November is National Family Caregivers Month and we are proud to honor caregivers across the country. Caring of a patient living with prostate cancer can be overwhelming. So often, caregivers provide unpaid care and support to friends, neighbors, and loved ones battling cancer while facing their own struggles with the emotional toll of a loved one’s diagnosis. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, these responsibilities expanded and became more complex for many.
During ZERO’s Caregiver Town Hall three women shared their experiences of how they faced and dealt with their loved ones’ diagnosis of prostate cancer.
Kathie Houchens is a retired educator, an artist, musician, poet, and a passionate gardener. Her husband Dave was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2001. Since completing training as a spiritual director in 2009 she has led caregiver support groups at conferences, at local hospitals, and currently meets weekly with an Us TOO group via Zoom. During the Caregiver Town Hall Katie noted that she and Dave’s lives have changed drastically over the last 20 years since his diagnosis.
“It’s been a long road but it’s also been one where I am never alone and I have a lot of resources. One thing I learned to do, that I wouldn’t have necessarily thought would be easy, is ask for help. I think I was raised to take care of things, be good at it, efficient, and not look needy. But I can tell you there is plenty of need in this world and there are plenty of people whose gift it is to be a helper,” said Houchens.
In October of 2020 Daphne Brigham’s husband Marcus learned that he had prostate cancer. From the start, she said doctors educated their family and reassured them that Marcus caught his disease early. They learned that with a proper diet, exercise, and treatment, there was a great chance they would overcome this. She says ‘we’ instead of ‘he’ because if they learned one thing, it’s that a cancer diagnosis is placed upon an entire family, not just the individual.
Daphne said her husband is steadfast in the fact that he will return to the field to umpire baseball again very soon. Daphne’s mission is to also give support to other women like herself and is a part of Caregivers on a Mission!
“He is an umpire and football official, just doing the things that maybe he hasn’t been able to do for a long time, which is sitting down, taking a break and relaxing, gives me great peace, we look forward to that,” explained Daphne.
Megan Robertson is a pediatric speech-language pathologist. Her father, Gene, who is 65-years-old was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer in April 2017. Megan says she and her family found ZERO after spotting a flyer on a community bulletin board five months later. From there they formed Team El Jefe (her dad’s nickname from 35 years as a biology teacher), signed up for the ZERO Run/Walk with two weeks to spare, and have been involved with ZERO ever since.
“My mom is the primary caregiver, she lives with him, so I try to anticipate what she might need from me, if that’s driving him to the airport, so that she doesn’t have to, or picking him up. I’m trying to lessen the load for them. My Mom and I actually work together so if it’s picking up extra things around the office because I know she’s making calls about medications, I do that. Having holidays at my house instead of their house so they don’t have to, planning our vacations, taking them away for the weekend, making sure she’s taken care of so she can take care of him, that has pretty much become my role,” Robertson said.
You can watch the entire Conversations with Caregivers: A Town Hall here.
The ZERO Caregiver Connector program is designed to provide one-on-one support for those individuals caring for men with prostate cancer as well as those who have lost their loved one to the disease. Caregiver mentors can offer their experiences and insights to help caregivers care for themselves and their loved ones.