This focus on carers is with thanks to 'Embracing Carers' a Merck initiative.
“Caring for and living with someone experiencing cancer changes so much of your life and there are changes that go on for months and years.”
We spoke recently to our CEO, Richard about his new role as a carer. As our supporters would know, Kate, his wife, our head of Patient Care is back in active treatment after 13 years. Richard reflected on the kind of carer he is, and says he has learnt that the goal is to be the carer your loved one needs.
“In a past life I cared for my partner and needed to help managing her care and almost “project manage” the care program. Kate, on the other hand, as you would imagine, is the kind of patient who is very much in control and so my role is much more logistical and supportive.”
Richard has an alarm set each day to remind Kate to take her tablets attends all her appointments with her. “The clinical trial Kate is on goes for nearly two and a half years so every month we will need to take a day and go to Royal North Shore to be measured and assessed. Any travel plans or family events will just have to fit in around those appointments.”
“I think it’s fair to say that the only job that is more difficult than being the primary carer is being the patient. It’s challenging in that, in one sense, the situation is NOT about you but in another way it’s ALL about you.” Being present and engaged as a carer whilst the patient has their own separate experience is a challenge, he says.
I asked Richard what he found to be the hardest thing about his role, and he said what many carers say, that feeling powerless and that there is little you can do is the most difficult thing. “Having said that we should never underestimate the value of being there. Undergoing treatment or a stay in hospital on your own is never fun.”
“I remember many years ago an oncology nurse walked up to me during a difficult time and said, “This is so hard isn’t it?” At the time my partner was very sick, I was exhausted, my business was on a knife edge and it helped that somebody realised and acknowledged the challenge cancer brings to the carer not solely the patient.”
What might people be surprised to know about Richard the carer?
I am, most of the time, quite patient and calm. Many people would be surprised by that.