Caring for the Caregiver: The Importance of Self-Care

The inspiration for this blog came from the classic Clint Eastwood aka “Dirty Harry” line in Magnum Force “A man has got to know his limitations.” To me, this means that it is equally important to be self-aware of what we cannot do as well as what we can do. So why then is it important for givers to know their limitations? Because, the act of giving can be both a blessing and a curse for individuals wired this way. By understanding the tendencies associated with giving, individuals can better use this gift to help others without compromising their personal health or happiness. In other words, not forgetting about caring for the caregiver.

Being a Giver

Let’s step back for a moment and get some clarity on how I’m using the term giver. I believe certain individuals, I include myself in this group, are predisposed with an excessive giving gene. They are selfless individuals; that are generous with their time; and get real sense of joy and pleasure out of helping others. One of my less than flattering nicknames in high school, among my closest friends, was State Farm. You know the jingle “like a good neighbor, State Farm, is there.” They picked up on the fact that I was always helping someone with something. There was a lot of truth to this nickname and the irony of it is that it was both a compliment and a cut, or blessing and curse, as I previously mentioned.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know the many blessings associated with the act of giving but have you ever considered that there may also be pitfalls with over-giving? Givers tend to place a greater importance on the wants and needs of others over their own. This behavior, over time, can lead to a sense of frustration, resentment and even neglect. So, the million dollar question is this: How do givers insure that their giving is truly a blessing for others without also becoming a self-induced curse? How do we make sure the world is caring for the caregiver?

Finding the Time for Self-Care

For me, it took the loss of two loved ones, my mother Maxine and wife Alyson in 18 months, to grasp the stark reality that time is both precious and finite. I quickly came to the realization that time is a special commodity that must be protected and respected. I have become much more selective regarding how I spend my time and with whom do I give of my time. I now look forward to squeezing every minute out of each new day with my like-minded band of brothers. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by a special group of friends that place the same value on friendship, athletic competition, music and laughter and truly love life, as do I. They are truly the ultimate givers!

In my book, Know Your Enemy, the First Edition, I told the story about how blessed I felt to have the love and support of friends and family members during one of the most grueling periods in my life. Their genuine acts of kindness and compassion reinforced my belief in the goodness of others and the notion of having a greater purpose in life. They were truly caring for the caregiver.

Expressing My Gratitude on Caring for the Caregiver

I wrote the following poem to express my gratitude to this special group of individuals.

And I would encourage readers of this blog to re-assess how you currently spend your time and with whom do you spend it. Remember, it’s never too late to change, but one must first be aware of and acknowledge a need to change before change can occur. Ask yourself these questions: “Do I spend more time caring for others than I do for myself?” and “Who can I turn to when I need someone to care for me?”


The Chosen Few

When a life-changing event, rocks your world to the core.

Who will help you up, as you pick yourself off the floor?

Consider yourself blessed, if your earthly sphere includes.

A special band of brothers, I refer to as -The Chosen Few.

No obstacle is too great, for this brotherhood to overcome.

And no quarter will they cede, until the final battle is won.

Of whom do I speak? Who are these chosen few?

They are a special band of brothers, and one of them, is you.

So in these words I Thank You, more than you will ever know.

And, if the need shall one day arise, I, too, will stand with you.


Never stop caring for the caregiver: yourself. And never let others stop caring for you, either.

A Poem For Earth Day

Earth Day, April 22nd

There are those in this world,

who often take for granted.

The beauties of life,

placed on this planet.


But nature’s gifts,

were put on this earth.

For human beings,

to enjoy not desert.


And if we continue,

at the current destructive pace.

We will have only ourselves to blame,

for the extinction of the human race.


So on this special day,

as we take time to reflect.

On the state of our environment, 

its cause and effect.


What is the solution?

We must all come together.

And promote environmental preservation,

not only now but forever!

Care for Cancer Patients: 5 Practical Tips for Caregivers

If you are about to become a caregiver (or just found out that you are a caregiver) of someone with cancer, odds are, you have a lot of new things running through your head. There is a lot you need to know and a lot that you need to learn about care for cancer patients, and care for yourself. Being a caregiver is a job that includes not only logistics and physical needs, but also emotional needs as well. We know that you’re often also handling all of your other responsibilities as well.

Don’t stress, my friend! You CAN do this and your loved one needs you now more than ever! Here are a few simple reminders to help you move forward in confidence as a caregiver of someone with cancer.

  1. 1. Take Notes:

    There will be A LOT coming at you, so take notes and get organized from the start. Whether you like a handwritten notebook or binder to keep notes straight, or you like a digital version on your phone or small device, find something that works. Just remember, that you might be taking these notes a lot of places so you want something that can easily be taken into an exam room and be with you all on the go!

  2. 2. Plan for your own health.

    You can’t help your loved one if you aren’t well yourself. Go into this cancer fight with the perspective that you will have times of exhaustion or physical limits. Know your limits and be prepared when you hit them. The last thing you need is to feel discouraged. Go ahead and feel tired, but plan ahead so that you don’t burn out. Perhaps you need others to help fill in so that you get a break from time to time. Perhaps you can’t physically lift your loved one to help them shower or get out of bed. Think ahead to have your network of people around to help!

  3. 3. Gather your information:

    Gather the vital information that you or someone else might need. This includes insurance information for the patient, doctors’ numbers, pharmacy information, etc. Keep that handy for when others might step in to help or just to save your sanity and make it easy!

  4. 4. Plan for irritability ahead of time.

    Anyone going through pain and disease will feel grouchy a time or two. Often certain medications have side effects that cause irritability. I’ve found that when I have that as a mental reminder in my head, I don’t take things personally when my patient is frustrated. You can love with grace instead of taking things as an offense.

  5. 5. Read my book.

    No, seriously. Read my book and read others like it. I wrote Know Your Enemy because I want families to be smart about how they approach the cancer fight and care for cancer patients. I want to help set you up for success because I believe when you know your enemy and are educated, you can fight better and smarter. There are people like me who have walked through the cancer fight multiple times, whether as a patient or as a friend, and you can learn a lot from others!

A cancer diagnosis can be quite the shock, and many people find themselves in caregiving situations by default when that diagnosis comes. You may not feel prepared for this next season, but trust me, you are!   You have what it takes to fight cancer with strength and walk alongside your loved one to help them fight with all they’ve got too!