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When Your Caregiving Days Are Over
By Joyce Aleshire
I am a facilitator of a Cancer
Caregiver Support Group in Ohio. We have monthly
meetings at two different facilities in two different
counties on the second Tuesday and second Wednesday of
In the course of our meetings,
several topics surface. One that got my attention most
recently was: How a caregiver moves on once their
caregiving days are done.
If you are dealing with cancer and your caregiving days
are over because of “remission,” this is a celebratory
experience—something you hoped and prayed for. You still
have your loved one with you, to experience all life’s
pleasures with new meaning—appreciating “the second
chance at life.”
The other side of the coin—your
caregiving days are over due to a passing. What is there
to celebrate? The person’s life as you once knew them?
Their smile, their voice, their accomplishments, even
their disappointments, their victories and their
defeats. Their bucket list they never did quite
complete, not to mention their families, parents,
spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, people in
their lives that meant something to them. The what could
have been, what ifs, unanswered questions…the list goes
There was the daily routine—at one
point wondering how you are ever going to get through
the next 24 hours? The countless doctor visits,
consults, surgeries, chemo, radiation, blood work,
Hearing all the medical terminology
that was like hearing a foreign language, getting an
education in cancer whether you wanted it or not.
Understanding the terms, dealing with the terms,
explaining the terms to others…Am I getting this right?
Did I hear that right?
Your thoughts consumed with your
loved one and their well-being, making sure you are
doing what is in their best interest. Literally taking
one day at a time and on some days, one minute at a
Sleep doesn’t come easy, can’t shut
your mind off, worry sets in and you find yourself
worrying about things you have absolutely no control
over. Peace of mind doesn’t exist.
Then one day, you find yourself
alone with your thoughts. You actually have time
to think now, but there’s a void. You keep looking at
the clock, thinking you’re missing an appointment; you
should be in the car going someplace. Hospital maybe?
Doctor’s office? Where do I belong?
Then it hits you…I don’t have to be
anywhere! My time is my own! But you don’t know where to
go or what to do. There was a point when there were not
enough hours in a day. Now, all of a sudden,
you’ve got time to spare and you’re lost.
You have a life, responsibilities, family, maybe even a
job, but something is missing. Not just the
someone you loved and cared for and would give anything
to have one more day with again. There’s a part of your
life that is missing and once again you have to get used
to a “new normal.”
You did that “new normal” thing the
day cancer entered your life. When a loved one gets a
diagnosis of cancer, it affects the whole family and
what was normal is no longer! So here you are again,
getting used to another “normal” as it will be for this
Everyone handles grief in their own
way. A caregiver is no different. There will be
adjustments in their daily life. They may deal
with depression, and some lose their identity and
struggle to get it back. There will be a recovery in
time. How long? Whenever. Some, after the first
year; others longer.
Faith, family and friends. That is
usually what gets us through life and it certainly
applies to cancer patients and caregivers.
I am not a professional, not a
counselor, therapist or psychologist. My degree is the
degree of life. I lived it!
Joyce Aleshire is the facilitator of a
Cancer Caregiver Support Group in Ohio.