Coping With The Emotions Of Caregiving
The Emotional Side of Caregiving
Giving —and receiving — help is a true challenge, so we asked the incomparable Joan Lunden, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014, and her equally brilliant daughter Lindsay Weinberg to share what they have learned. Let their strength, insight, and humor inspire you.
Lindsay Weinberg:OK, Mom, let’s start off by addressing the elephant in the room. I’m your favorite, right?
Joan Lunden:Ha ha, very funny. Actually, my husband Jeff’s mom, Janey, likes to say, “The one I love the most is the one I’m with.” That’s perfect! Having gone through a breast cancer battle, I feel so fortunate that I always had one of you by my side, holding my hand.
LW:But let’s be honest, you’re not really a “hold my hand” kinda gal!
JL:True! I’m used to being the one to take care of other people. I’m comfortable in that role, as I think many women are. I took care of my children, and then in my mother’s later years, I took care of her. But accepting care for myself made me feel weak; it was very uncomfortable. That’s why I’m so thankful that you girls and Jeff somehow knew what I needed, even when I didn’t. Because when you hear, “You have cancer,” it can be very difficult to think clearly.
LW:I think that allowing loved ones to care for you is as important for them as it is for you. To see someone you love so deeply be diagnosed with something that you can’t fix is a very powerless feeling. Being involved was very therapeutic for me; it gave me some power back and made me feel useful. That’s kind of why I started “the binder.”
JL:Thank goodness you put that together to gather all the test results, treatment options, medications, so much information! How did you think of that?
LW:At those first few appointments I took meticulous notes, but I quickly realized that those pieces of paper needed to stay together and that they couldn’t stay inmyhands, since I wasn’t the only person going to appointments with you. It helped that everyone knew where we could find anything we needed.
JL:That was smart, since you and Jeff were with me early on but then you kind of had to hand the reins over to your sisters because…you were very pregnant.
LW:Yes! I wanted to be there for everything so badly. That’s why I was so upset at that first PET scan appointment when I got kicked out!
JL:They took one look at your belly and said, “Oh, no, you can’t be in here with all of this radiation.” I felt so bad for you.
LW:That’s soyou, to feel for me when you were the one with cancer! I think that was actually an important moment for my journey as a new caregiver. I had to balance my desire to be there for you with my own health needs and, of course, the needs of my unborn baby. It’s like you always say—the flight attendant tells us to put on our own oxygen mask first so that we can best care for those around us.
JL:It’s true, but it’s hard when we love somebody. The day you gave birth was one of my worst days during chemo, and I tried so hard to hide how crummy I felt. I was there with you while you were in labor; then, when I first got to see little Parker, I was so overcome with joy, but I felt like I could lie down on the floor and just collapse.
LW:I know. I know you better than you think—and it meant more to me than you will ever know. The support we give each other keeps us both going.
JL:The way you all rallied around me allowed me to experience being cared for and to feel love and loyalty in a new and deeper way. That will stay with me forever. Being a caregiver and being cared for are not the easiest things in the world, but I’m grateful to have done both—and proud of you for what you’ve done.
LW:Thank you, Mom. I learned from the best.
This piece appeared as part of a special package in the May 2019 issue of Redbook.
Video: The emotions of caregiving.wmv
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