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Cancer Caregiving Journey: A New Year and a New Beginning, January 2019

Barbara Baroff Kavanagh, MSW, LCSW

Dear Friends,

I hope that the Holidays brought Peace and Joy and that the New Year is a Healthy one for you and the one you ‘care’for.  I also hope that you gave yourself a Special gift- the gift of doing something for yourself. A time out or time away from your normal tasks and duties. Sometimes just having that time can refresh you and also allow your cancer patient to do something for you!

Do you feel obligated to make New Year’s Resolutions? I used to.  Among my Resolutions were:‘I will lose 5 lbs’; I will go to the gym 3 x a week; I will clean my house more often; I will cook healthier meals; I will go more baseball games with my husband,etc. Most of these Resolutions I didn’t keep, or stopped after a few weeks or months and then felt bad about myself. Just what I needed- feeling bad about myself!

I finally realized that all I was doing is giving myself more ‘shoulds’, more guilt, and more stress about not accomplishing or following through on any or all of them. Instead, Now I  make 2 or 3 Promises to myself and ask my husband, who is my ‘caregivee’, to make 2 or 3 promises to himself. It is a way for each of us to take responsibility for ourselves. Another approach is to set Realistic Goals together. Keep it simple and do-able. That way, you can support one another and feel a sense of accomplishment.

In the year ahead, I will focus on a topic or theme each month so that we can take ‘small steps’ together that will help us balance our own life better and at the same time help reduce our stress. The benefits will be that when we are less stressed, we also ease some of the guilt and stress of the one we are caring for. When we ‘feel better’, so do they! And, for those of you who have family living at home or nearby, include them in the Promises and Goals so that they too will be part of the Caregiving Circle!

A few suggestions for Cancer Caregivers in the New Year:

. List your own ‘Promises’ and include them on your calendar. If other family members can ‘help’, give them that opportunity.

. List your Realistic Goals Together, or as a family, and include them on your calendar so that everyone can participate and share the ‘load’.

. Make sure that you make time every day to ‘Thank’ Yourself and whatever Spiritual Guide you have.

. Make sure that every week you do something nice and/or healthy for both/all of you.

. Make sure that every day/night that you share a smile, a hug, and a loving moment with one other.

In the coming months, I will be writing my book about cancer caregivers and hope that you will share your own thoughts, feelings and advice with me to ‘share’ with others. You can write to me at: or visit our website:   or

This year, we will continue to build a true Cancer Caregivers Community !

Warm Regards,









Barbara Baroff Kavanagh, MSW, LCSW

Barbara B. Kavanagh is the Founder and CEO of Arizona Myeloma Network (AzMN).  She is a published author and served as faculty for universities including Boston University, Boston College Graduate School of Social Work, and Arizona State University. She holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Boston University and a bachelor’s from Duke University. Her first business, People to People Associates, Inc., a counseling, consulting, and training company, operated for fifteen years in Lexington, Mass.

AzMN is 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization started in 2004 by Barbara and her husband Jack who is a 27-year survivor of multiple myeloma. In 2003, they moved to Arizona to be near the Mayo Clinic for his ongoing treatments. In 2005, Barbara organized the first of many Living with Myeloma Roundtable and Conferences in Scottsdale, AZ. The conference attracted more than 300 attendees annually. All AzMN programs are designed to educate cancer patients, cancer caregivers, oncology healthcare professionals, researchers, and the public on the newest in cancer treatments and how to give and receive the best possible care.

AzMN has delivered hundreds of cancer patient and caregiver conferences throughout the State. Multiple Cancer Caregiver Education Program (CCEP TM) conferences are scheduled in 2018. Conferences are free and open to the public. They provide cancer patients and their caregivers the practical knowledge, skills and strategies necessary to effectively care for themselves. CCEP TM is a customizable program for companies and healthcare organizations that want provide onsite training for employees and constituents.

The Office of the Governor of Arizona recognizes AzMN with a proclamation annually designating a week in March as “Arizona Myeloma Awareness Week.” AzMN is recognized by Great Nonprofits as a “Top-Rated Nonprofit” for multiple years. Barbara, herself, continues to receive awards for her work. She is the recipient of the prestigious Hon Kachina Outstanding Volunteerism Award, The Phoenix Business Journal’s Healthcare Hero Award, the Arizona Rural Healthcare Association Volunteer of the Year award and the 2014 Arizona Business Magazine’s Healthcare Leadership Award for Community Outreach. She was profiled as a Woman of Distinction in the 2016 edition of WOD Magazine.  She is featured on radio, television, and in publications.

Barbara and Jack are mentioned in Tom Brokaw’s book  A Lucky Life Interrupted: A Memoir of Hope. Her books on volunteerism and patient advocacy include  The New Volunteerism, A Community ConnectionThe New Partnership: Human Services, Business and Industry; and  Training Volunteers in the New Millennium: An International Connection reflect a life dedicated to teaching and mentoring others to achieve their goals and transform their own lives and those they touch. She is currently working on her next book “Caring for the Cancer Caregiver”. Her intent is to provide practical information on how to navigate the complex world of cancer patient and caregiver survivorship.


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