Pebbling the Walk Surviving Cancer Caregiving

Author: Reviewer: Millie Caparro, MSN, RN, AOCN
Content Contributor: The Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania
Last Reviewed: March 31, 2002

Author: Steve Reed
Publisher: Blue Heron Publishing
ISBN: 0-936085-63-0
OncoLink Rating: Disclosure

This book is a poignant look at the emotional turmoil and heartbreak of caring for a loved one who is dying. The author discusses the physical and psychological demands of daily care giving. It is portrayed as a burden of love however the true burden is identified as the author describes his personal decline into a clinical depression accompanied by a return to an acute episode of alcoholism (both of which were short-term).

The realm of self-sacrifice is described as the author tells us of the need to leave his wife, home, and job to care for a terminally ill mother, brother, sister, step-father, and aunt, and shortly thereafter his wife who is diagnosed with breast cancer-a Herculean task even for the strongest of mind, body, and character. The reality of fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, and physical exhaustion is described in first person, as well as, with quotes from those who were sick.

Mr. Reed offers realistic explanations of why our sick loved ones behave as they do especially when the behavior is mean-spirited or hurtful. He describes how anger and fear of illness and perhaps death motivate the sick to lash out and direct their anger at those who are closest to them, their caregivers. He provides suggestions for actions and words, which may soothe and comfort. He describes when his behavior and communication was successful and when it was not. He shares his triumphs and failures at using humor to lighten the burden. He also shares the words of his loved ones when they offered suggestions for how he could help them.

A strong caution is urged, as some of the text is outdated, such as, his wife's hospitalizations for chemotherapy treatments that are now administered in the outpatient infusion area. Additional caution is urged when the author describes his wife's bouts of extreme nausea and vomiting as these toxicities now are managed so well as to almost negate their existence. Also, he refers to those he cares for as his patient -a word, which may be offensive to some who reject the passive role, assigned that term.

Pebbling the Walk is a diary of the heart that portrays the real trauma of catastrophic, life-threatening illness on those we love and its effect on the family.


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