- What inspired you to write the book Cancer Journey: A Caregiver’s View from the Passenger Seat?
When my husband was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2002, I realized there was very little support for the caregiver. A terminal diagnosis effects the family members in a different way than it does the patient. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings I had. I wrote the book to help others who love someone with a life-threatening disease cope with the pressures of caregiving.
- How would you suggest that friends and family lend their support to the cancer patient and their caregiver?
Apart from the obvious—helping with meals, childcare, errands, prayer—I would add:
1. Don’t visit in the hospital unless you have been asked to come. Send a card or bring food if the family is staying but otherwise don’t add to the confusion.
2. Offer to make phone calls or send e-mails updating friends on the condition of the patient. When we came home from the hospital after the first surgery, well meaning friends and acquaintances called fifty times a day. A good friend fielded calls. Another sent out e-mail updates to my list.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask the caregiver: Do you want to talk about what is going on with you or would you rather be diverted with something trivial? To talk about insignificant topics might seem insensitive, but after a while (weeks after the initial diagnosis) I wanted to hear about something other than cancer. I wanted to remain a part of my friends’ lives.
- It’s Cancer can be very scary words to hear for the whole family. What suggestions do you have for the caregiver(s) on how to prepare for the journey that is ahead? Take inventory.
1. See which tasks can be assigned to a willing friend or family member.
2. Eliminate any commitment that causes additional stress.
3. Find a support group for caregivers.
4. Consider an anti-depressant.
5. If you are in a potentially long term situation, engage in a creative activity—journaling, painting, blogging, knitting. There is healing in the creative process.
- Through your journey of being a caregiver, what is one thing you learned about yourself?
Many people question their faith when they are faced with watching a love one struggle through a serious illness. How were you able to keep your faith strong while facing the many challenges of being a caregiver?
I spent more time in prayer and Bible study than ever before. I read a lot of books by men and women of faith who survived—faith and spirit intact—through horrible situations. Seeing that others could survive encouraged me to follow their example.
- Your book offers many practical suggestions for caregivers, what is one piece of advice you wish that someone had told you when you first found out that your husband had cancer?
I don’t think I can limit my answer to one piece of advice.
1. I wish someone had told me that I wasn’t solely responsible for my husband’s recovery. The very thing that made me a good caregiver also created problems. I needed to feel in control of a situation where I had very little control. As a result, I drove myself too hard—expect too much of myself.
2. I wish someone had warned me that I would go through a grieving process. I thought I was losing my mind.
- What is one thing you would like your readers to take away from your book?
- What do you want our readers to know about you and your book?
I wasn’t equipped by experience, training or personality to take care of a critically ill patient. I was as unlikely a person to be a caregiver, as my healthy, never-smoking husband was to be a victim of lung cancer. When I was feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead, I admitted my helplessness and relinquished my control to God. When I finally did this, He provided the strength, comfort and wisdom I needed for the journey. The book provides a shortcut for others that takes them from the terror of diagnosis to a place of peace and acceptance.
About Cynthia Siegfried
To purchase the book AND receive $100s worth of free gifts buy on FEBRUARY 22 (THIS OFFER HAS BEEN EXTENDED UNTIL FEB. 25, 2011). The book can be purchase any time but the special offer is good only for 24 hours.
Cynthia Siegfried is an inspirational speaker, free-lance writer, and co-founder of f.a.i.t.H.—facing an illness through Him, a support group for families facing catastrophic illnesses. Since her husband’s diagnosis with stage IV lung cancer, she has become an advocate for lung cancer awareness and for cancer caregivers. She has contributed articles to Significant Living, In Touch, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and Coping with Cancer. Audiences of all ages can relate to her candid and often humorous presentations of the struggles and triumphs encountered during her eight-year journey in the passenger seat.