Writer’s Block: To the Caregivers

Port Isabel-South Padre Press

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All across the country, from NFL players on the gridiron, to our very own historic lighthouse, bright shades of pink adorn our clothes and light up our buildings.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime. Men can succumb to the disease, as well. Early detection and better forms of treatment have meant that more people have a higher likelihood of surviving it, so it’s important to speak with your doctor about when and how often you should schedule a mammogram.

And while slogans like ‘Think Pink’ and “Fight Like a Girl,’ combined with the prevalence of pink decorations, have done much to raise awareness and funds for research, it’s important to remember that scores of others are affected by the disease, as well. Every woman who is diagnosed with breast cancer is somebody’s daughter, mother, sister, aunt, friend or coworker. Many of us are lucky to have a circle of loved ones who will rally around us in our times of need, and that becomes especially true when somebody becomes ill.

While I don’t personally know someone who has been diagnosed with breast cancer, I do have an aunt who was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma when I was in middle school. My two cousins, her sons, were also in middle and elementary school at the time. Her husband, whom she married in a double wedding ceremony beside one of my other aunts, was and remains a career military man.

I can remember being that age and thinking my parents were invincible. They were my own real life superheroes, so I can’t imagine the fear and confusion my two cousins must have felt to learn their mom was sick. And if he felt that fear himself, my uncle never showed it. He stepped in to become my aunt’s caregiver without question or complaint. He saw to her with a tenderness and patience that only comes from the unconditional love of family.

There was a point where my aunt was beginning to recover, but her body was still showing the harsh effects of her treatment. She was thinner than before, and she still wore a scarf around her head to hide the hair that had yet to return. Yet, perhaps in a bid to feel like things were back to normal, my aunt invited our family over to their house in San Antonio. I still remember the amazing lasagna she whipped up for dinner that evening. To this day, I still ask her about that lasagna.

Throughout our visit, my uncle was a solid, steady presence. He’s not one to show much emotion — a product of his military training, I’m sure — but nonetheless he was there. My cousins looked like the same happy, carefree cousins I’d always known. We all had fun on our little vacation.

Caring for an ill family member or friend is no easy task. It’s only when I look back now, as an adult, that I realize how amazing my uncle is and how awesome of a fighter my aunt is, too. So, for all the caregivers out there who are sacrificing themselves to care for someone they love: thank you. Thank you for your labor of love, and may you and yours be comforted.

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