way they were before. They will probably claim to be ready and perfectly able to take up where they left off. But it isn't that simple and will be much longer than even they themselves believe before they can cope as well as they did before cancer changed their lives.

Let's remember that they never asked for the illness in the first place, and that they are unlikely to beg for consideration from others because of what it has done and is doing to them. So, it is up to all of us who can spare a thought, not to judge, not to pressure, just to continue our support of these courageous people who have as much right to happiness as anyone else.

Please consider - it could easily happen to you, or someone you care about.

My wife has put her thoughts and experiences on paper. Focus06
If you would like to contact me please Click here

Focus 23: Book Review of "Take My Hand" by Jo Wiles - the inspiring stories of 14 McGrath Breast Care Nurses.

For information and support assistance contact:

Australia       McGrath Foundation

Australia       Cancer Council Australia

UK       Cancer Research UK

USA       American Cancer Society

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