FROM THE EDITOR'S PEN
/ Mr. Brokaw and the Sixth Principle / Editorial List
I will fearlessly seek out other caregivers
or care organizations and join an appropriate
support group, I realize that there is strength in
numbers and will not isolate myself from those who
are also caring for their loved ones.
Fearless Caregiver Manifesto – Principle 6
For anyone who counsels family caregivers, it is
important to understand that we can be hesitant to take
advantage of support groups for a few reasons. First, it is difficult
for many of us to face the issues of our own caregiving, so to tell us
to sit in a room of people who are discussing their own caregiving
challenges seems like the very last thing we would ever want to do.
Also, many caregivers feel that support groups are just a room of people
whining about their problems; of course, nothing is further from the
truth. In fact, many caregivers learn to see their support groups as
some of the only people who they can open up to—their family of choice.
My suggestion is to say to the questioning family
caregiver, “If you trust me at all, I want you to
take a ‘leap of faith.’” Go to an appropriate
support group three times. Three times, because the
first time it might just seem as if you are walking
into a room of people whining about their
situations; that is because you have stepped into an
intimate setting of people talking about other
people and situations that you know nothing about.
The second time you go, it may still be a little
uncomfortable for the caregiver. But I have never
seen a caregiver go to an appropriate, well-led
support group three times and not walk out telling
all their friends about this new fantastic thing
that they discovered called support groups.
We present a Fearless Caregiver Award to a family
caregiver in every city where we host a conference.
A few years ago in Los Angeles, the winner came up
to accept her award and started to tell her personal
story, which was unerringly similar to the “leap of
faith” concept. She went three times and became so
attached to her support group that she pointed to
the table from where she had been sitting in the
reception hall. Every other attendee seated at
that table was a member of her support group.
My dad retired in 1990 at the age of 59, but soon
afterward developed multiple myeloma cancer.
Although he was a gregarious guy and was as
comfortable talking with the guys on the line in his
lumber plants as he was talking with the “suits” at
corporate headquarters, convincing Dad that spending
time in a support group of others also dealing with
cancer would be of value to him seemed an unlikely
prospect, unfortunately. Although a great guy,
Dad was also a tough old Marine and he wouldn’t hear
of such a thing.
One evening, about six months before Dad passed
away in 1991, I was watching The NBC Nightly News
with Tom Brokaw. That night, Mr. Brokaw ended his
program with a segment about a new study proving the
value of support groups for people living with
cancer. As he spoke, the visuals cut away to a
support group in my home town of Miami, Florida, and
you could only imagine my surprise when I saw my dad
on my television screen, holding court in a lively
discussion with his fellow support group members.
He hadn’t told me, but he had joined a local
support group a few months earlier. Dad told me that
he regretted not finding his support group sooner,
because that little group had become such an
important part of his life. And in fact, every
member of his support group was at his funeral a few
I wish Mr. Brokaw and his family much luck with
his own journey with multiple myeloma. He will
probably never know, but he made my dad’s journey
with the same disease so much easier when Dad needed
it most. And for that, I will be forever grateful.