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To care and to be cared for

I have experienced what it is like to be cared for after several surgeries and I have also cared for a terminally ill friend until and when she passed over. What I learned from both sides – being the carer and being the one cared for – is that one of the most important parts for the carer is to first take care of themselves, so that the care given really has quality and can be welcomed and much appreciated by the person cared for (patient). As a patient I can say it is rather unpleasant being cared for by someone who is stressed out, exhausted, speedy from too much caffeine or whatever and who is not present and with her/himself.

The care suffers under these energies.

The touch is not tender and sometimes rough and hard, everything is quick and not considering your needs or wants, mistakes can happen more easily or you are not even asked how you are; at times you are not even informed of what is happening. I mostly experienced this in hospitals where the nurses were usually short staffed and the pressure and stress great. And it feels very unpleasant to have this energy around you when you are feeling delicate and sensitive and in a very vulnerable state. Being cared for at home by an organisation – either a government or private or charitable organisation – it was mostly much better.

Although I had to decline lovingly the further help of a couple of women helping me in the household because their way of moving through the house was quite disturbing. It felt to me as if they had 10 cups of coffee and were racey and on a high. The energy made my own heart race. By contrast, the care I experienced from friends and even just acquaintances was just beautiful. I received friendly, loving and tender care and I cannot recall anyone ever being stressed.

What is also very unpleasant to have around is sympathy. It hurts and is just not an energy that is supportive in any way. The energy the carer is in is so important. When a carer cares for and looks after themselves first, that is a good foundation for caring for someone else.

Having been cared for already a few times after my different surgeries, when it came time to look after my good friend Judith I had a clear sense of what was needed. I did not have any nursing or caring experience previously but it came very naturally to me as if I had done it many times before. I needed to learn though to feel and listen more to my body and make sure I wasn’t exhausting myself. I had to learn to say ‘no’, where I felt my body wasn’t up to it.

During the period I was myself recovering from another cancer surgery, I had to say no to doing night shifts for Judith who at that time needed help at night. She later couldn’t call out for help anymore and had a person sitting with her throughout the night. In order to ensure the quality of care for Judith, we actually scheduled 2 night shifts at that stage so that who ever was with her only stayed half the night while the other person slept in the guest room. This ensured that the carer was cared for also and able to bring their best to Judith. With her unconditional love, Judith supported me to listen to my body and not overdo it. When she felt I was too much in ‘doing’ mode she would ask me to sit with her and I would just sit with her on her bed and stop the ‘doing’ for a while, just being with her.

I would not be where I am now – living with terminal cancer as well as I am – without having experienced with Judith what is possible. It is possible to be with and surrender to a terminal illness and to pass over gracefully and joyfully.

The care we can give another during this time can either inspire them to surrender or be a hindrance in the healing process it can be.

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