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The Caregiver's Cairn: An Amazing Walk

Jane

Greetings one and all…

This past weekend, I participated in a walk to raise money for breast cancer research, resources, and awareness. Regardless of where you live in the United States, I am sure there is a similar event in your community. Over the past twenty years, I have walked in Texas, Denver, Grand Lake, and Aspen—all proving to be amazing walks. Every year I am profoundly touched by the gathering of survivors, those living with breast cancer, and compassionate family and friends. I remember my mom and grandmother who died of metastatic breast cancer. And, I reflect on the beneficial transformation of our societal and personal attitudes toward breast cancer over the past seventy years.

As I walked through the crowd on Sunday, I heard snippets of conversations and enjoyed seeing the creative attire and signage of those gathered. A myriad of emotions bubbled up. My heart went out to every one who has been touched by this disease. I was inspired by the determination, courage, and hope reflected in the faces of those I met. And I realized that THIS—this sense of community and pervasive support—was what my mom and my family lacked 47 years ago when breast cancer became part of our family. Due to the societal reluctance to speak of cancer at that time, my family often felt alone, anxious, and frightened. Consequently, when standing in the midst of tens of thousands of people with whom I felt a profound connection, I gave thanks for the countless blessings of coming together—united by a common cause. Community is a powerful thing indeed!

Community Offers Information

When dealing with a serious diagnosis, knowledge is power. Instead of reacting out of fear, individuals and families can make informed decisions predicated on viable information offered by health care professionals as well as those dealing with a similar diagnosis. Fear is mitigated by accurate information regarding:

• Diagnosis and Prognosis

• Treatment Options and Associated Pros and Cons

• Possible Side Effects and Caregiving Concerns

• Community Resources for Care Receivers and Caregivers

Community Offers Support

The diagnosis of a series disease changes the rhythm of life. Priorities change. Concerns change. Routines change. Thus, we may feel disconnected from every one and every thing that comprised our previous sense of normalcy. Feeling isolated and alone—disconnected—may result in chronic, life-draining loneliness. The antidote to loneliness is meaningful connections with other people. So, we are wise to seek a community that offers:

• Compassionate Care

• Trusted, Ongoing Support

• Courageous Companions

• Encouraging and Empowering Advocates of Care

Community Offers HOPE

At the walk on Sunday, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of hope—I heard it, saw it, and felt it. The people who gathered that morning literally vibrated with hope! Hope was almost tangible and certainly believable, because the hope I witnessed and experienced is rooted in reality. The people who came together have hope for:

• Ongoing Research that Results in a Cure for Breast Cancer

• The Expansion of Community Services for Patients and Families

• An Enhanced Awareness of the Benefits of Preventive Health Care

• An EXTRAordinary Life Filled with Family, Friends, Faith, Love, and Blessings

Today, I am so thankful to have participated in such an amazing walk. I am grateful to be reminded of the power of coming together and being together to confront a daunting challenge. And I am inspired to initiate and to nurture life-giving relationships—to create a sense of community wherever my path may lead. Being part of a community is something I need and want. Sharing the journey with others is what makes Life an amazing walk from start to finish. Care to join me?

As always, I look forward to the ongoing conversation. Until my next posting, take good care and remember to enjoy the moment. Blessings to you and yours ….Jane W. Barton

Do you have a question for Jane? Please email us at coaarp@aarp.org and we will be in touch soon!

Jane W. Barton, MTS, MASM, CSA is a passionate speaker, writer, and listener. Jane is the founder of Cardinal, LLC, a consulting firm that provides educational programs to assist people in confronting the daunting challenges posed by aging, serious illness and disability. Jane is well-versed in the areas of grief and bereavement, caregiving, hospice and palliative care, change and transition, and spirituality and health. She presents innovative, transformational programs to community members, healthcare providers, pastoral caregivers, clergy, funeral service providers, and national audiences to improve the experience of people and families challenged by serious, advanced, or terminal illnesses. Previously, Jane served as Director of Education for a hospice and palliative care educational institution. She has also served as a hospice chaplain and bereavement facilitator in hospice and palliative care. Jane is a certified Spiritual Director as well as a Certified Senior Advisor. In a former life, she worked as a financial services representative and an exploration petroleum geologist and manager.

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