Thursday, February 28, 2013

Caring for a Sick Loved One, Non-Medically

When a loved one is in pain, family and friends are often at a loss as how to help. This is especially true for those who lack medical knowledge.  While one is not able to find a cure however, they can still do much – non-medically – to ease the very challenging process.  In the US, two particular families come to light as examples: the Bramontes and Jim Donovan.

Since there are so many American Cancer Society volunteers, the hosts an annual National Volunteer Week.  2012 marks its 40th year and a whole slew of events will be held for the incredible 3 million individuals in New York City who have been a part of this.  This year’s events will take place between 15 to 21 April. 

Particular individuals who are being honored this year by the American Cancer Society include the Bramonte family.  Two weeks after he survived the Twin Towers attack, Mark Bramonte was diagnosed with CLL, an incurable form of leukemia.  Some years later as his health was really deteriorating, the Rituxan drug gained FDA approval which saved him.  Those around him were so grateful that they wanted to find a way to give back; his wife Graceann became the Survivor Chair for the Bay Ridge Relay For Life; his oldest daughter Chirsta sits on the Relay For Life Committee at University of Delaware and volunteers with the Bay Ridge Relay For Life; his middle child Stephanie  sits on the Relay For Life Committee at Manhattan College and assists the Bay Ridge Relay For Life; and his youngest child Matthew also sits on the Bay Ridge Relay For Life Committee. Mark himself is also active and is now trying to expand Relay in the District Schools. Mark’s cancer was clearly a family affair and proved how even without medical knowledge, loved ones can be incredibly supportive.

Another example is James Donovan.  He was devastated when his good friend was diagnosed with cancer and likewise did not know how to help.  In a recent article he wrote about this issue, describing feeling “helpless.”  He thus sought other ways to support him, by “keep[ing] him positive and mak[ing] him as comfortable as possible.”   However, when he finally lost the battle against the disease, Donovan again felt helpless and wanted to continue the fight in a different way.  While he knew he was not “qualified to have a ‘hands-on’ role in the health care industry,” he put his business and finance skills to practice by “shar[ing] them with organizations to help advance their missions.”  Today he sits on the Board of Trustees of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health Board of Directors. He is also a member of The Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology, and he created the Jim Donovan Fund for Prostate Cancer Research at Dana-Farber. He is co-host of a yearly breakfast fundraiser for the Institute and more.

There is always a way to help those going through cancer or other terrible diseases and above are just two examples.  As the Baramontes and Jim Donovan have shown, even without medical knowledge there are plenty of skills that can be put to tremendous use so that one does not end up feeling helpless in the face of cancer.

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