What I’ve Learned As a Caregiver To My Sister
“My sister is too young to have cancer,” I thought. The diagnosis came on the same day that would have been our dad’s (who also had cancer) 68th birthday. It took me some time to process my own emotions, but my main concern was being there for my sister, Indira.
We had just returned from vacation and a week or so after my sister returned to work, she mentioned she felt stressed and wanted to take some time off from work. It was during this time that she discovered the lump. She scheduled a doctor’s visit and within two weeks there was a breast cancer diagnosis. I was shocked, scared and filled with so many emotions.
Even though caregiving comes naturally when it’s family, I would have never imagined that I would be taking care of my sister and would have never imagined cancer at her age. I had to find the balance because you cannot care for others if you are not taking care of yourself. On the emotional side, it’s ensuring that you are emotionally available but also that you are processing and keeping your own emotions in check. One of my own emotional triggers was looking at my sister’s scar after the mastectomy. It took months before I was able to do so without breaking down. Eventually, I found physical caregiving much easier and that to do it, I had to keep my own energy levels up.
We are blessed to have a loving, supportive family and an awesome network of friends. The UHN here in Toronto played a huge part in my sister’s treatment, as well as organizations like Gilda’s Club and Rethink. The phone calls, cards, gifts and messages of support poured in and continue to this day, which is comforting. I would always get asked, “how are you doing?” followed immediately by “how is your sister doing?”
Besides my faith, which keeps me grounded, and my family that keeps me strong, I have learned so many things from being a caregiver to my sister.
I have learned the importance of family.
I have learned love and support of friends also helps me cope.
I have learned that when faced with challenges, my attitude remains positive. I get into a routine of doing what has to be done.
I have learned that I am stronger than I know.
I have learned that one of the hardest things is to see someone you love in pain and being powerless to make it all go away.
My advice to caregivers? I applaud you. One of the most selfless acts you can do is care for someone. Some days are harder than others so my advice is to take it one day at a time. My sister and I would always say that it’s a marathon, not a sprint and the marathon continues. Sending love and light to all those who are battling cancer and those who are standing with them as caregivers, allies and advocates.
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Over the past decade, Keturah has volunteered with numerous groups and organizations in the city of Toronto including World Vision Canada, Global Medic, One Walk, Women in Data Science Toronto, Toronto-SVG Support Group, Sancta Maria House. She hosts annual Christmas and back-to-school events to support children in the community where she grew up on the island of St Vincent and the Grenadines.