Caregivers Corner

Caregivers Corner

Hi, my name is LaVerne D’Alesandro. My family has been impacted deeply by cancer and I have taken on the role of caretaker and encourager to my loved ones, while juggling my other responsibilities (husband, children and home) and also dealing with my own grief and fears. I am not a trained professional on the subject, but I have learned much through my experiences about providing support and caring for loved ones who have been diagnosed with cancer. I hope to, in turn, provide insight and support to you, family and fellow caregivers of cancer patients.

My Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1994. During his struggle with this deadly cancer, I helped my mother to care for him. After four and a half months of fighting, Dad lost his battle, leaving our family shocked and grief stricken. Three and a half years later, Mom was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. This time I became her sole caregiver and liaison to the rest of our family. Colon cancer is a very survivable cancer when it is diagnosed early. Sadly, my mom’s cancer was not detected until it had already metastasized and within six months of her diagnosis, she also succumbed to this terrible disease.

In 2005, my only sister died of ovarian cancer after ten months of surgery, chemo and a roller coaster of hope and despair. She lived 2000 miles away from me, which greatly limited the type of help that I could offer her, but we managed to visit with each other three times during her illness and kept in touch by phone between visits. I was able to spend a whole week with her at her home in Colorado just a few weeks before her death. What a blessing it was to be able to provide some relief and support to her and her family during such a difficult time. But, oh how hard it was to say goodbye, knowing that her days were numbered and we were pretty sure that we would never see each other again this side of heaven.

Lest I bring you down with the stories of all of these lost cancer battles in my family, let’s turn to some sunnier outcomes. I also have some wonderful survival stories in my family. One of these is my first cousin and best buddy, Sharon Grammer, founder and president of Fighting Cancer, Inc. Sharon is now cancer free after a long and brutal bout with peritoneal cancer. About six months into Sharon’s battle with cancer, I was stricken with a potentially deadly auto-immune disease. Geographical distance, as well as our respective illnesses, have been big factors in our ability to “be there” for each other, but thank God for the internet and the telephone which allow us to keep in contact. We have supported and encouraged each other through some very dark days and there has been a lot of prayer going up on each other’s behalf over the past months.

When cancer strikes someone close to you, especially if you step into the position of caregiver for that loved one, you need to take inventory of your life. Caregiving can involve a lot of time and energy commitment: transportation, visits with doctors, chemo treatments, errand running, helping with chores, encouraging, personal care, etc. Don’t try to be everything to everybody. Try to streamline your other commitments. Get down to basics. Accept help from others who offer. Recruit other family members to help share the normal everyday load at home so that you can make encouraging and caring for your special loved one first priority.

“Keep it real” is a phrase that Sharon and I use with each other. Be willing to listen to whatever your loved one needs to communicate. It’s not always pretty, but a person dealing with a life threatening illness such as cancer has a lot of thoughts, fears and feelings that they may need to express. It is important that they have someone that they can trust and confide in. Just being able to put these things into words and release them can be very therapeutic. You don’t necessarily have to have an answer for the things that they ask or say. Just listening is helpful.

Also, it is important to keep a positive outlook while realistically dealing with the situation at hand. Denial is not a healthy state to live in while fighting cancer, so it is important for you and your loved one to listen carefully to the doctors involved in their care and to follow instructions and prescribed treatments. Keep in mind, however, that a prognosis is a predicted probable outcome, but it is not necessarily a death sentence. No one, not even the medical professionals, can absolutely and accurately predict the outcome of any given patient’s battle with cancer. There are many factors which can enter into the picture and change things for the better. A positive attitude and a fighting spirit are very important components in surviving cancer. A good, loving support system is also great! And then there is faith, prayer and the power of our Creator and Healer God, who, in my humble opinion, trumps all other factors! I have experienced personally and have witnessed the power of prayer and miracles which have left doctors scratching their heads, so never give up hope!!!

Please know that Fighting Cancer, Inc. stands with you as you face each new day in this challenging battle. Feel free to contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions, concerns and prayer requests you may have. God bless you!!