I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Facing Cancer with Grace, I will focus on caregiving. I’ll also be doing the challenge at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, where I will share ways to increase your creativity. I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is M for Memories & Terminal Cancer.
When someone you love is terminally ill, making memories becomes a priority. Recording memories is important, too. Often caregivers hesitate to say that memories are the thing they want to make most. There is often concern that by talking this way, you will hurt the patient you are caring for. Maybe they will think that you’ve given up. The truth is, everyone is thinking about memories, but few people talk about it. That’s okay, to a point. When you know that time is limited, it’s important to help the patient reach their end of life goals.
To prevent family discord, it’s essential that the patient, express their desires regarding everything from medical decisions to who they want at their bedside when the end comes.
They should have an Advanced Care Directive as well as a proxy (probably you, their caregiver) who can make medical decisions should the patient be unable to do so. Even with these valuable tools, it’s often difficult for family members to believe that the patient’s desires could be what they are. Hearing them from the patient’s own lips will go a long way toward helping other members of the family understand that you, the proxy, and medical team are honoring the patient’s wishes.
There is Always Hope—Hope Changes
People who are terminally ill often go from big hopes to being disappointed. They go from hoping for a cure to hoping for “quality of life.”
There’s a difference between curing and healing. We can be healed, even at the end of life. Healing is wholeness. It’s reconciliation between estranged family members. It’s forgiveness. There comes a time when we need to switch from treatment for curing to healing. Sometimes healing involves leaving lasting memories for posterity. Are there people you need to make peace with? Are there unspoken things you need to say? Include these on your list of goals.
Hospice, as an approach, can enable a patient to look outside of the box and find other ways to reach these goals. Figure out a way to meet those goals despite death. For example, the patient can prepare cards for events such as their children’s birthdays, graduations, weddings, and other big events. You, as a caregiver can help the patient with this. How does he or she want to be remembered? How can you ensure they won’t be forgotten?
Live until you Die
Everyone has certain goals they’re holding on to. What are the goals of the loved one you are caring for? They may include a wedding he or she wants to attend, the birth of a grandchild, or a trip they want to take. These goals can strengthen their resolve to survive.
A lot of people avoid setting goals out of fear of failure. You can really set your heart and mind on achieving them when you say those goals aloud and write them down. Goals often change. Reassess them often and decide whether or not they are still a priority, or if they need to be adjusted, or let go of.
You and your loved one can hang on to hope that you’ll get to the wedding, or visit Italy. But, if you can’t, have a plan in place that will enable you to experience a taste of it. As a caregiver, you can work with your loved one’s care team and family members to help your loved one achieve as many of their goals as possible, making memories in the process.
Memories: Our Story
In the time we have had, Dan has spent time writing letters and making both video and audio recordings for his children and grandchildren. We have been intentional about making memories. We’ve had family pictures taken and even had casts of his hands made.
“When you were born you were crying and everyone else was smiling. Live your life so at the end, you’re the one who is smiling and everyone else is crying.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
One thing that has helped Dan share his stories is The Memory Maker’s Journal. The questions in the journal will bring to mind memories of your family, your youth, your early adulthood, and the family you raised. This is perfect for recording the memories you would like to pass on to future generations. It also makes a great family activity. Ask loved ones these questions and record the stories of their life. Your experiences and your memories are yours alone until you share them with others. By making a record of them, you leave a part of your life to live, even beyond your years. The treasure that is locked inside of you is a gift you can give future generations.
I’m in the early stages of putting together a resource page for caregivers of cancer patients. I’d love it if you’d check it out and email me any suggestions of resources you’d recommend. While you’re here, sign up for my email list to get a periodic email newsletter to encourage you on your cancer journey.
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
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In 2012 doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan, with stage IV lung cancer. Since then, our family has been learning what it means to face cancer. I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace.
My book Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer, is available on Amazon.com
I also blog at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker