Thursday, October 31, 2013

November--A Month of Celebrations

In October we are surrounded by a sea of pink reminding us of breast cancer’s impact on the women of our community. Although I, along with millions of others, have reaped the benefits of the successful breast cancer awareness campaigns, I must admit I am a bit jealous that there isn’t corresponding hoopla when November rolls around. National Lung Cancer Awareness Month will arrive with no such fanfare for the disease that kills more women annually than breast, ovarian, and colon cancer combined.

Lung cancer remains the number one cancer killer among women—and men. Yet, when the pink ribbons disappear, when the pink coffee makers are gone from the shelves, when the pink wigs are put back in the closet, lung cancer’s colors won’t replace them. Lung cancer’s ribbon color is “clear”—like the disease itself unobservable, unnoticed, and without recognition. When attending cancer events where we are supposed to wear our colors, I am tempted to show up in cellophane. Bet that would draw some attention to the cause.

November has always been an important month in our family with several birthdays and Thanksgiving ushering in the holiday season. Since November 15, 2002, we have been marking another life changing event—my husband’s cancerversary. On that day, our lives were forever changed. Jim was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer; and I became a cancer caregiver.

I don’t like the term caregiver. I prefer to think of myself as someone who loves a person with cancer. With every cancer diagnosis, a cancer caregiver comes into being. There are millions of us across the nation providing varying degrees of care and support for a spouse, child, parent, or friend fighting the disease.

In addition to being Lung Cancer Awareness Month, November is the nationally recognized month that seeks to draw attention to the many challenges facing family caregivers, to advocate for stronger public policy to address family caregiving issues, and to raise awareness about community programs that support family caregivers. It is a time to thank, support, educate, and advocate for the more than 65 million family caregivers.

If you love someone with cancer, you are a member of this ever-growing group. Your contribution to your loved one’s recovery is vital but in the treatment process your feelings and problems are frequently overlooked. Watch for my blog entries over the upcoming weeks as I share my thoughts about loving and living with a cancer patient.