You check it at your lunch break. You’re scrolling, sprawled on your bed, naked in your towel between texting your friends, “10 minutes away!” (I mean, it’s their own fault they still believe this.) You’re liking, screenshotting, stalking your ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend’s profile down to 2015 trying not to accidentally “heart” anything.
These were all the thoughts running through my head when my doctor told me the nodule in my neck was cancerous. I’d seen what cancer means firsthand, first in high school when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’d seen it again when my father had surgery for melanoma. The night my doctor called with my test results, I was with my sister as she recovered from her most recent reconstruction surgery after her second fight with breast cancer. My family knows cancer.
“Cancer Mom" -- I know you’re not yet used to that title. It’s a title I never wanted, either. None of us did. I still remember the first time that someone called me a "cancer mom" -- my reaction was reminiscent of a shudder. The title feels like a shoe that doesn't quite fit right. A waistband that is too tight and uncomfortable. It hurts. You want to keep tugging at it to make it feel better. You eventually want to rip it off. Well mama, you now belong to a club to which you never wanted an invite.
Hey, you! Yes, I’m talking to you, the person behind the screen who is just like me. How do I know you’re like me? At one point or another, you felt scared, confused, and alone in your situation. You were diagnosed with cancer, or something else. You felt pushed aside and made to feel stupid, or like you got less-than-good care.
Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's disease is a big job. Depending on how advanced their illness is, the patient may depend on you for everything from feeding to mobility and medication management. When all your energy is focused on supporting their well-being, it's easy to neglect your own health and happiness. Unfortunately, this can leave you feeling completely drained and devoid of energy.