Paying Tribute to a Special Kind of Family Caregiver on His Birthday
As I write this, today is my best friend’s birthday. If I know him well, I suspect that on this day (I’m writing this on Tuesday), he is both externally happy and internally reflective. I suppose it is natural to take stock of life — both the good and the not-so-good — when we hit our birthday.
Admittedly, his birthday also has me feeling externally happy, yet internally reflective. I couldn’t help but think about how long we’ve known each other — 30 or so years since Morehouse College, but who’s counting — and about the great times we had together. Through thick and thin, he’s always been there for me, even when I didn’t know I needed him.
Truth be told, he actually meets the definition of a “caregiver.”
In our sarcoidosis world, we often see numerous doctors, nurses, specialists, and technicians over a given year. In that context, a caregiver “is a person who tends to the needs or concerns of a person with short- or long-term limitations due to illness, injury or disability,” as Johns Hopkins Medicine describes the term. These people are true heroes and blessings that help others who cannot fully take care of themselves.
But I also like another description by Johns Hopkins of family caregivers who take care of “members of their family of origin, but also … those who care for their family of choice.”
For me, my best friend has been a family caregiver.
Perhaps he hasn’t been a family caregiver within the context of illness. Fortunately, while my sarcoidosis challenges aren’t mild, they rarely require a caregiver, at least not in the medical context. And technically, we aren’t related by blood, but we chose each other as family and brothers.
So, no, he hasn’t been that type of medical family caregiver, but he has been a caregiver for certain procedures that wouldn’t allow me to return home unattended. I am “as healthy as I can be,” but since I’ve known him, and especially since I was diagnosed, he has been a constant emotional family caregiver.
And when you have a chronic disease, we frequently need those emotional caregivers.
I’m talking about the person who listens to you when you’re not sure why your body is fighting against you with that sarcoidosis cough. Or the person who serves as an advocate when you are mentally and emotionally drained. Perhaps it is the person who kindly reminds you to schedule your various medical scans. Or maybe he is the one who reminds you that while sarcoidosis affects your life, it doesn’t have to control it.
All those things fit my best friend, my emotional family caregiver.
As vital as our medical caregivers are, we cannot underestimate the importance of our emotional caregivers. They can be just as important to living our best lives with chronic illness.
Happy birthday, brother!
Note: Sarcoidosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Sarcoidosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to sarcoidosis.