Cancer is tough for the patient, but it’s also tough for those who care for them. It brings so many changes and challenges, and the carer is often as unprepared as the patient. Where does the carer go for help? Many hospitals have cancer support groups, open to both patients and their carers. There are numerous websites such as inspire.com and cancergrace.org that provide information, experience and support to patients and carers. You could contact your local cancer council or other cancer support organisation for help in finding support for carers. And you will find a wealth of informed practical wisdom in Being a Cancer Patient’s Carer: A Guide by Wesley Finegan.
Every person struggling with cancer relies on having carers. These people may be professionals such as specialists, nurses, and pain managers. They may also be personal friends or relatives, often a spouse or an adult child. A competent and compassionate carer is a great blessing. I am especially blessed to have a loving wife, who keeps herself well informed about the disease, treatments, possibilities, alternatives, and more. But then, not everyone with cancer is married to a doctor ;).
Finegan’s book won’t necessarily make someone compassionate, but it will go a long way to making someone competent as a carer. It’s hard to think of an author with greater credentials to write on the topic. He has ‘MB BCh BAO MRCGP MICGP D Pal Med’ listed after his name! I’m not sure what they all refer to, but they sound impressive. More impressive again, is his experience. He worked in General Practice with a special interest in caring for patients with cancer. This led him to become a consultant in palliative medicine. In 1994 he became a cancer patient himself and in 2003 his wife developed cancer and he became her carer. These experiences have taught Finegan much and he generously shares his wisdom in this book.
This guide is intended for practical use. It’s well constructed and easy to follow. Each chapter – and there are 43 chapters, each roughly 4 pages long – is constructed around the acronym TANDEM. They begin with some basic facts to help people understand the particular problem being addressed and then the acronym is used to examine various issues from different perspectives:
You are facing new situations regularly as a carer. Hopefully I can help you think through the issues you might have to face.
There is so much to learn. Where does one start? What do you need to know and who can tell you the answers? I’ll try and help you with some of the questions I have asked.
Making a note of a relevant detail now might save you a lot of difficulty remembering those elusive facts in a weeks’ time!
Here I will offer you some practical ideas that have been tried and tested by my patients and some that worked for Alice and me.
Sometimes we want to know more or find out about something we would like to know about. I’ll try and guide you to the best sources of information.
M More information
If there is something that has not been said already and it’s relevant, you’ll find it here. (pages x-xi)
I’m not aware of any other books for carers that are as comprehensive and practical as this one. It begins with the first shock of diagnosis, then addresses a broad range of symptom, treatment, and care issues, before dealing with the difficult matters of failed treatment, dying, death and bereavement. It’s concerned for the well-being of the carer as well as the patient.
It’s probably too much to take in all at once, but the beauty of this book is that it’s so well arranged that you don’t have to. You can read whatever’s most relevant to you and your situation at the time. You’ll find it easy to come back to sections you’ve skipped over, if and when they become relevant. And you can follow the links and suggestions for more information or advice when needed. I would suggest consulting it regularly as different issues arise. Flick through the table of contents so you can see the scope of the book. It would also be useful to annotate the book with your own questions and observations, so that you can follow things up with the relevant people at another time.
If you are caring for someone who is going through cancer, then I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of this book. If you have cancer and want to support your carer, then you could purchase a copy for them. It’s readily available on line so you don’t need to worry about what bookshop to look in. You’ll appreciate it and so will they. Just let them know when you give it to them, that they’re doing a great job and you wanted to show your appreciation by giving them this book!