M. D. Anderson Dedicates Week of Nov. 9 to Family, Friends of Cancer Patients
Caregiver Kathy Herron encourages all to participate in workshops
M. D. Anderson News Release 11/06/09
Knowing the needs of those caring for a loved one with cancer first hand, Kathy Herron, a volunteer at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, understands the importance of Caregiver Week (pdf).
“Caregiving is a sacrificial role,” said Herron. “When my husband was diagnosed with brain cancer, my first priority was and still is his well being. M. D. Anderson offers activities that help us cope with stress and balance our responsibilities.”
During November 9 -13, M. D. Anderson’s Anderson Network will offer a series of complimentary activities to all cancer caregivers, regardless of where the patient is or has been treated.
Caregiver Week activities
The week is designed to cover a spectrum of caregiver issues, from nutrition to mental health. Activities include:
- Monday, Nov. 9 – “Everything You Wanted to Know About Tea”
- Tuesday, Nov.10 – “PIKNIC: Caring for the Cancer Patient: The Caregiver’s Perspective”
- Wednesday, Nov. 11 – “Day Away to the Houston Zoo”
- Thursday, Nov. 12 – “We’re Here For You”
- Friday, Nov. 13 – “Brief Relaxation Massages for Caregivers”
Pre-registration is required and participation is limited for some activities.
“Programs designed exclusively for caregivers are still fairly new to the cancer community,” said Marisa Mir, program coordinator in Anderson Network. “As the needs of this group have become more known, we’ve seen an increase in the number of programs offered by health care institutions. In addition to the Anderson Network, M. D. Anderson has developed support groups, informational materials and classes to connect caregivers and provide guidance on other related issues.”
Herron’s husband, Tim, was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer at M. D. Anderson in 1988. To cope with his diagnosis, she depended on family and friends, and used the institution’s educational resources to learn more about brain cancer and how to care for him.
“M. D. Anderson provided information on brain cancer, its treatments and how to manage every day life,” Herron said. “I learned about preparing nutritional meals for someone with no appetite due to chemotherapy and tending to skin impacted by radiation therapy.”
In 2006, Herron’s responsibilities increased when the long-term effects from an anti-seizure medication impacted Tim’s memory, balance and coordination. He is now in a wheelchair and needs more assistance with daily tasks.
“Although I’ve been a caregiver for more than 20 years, I still worry about Tim’s well being when we’re apart for extended periods of time,” Herron said. “Many times, caregivers can feel overwhelmed, worried and anxious, or even guilty. Meeting with other caregivers can help us understand that these emotions are common to this role. It’s encouraging to learn that you’re not alone.”
More and more, caregivers are helping each other. As a joint activity, Herron and her husband volunteer with M. D. Anderson’s Volunteer Services in the Hospitality Center. Twice a week, they share their experiences with others in hopes of encouraging them, as well as to raise awareness of available programs.
“As an institution, we’ve developed our programs to better meet caregiver’s needs,” Mir said. “Two of the greatest challenges for a family member or friend are to take time for themselves and to seek help. Most of these events last for one hour and offer tips to better equip those caring for a loved one with cancer.”
Caregiver Week is a week of activities for the community of family and friends of cancer patients. For details on the week and its activities, visit http://tinyurl.com/CaregiverWeekNov2009. In addition, fliers with more information are available in the Hospitality Centers at M. D. Anderson’s Lowry and Peggy Mays Clinic, and R. Lee Clark Clinic or visit http://tinyurl.com/CaregiverWeekEvents. 11/06/09