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CaregiversFamily MembersIssue Introductions

Family, Friends, and Caregivers—A Note of Gratitude

Take time to acknowledge all the people who have been supporting you along your journey—there may be more than you think.
October 2020 Part 4 of 4 – Breast Cancer Special Issue Series
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship®; Co-Founder, Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators® (AONN+); University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions
Breast cancer survivor

Although you, as a breast cancer patient, have had to endure the shock of the diagnosis and the anxiety and stress that come along with each phase of treatment, your friends, family, and caregivers have also been going through challenging times. This is an appropriate time to truly let them know how much you appreciate all that they have done for you and are continuing to do until you can stop checking the calendar to see when your next treatment appointment is.

It is easy to be so caught up in the treatments that commonly go on for 9 to 12 months or longer that there has not been a designated time for you to pause and thank each and every one of these individuals. Begin by making a list so hopefully no one is left out. Your spouse/partner, siblings, children, parents, neighbors, close friends, coworkers, boss, clergy, and who else? Did someone take your trash out to the curb every Sunday night? Did your mailman hear that you were sick and start bringing the mail to your door instead of leaving it in the mailbox? Did someone knit you a scarf and hat knowing you would be getting chemo during the winter and wanted to keep your bald head warm? Did Tommy’s mother religiously pick up your son from band practice and drive him home for you every Wednesday evening?

I mentioned children, but I want to talk a bit more about them. Teens are commonly thrust into becoming adults overnight, assigned to do adult duties. This cuts into their time of being a teenager, when most of the time their thoughts are on peers, girlfriends, boyfriends, Facebook, Instagram, and other social outlets. They have been worried about it and afraid to say it out loud, especially if your teens are boys. I hope that you have demonstrated to them your strength during this medical crisis, because they have been learning from you how to handle a major medical event like this one. At some point in their adult life they will have a crisis of some kind. You will have shown them how to deal with uncertainty, take charge of the situation to the maximum degree possible, and stay on course for your life goals. They will use this knowledge to now handle their crisis.

If you are living with stage IV disease, then you know that there is no ending point to your treatment per se. So, give gratitude to people as it happens, by thanking them and letting them know how much you value what they have and are doing for you. Also, consider writing letters for them to open later, especially for spouses/partners, parents, and children, along with perhaps a best friend. What you write will be cherished.

As you extend your gratitude to all of these people, several things will happen. You will feel good doing it. You will also come to a realization of just how many people have been supporting you at various points along your cancer journey. That’s because they care about you so much...

Last, but not least, the oncology team who has been taking care of you. Just a simple “thank you for getting me through this” goes a long way. They too have been at your side during the highs and lows of this experience. Let them know you appreciate what they have done for you.

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Last modified: October 30, 2020

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