We all experience cancer differently. Based on when we face this challenge – some of us are diagnosed as children, young adults, adults or seniors – everything changes. But there exists another category for experiencing cancer that is often forgotten: Caregivers.
LLS featured an inspiring video about Myeloma where Andy shared his survival story and talked about how his diagnosis affected his family. “When someone in the family gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer.” My diagnosis affected my family, my boyfriend and my friend’s lives. And although it was the same patient and the same diagnosis, everyone experienced it differently.
I realized my diagnosis when my doctor told me I would lose my hair. Hair loss is a common concern with cancer and one that is commonly associated with chemotherapy. My friends and family immediately tried to help me find wigs, hairdressers and make up ideas. But losing my hair was not my biggest concern. I was more worried about being able to go back to my lifestyle, about how I would react to treatments and keeping my friendships and relationship from a distance.
Some people shave their heads when they find out the news because for them it is a way of accepting reality. I cut my hair the day after my first treatment. The next day my cousins cut their hair as well and donated what they could to charity. In our culture we have an emotional connection with our hair, it is part of who we are. I realized the extent of their gesture as they were willingly cutting their long hair to support me and other cancer patients.
We all process our diagnosis differently. Caregivers are not only the people that live with you and that are taking care of you on a daily basis, they also include people who are supporting you from a distance and who are thinking of you. My friends and family demonstrated their understanding of ‘our’ diagnosis by cutting their hair and making 1,000 origami cranes for health. These gestures are not physically essential for caregiving during treatment but the positive emotional effect and the support we feel is immeasurable.
-Written by Ana Hurtado, Boston Light The Night Walk walker and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor.