I have been a birth doula for over 7 years. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what a doula does, allow me to give you the Cliff’s Notes version.
A doula is a person who works side by side with a woman and her family as she navigates pregnancy, labor, delivery and the immediate postpartum period. The doula gets to know what is important to her client about the birth experience and uses her expertise on the topic to help the family achieve a birth as close to their desired preferences as possible.
Doulas provide hands-on comfort measures, such as massage and counter-pressure, but they also provide emotional support and advocacy, which can be critical when delivering a baby in a large hospital institution.
When a client of mine goes into labor, I join her and her family when they feel ready and I stay with them indefinitely. Sometimes I am with my clients for 8 hours, sometimes closer to 38 hours. I never know what is in store for me, but one thing I do know is that, as their doula, I will make a positive impact on their birth experience.
What does this have to do with cancer, you ask? I can’t tell you the number of times I have wished I had somebody by my side who was extremely knowledgable about ‘all things cancer.’ Just like my clients call me at 10pm on a Wednesday asking if a new feeling is, ‘normal,’ I would love to have that same health advocate on my team for when I feel like shit is slipping through the cracks.
Ultimately, important health care decisions are made by the patient and their chosen medical team, but to have this unbiased, highly experienced third party at your disposal is also priceless.
My mom has a been a birth doula for close to 20 years. She is definitely stepping in to take on that role for me throughout this ordeal, but it is very difficult to ‘mother the mother’ when you are the ACTUAL mother. I need her to be mommy right now (I’m 36- shut your traps, I have cancer and can call her mommy if I want to).
If you have been following my blogs from the beginning, you know that my sister has also been my doula, which is highly comical seeing as though she has 0.0 (or less) interest in birth work. As much as she might protest, this type of care is coming very naturally to her. She anticipates my needs, reads things for me so I don’t have to… I think she may have even watched me breathe after my surgeries just to be sure I was safe.
My husband gets a pass on this one as: a) Dude-las aren’t really a thing yet and b) He is taking care of our 3 kids, which is a monumental task.
In the last 36 hours I have needed the full gamut of chemo/doula care. Let’s go ahead and call it Chemoula Care, shall we?
I have needed help climbing the stairs, bathing, taking the right medications, getting ice packs, water bottles, back rubs, help up from the floor when the floor seems like the only option left…
My mom and sister watch me like hawks, but treat me like lace. As sad an experience as it is, it is also quite exquisite. The care and attention I am being paid is something that I will remember as I get back into my own doula practice once this is all over.
My mom and sister never wanted to be Chemoulas. They just started doing the work, as they knew it was what had to be done. As humans we are born selfish, but we are also born with the propensity to be kind.
I am a doula and I needed a doula for my births. I am a doula and I need a Chemoula for getting through breast cancer. I bet if you look around, you will see all sorts of people in your life who could fulfill this role, should you ever need them.
Look for your inner doula. Ask how you could help someone struggling through a medical crisis. It is not always back rubs and essential oils. It is also research, advocacy, listening.
I feel a little bit better today, though this round was much worse than the last. Last time I felt lots of side effects. This time I just feel ill. Hydrating has become a full-time job (that I seem to be failing at). Never has an ER bolus of fluids looked so magical.
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No words. I just hope each day gets easier. This is truly shitty. I am so sorry and you are so fiercely honest and,brave. You have,a,great,support team in your family. I know you treasuremthem all.
I sent you a random email a couple of months ago, because I may have lost my mind, emailing random young people with cancer. 😊 I am my husband’s chemoula. We are in the throes of our own cancer journey. Your posts are comforting for me. I hope you and your family are doing well.
Offering support to one you love seems natural. Whats your advice on how to offer support to those you dont know at all? The situation: We’re at my hubby’s company’s picnic. I see a woman…a mom… a mom with a young daughter. Her hair has grown out to a short buzz that she is wearing under a hat. I see a bruised area on her right chest (perhaps a port?). I stood next to her as our kids bounced on the bouncy house. I didn’t know what to say. I was literally trying not to cry thinking of her battle….of yours….of how I can say to her that I’m with her….I’m on her side. Perhaps she doesnt want to talk about it. Is sick of talking about it. Just wants to see her kid have fun on the bouncy castle and the face panting station. As someone who is living that now…whats your advice?
Smiling, and offering kindness are never misplaced.
It seems like you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by your own feelings around cancer. From my experience with cancer, I found that I was not very interested in helping other people process their pain about my suffering. Perhaps you have another friend who you can get advise from who is less ill right now? Cancer brings up a lot of strong emotions, it can be really surprising how much we are effected by it.
Hi Grace, I would like to send you a private message
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Ok! Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
So glad you have you kin caring for you. The second chemo was a real doozy for me too, but they were all different, in some ways they got easier. I love the chemoula idea, someone to deeply nourish you on every level as you navigate through poison land.
How someone described it to me is that You are the center of an onion just now, surrounded by your husband, children, mom and sister in the next layer, layers of intimacy surround all of you. Right now only nurturing gets to go in. You can process outward, and your support team can process outward, each layer of the onion holding the layer closer in. Sending love towards your onion from way out in the dirt, or maybe the sun and rain.
You are one of the strongest women I have ever met. When you taught our childbirth class I kept thinking – damn that’s one strong lady! I am praying for you. Your mom came to one of our classes too and I thought she was awesome. I am glad she is there to support you.
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