Chande Lutu-Drabble's Survivor Story
My name is Chande Lutu-Drabble, and I was and always will be a Caregiver for my daughter who is a Cancer Survivor. I have just returned home after living over a year in San Diego, where my daughter had undergone treatment for melanoma cancer. When I went up to be with my daughter, I didn’t know what to expect, other than doing things that any mother would normally do; caring for my child and just being there as her companion.
I recall the greatest challenge I had to overcome when I became aware of the condition of my daughter was fear. It was the worst kind of fear—and that is: fear based on ignorance.
Not being knowledgeable enough about cancer fed my fear, which grew almost out of control. As the time came closer for me to leave for the mainland to be with my daughter during her surgeries and treatment, it gripped my soul and was so emotionally frightening that at times, I could barely stand, or breathe, without trembling with anguish for my daughter’s life.
Another challenge was overcoming my sense of hopelessness and guilt. Guilt that I, my daughter’s mother, could not do anything to make her feel better or make the hurt go away. My mother’s sense of helplessness for the suffering of my child weighed so heavily on me that if there were any way possible that I could free her of cancer by absorbing it into my own body, I would have done so without hesitation. I would have willingly given my own life if it were possible, even to this day, so she could live hers cancer free.
As challenging as fear, hopelessness and guilt were to overcome, I was in time, able to do so with knowledge —through reading, studying and research.
However, it was faith in something greater that not only gave me a sense of peace, but the inner strength of patience and love that enabled me to endure the rest of the journey that finally brought both my daughter and me home to American Samoa.
It was the strength of prayer and blessings from our Heavenly Father whose mercy and everlasting love, that blessed my daughter with improvements in her health to the point of complete remission. I have learned to overcome fear— by overcoming ignorance with knowledge. And I have learned to overcome the limitations of knowledge by my Christian Faith in our Heavenly Father and the Power of Prayer.
I didn’t even know what a Caregiver was until we went for her first treatment at the oncology clinic. That’s when I noticed that the patients who were there for treatment did not drive themselves to the clinic and that someone had to drive them to and from their treatment, be with the patient during their treatment and just be there to keep them company.
I also noticed that more and more males are becoming Caregivers to their parents, siblings, uncles and aunts as well as their close friends.
So while my daughter was having her ‘chemo’ treatment, I would read anything in the clinic pertaining to melanoma cancer, then I moved on to breast cancer and from there, I moved on to all other types of cancer. I wanted to understand everything there is to know about all kinds of cancer, as well as to know how to care for a cancer patient.
In the oncology clinic where my daughter had her treatment, the ambiance is very soothing; the ceiling was painted with the color of blue sky with fluffy white clouds. All the paintings on the walls were scenes of trees in the forest with cool running streams, ocean waves that I could almost hear the wind caressing as they make their way to the shore, and open fields of wildflowers in pastel colors.
The doctors, nurses and employees were very kind, compassionate and always willing to listen to my strings of questions, especially the doctors. There were a lot of magazines, pamphlets and booklets on coffee tables about all kinds of cancer and how to care for cancer patients. Information was everywhere and all I had to do was to gather and read them; and that’s what I did.
There were also magazines specifically about being a Caregiver.
To be a Caregiver, one must first have unconditional love for whomever is to be cared for, and everything else will come easily... like understanding, patience and compassion. A Caregiver has to understand and recognize the patient’s mood-swings and how to deal with all kinds of emotions as part of the side effects of the drugs.
I have gained a great deal of knowledge on how to care for a cancer patient, what kind of foods help to combat cancer, what over-the-counter medications help to combat side effects of the drugs that are being used to treat cancer, et cetera.
I had to learn quickly how to change dressings and give injections. Knowledge really is Power.
In the face of any illness or life challenge, especially a diagnosis of cancer, I quickly encountered a series of important questions and a compelling need for answers. So I kept reading and collecting material that would help me know more about this dreadful disease and how to deal with it in every aspect.
My daughter had to change Oncologists, as the first one didn’t have patience to listen to our numerous questions and was quite nonchalant in his way of explaining what kind of treatment that my daughter should have. I guess everyone assumes that the doctor will carefully explain things, but that is not always the case.
That’s why it is important that we get information that would help the Patient and the Caregiver navigate the journey through cancer as skillfully and effectively as possible. It begins with helping find the vital knowledge we need to feel clear and confident about medical care in every aspect. Understanding diagnosis and treatment also helps to maximize the benefits of medical care.
My daughter is a very strong and determined person and she has a very positive outlook in life. She went through her treatment as if she had a boil on her foot instead of cancer. There were times when I felt weak and hopeless, but seeing the strength that my daughter had during her treatment helped me through hills of doubts and mountains of fear. I never once saw fear on her face as she went through her treatment; it was as if it was second nature to her. However, she did tell me at one time that when she was by herself, she felt fear, but she didn’t want me to know, or see it.
I’m forever grateful to our Heavenly Father for hearing our prayers in silence; and for friends and families who offered prayers and words of encouragement during our stay in San Diego. Though my daughter seeks to hide her silent cries of pain so as not to become a burden to her mother and loved ones, it non-the-less reverberates in my heart. This has been my life as a Caregiver, with unconditional love for someone dearer to me than my own life. I have found my life as a Caregiver worth living and would gladly do it all over again, should the need arise.
There are so many friends and families who have offered prayers and words of encouragement and I would love to list every single one of them individually; but it would take up an entire page of the newspaper. But there is one person who I would like to mention, and that is Tina’s Dad, Tom Drabble; for without his love and financial support, our journey could not have been possible.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my experience as a Caregiver, with the hope that it will help other Caregivers.
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