December: A time of reflection in cancer care

COMMENTARY /// Cancer awareness

Cathy Cole

Cathy Cole

Over the past year I’ve written about various cancer campaigns celebrated each month.

Each month highlighted the aspects of care, early detection and risk reduction. For December, which has no specific cancer awareness messaging, I’d like to share a few thoughts on caregivers.

They are the support system for patients, and their devotion and energies are often undervalued.

Caregivers may be family, friends or partners. They may have no specific caregiver knowledge and may not get reimbursed for their time. There is a great amount of impact family, etc., can have on a patient’s care, mostly assisting at home.

Family members can provide encouragement about healthy eating, acknowledge the side effects of treatment and offer a distraction from the negative feelings that are likely to occur at some point in the journey.

A caregiver can provide many services to the patient and their family in simple ways: assisting with housekeeping, bathing or grooming, errands or providing medication as instructed by the physician.

Sometimes they provide a ride to the treatment center or physician appointment or a meal for the family. On occasion, communication with the medical team is essential, particularly noting any change in the patient’s condition that may warrant a follow-up.

One important factor is to take the cue from the patient. They may not want to discuss serious matters, the diagnosis, the future or any past experience. Silence and just being there are often the best medicine.

If the family is managing with all necessary tasks, others may want to step in to give them a chance to recharge.

Cancer affects the whole family, and each member of that family will respond differently to this healthcare crisis.

There are several nonprofit organizations in the community that can provide care and support for patients and their families. It would be a wonderful year-end donation to help these groups continue their good work. A few examples:

Cancer Hope Foundation and Camp Keepsake, 568 Constitution Ave., Unit F, Camarillo, CA 93012; phone (805) 384-5445; email

Cancer Support Community, 530 Hampshire Road, Thousand Oaks, CA 91362; phone (805) 379-4777; website

Camp Okizu (for children and young adults), 16 Digital Drive, Ste. 130, Novato, CA 94949; phone (415) 382-9083; website; email

It has been wonderful sharing this information with the community this year. If you wish to get in touch or have questions our cancer care team can answer, feel free to call Los Robles Hospital/navigation office at (805) 497-2727.

I wish you good health and a happy new year.

Cole is the cancer program coordinator for Los Robles Health System.