One of the things I've learned through the years of dealing with cancer (my parents and my own) is the importance of having a strong advocate. A cancer patient can be on considerable medications, and chemo/radiation can knock even the strongest on their tail-end for days/weeks/months.
Right now, my sister and I are serving as Mom's advocates. There's not a day that goes by where we're not talking, comparing notes, making plans, or discussing options. (NOTE: this sometimes irritates our mother, who is notoriously independent and strong, but we've learned to be very open and honest with her in our communications.) Having people in your corner who can ask tough questions of an oncologist, who can fight with insurance companies, who can keep track of the number of drugs or medications - well, this is an important team to have. Sometimes it takes having multiple pairs of ears in the room to fully absorb what the doctor is telling us. We've often started our post-consultation debriefs with "Did you hear the same thing I heard?" Then we pick apart the most important parts of the message and start over again with more plans and action items.
Moreover, even advocates need advocates. I have been BEYOND blessed to have so many people in my life offer to help with all kinds of things. We have back-ups for watching our girls. We have people who have offered to bring us meals. We have people with whom we can just share a good cry or a primal scream of frustration. During a recent rough bout, when I was not having a good night dealing with the overwhelming nature of everything, my 11-year-old daughter came into our bedroom and informed me that if I ever needed a shoulder to cry on, she was pretty good at crying, too, when she was sad and would be there for me. The best advocates can be those who have gone through it already. I know a lot of people who have gone through the loss of a parent in the past few months. Even the best of intentions cannot replace "I get it; I've been there."
Advocates also have to be there as constant encouragement to the patient. We're their cheerleaders, advisors, surrogate worriers, mouthpiece, earpiece, and hand-holder. Karen Putz, who has always been one of my favorite bloggers, tweeted me with a great article about cancer. There are so many forms that cancer advocacy can take.
But this line of thought leads me back to my "day job" - when you are trying to seize the accomplishment, who are your advocates? As my cop friends would say, who has your back? And equally important, for whom are you serving as advocate? Whom are you helping to seize their accomplishment? In our society of "lone wolf" and "rugged individualist" mindsets, we forget that life's accomplishments (at least the ones worth accomplishing) are team sports.