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Kavanagh: Arizona's caregivers must take good care of themselves, too


This is the true story of a cancer caregiver who I think represents so many others. She is “retired” but volunteers and keeps busy, but her first thought every morning when she wakes up is her husband, a cancer survivor. He is always her first thought in everything she does or plans. His doctors’ appointments, his fitness routine, even their social life revolves around him.

She woke up one morning early, as she usually did to get things done before his day started. She walked into their bathroom and fainted, falling backward and hitting her head on the tile floor. She called to him and he helped her back to bed. But, they realized that she was bleeding from a cut on the back of her head, so he drove her to the emergency room at the Mayo Clinic.

Fortunately, after many tests from head to toe, she was diagnosed with internal bleeding and anemia and returned home with a treatment plan and the correct medications. Fortunately, the problem was diagnosed correctly and is treatable. So, the caregiver is now able to take care of her own problem but hopefully, will remember: If Caregivers don’t take care of themselves, they can’t take care of their patient.

You may have already guessed, that caregiver is me. A good example of “Do as I say, not as I do.”

It was a humbling reminder of the importance of teaching cancer caregivers the important ways that they can balance their own self-care with effective patient care. Our new Virtual Cancer Caregivers Education Program is currently being developed as both a response to the COVID pandemic as well as a cost-effective strategy for expanding our outreach to diverse communities, rural areas, and underserved populations.

We wish you a fun and healthy fall. And, be sure to visit one of our beautiful Arizona farms and vineyards and buy or bake an apple or pumpkin pie!                                                   

Editor's note: Barbara Kavanagh is founder and CEO of the Arizona Myeloma Network. Visit azmyelomanetwork.org.