Donating wedding gown preserves warm memories

Brides ProjectEditor’s note: Cancer touches the lives of so many people, whether as patients, or as loved ones and friends. It’s not uncommon to look for ways to give back to the institutions and people who provide cancer care. Here is a touching story about someone who gave from the heart, preserving warm memories in the process. It comes from one of our partners in supportive care, the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

There’s a certain helplessness that comes with watching a loved one receive a cancer diagnosis and undergo treatment. No matter how much help we provide, often we wish we could do still more. For Kim Andrus, doing a bit more meant donating her wedding dress to The Brides Project in Ann Arbor, a nonprofit bridal salon operated by the Cancer Support Community of Greater Ann Arbor.

CSC’s breadth of services and mission appealed to Andrus, who donated her dress as a way to both honor a beloved aunt and avoid merely storing her gown in the basement or attic. Knowing proceeds from the sale of her dress “would go to help people with cancer, like my Aunt Johanna – this touched me in a very personal way. She contributed toward our wedding and did so Continue reading

Care for Caregivers

Caregivers may be spouses, partners, family members, or close friends who give the person with cancer physical and emotional care. Giving care can mean helping with daily needs.  This can include making meals, arranging and transporting to doctor visits, and helping with bathing and dressing.  It can also mean helping your loved one to cope with feelings.

As a caregiver, you may be glad to put the well-being of the person with cancer above your own well-being.  When giving care, it is normal to put your own feelings and needs aside, but you need to take care of yourself too.  If you don’t, you may not be able to care for others.

There are many causes of stress in cancer caregivers.   Everyone has emotional ups and downs, but early attention to symptoms of depression can make a big difference in how the caregiver feels about their role and how well they can do the things they need to do.  There are ways to help reduce stress which may help prevent serious depression.

Tips for a strong patient and caregiver team:

  • Support one another, even though only one person is ill.
  • Communicate openly.
  • Share worries and concerns.
  • Maintain an active lifestyle as much as possible.
  • Continue enjoyable activities.
  • Ask questions to understand and manage symptoms.
  • Help one another cope.

The FOCUS Support Program is an Ann Arbor area support group held at the Cancer Support Community.  It is a free six-week program for cancer patients and caregivers to lean about how to live through and beyond cancer.  The program is unique in that it addresses caregiver concerns and how patients and loved ones can work as a team to manage and cope with the illness.  If you are interested in participating, contact the Cancer Support Community at 734-975-2500.

If you were/are a caregiver, what worked for you?  Please feel free to leave a comment.

Resources

Managing Emotions – Finding Strength in Others

Caring For Your Own:  Skills Lab empowers families to be partners in cancer treatment

Family Caregiver Alliance

U-M Cancer Center develops program with Cancer Support Community to help patients and caregivers cope

For 44 years of marriage, Karen and Larry Ganzini have balanced each other. Karen is a talker; Larry is quiet. Larry isn’t keen to show his soft side; Karen feels worse when she bottles up emotions.

Karen and Larry Ganzini said the FOCUS program helped them both to cope better with the uncertainties of cancer.

Karen and Larry Ganzini said the FOCUS program helped them both to cope better with the uncertainties of cancer.

Nearly 10 years ago, Karen was diagnosed with breast cancer. Although Karen says that cancer almost feels like second nature now, issues due to the couple’s differing communication styles have cropped up as the disease has progressed to stage IV. Karen and Larry support each other, but it was still difficult to talk about certain aspects of Karen’s cancer.

When Karen learned about a new pilot program to help patients and their caregivers cope better, the Ganzinis signed up. The program was offered by the Ann Arbor branch of the Cancer Support Community, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education and support to people with cancer.

“I asked the question about hospice, and my husband really didn’t want to go there at this point. He doesn’t like to talk about the end, and I understand that,” Karen said. “But I need to know what it’s going to be like.”

By enrolling in the pilot program, Karen got her answers, and both Ganzinis agreed that the experience helped them feel better about their situation. The program, called FOCUS, is based on University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center research that has shown that patients and caregivers benefitted from meeting with a nurse to provide them with information and support.

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