Hello, I’m Heather. Let’s talk about caregiving.

Heather Jose photo

Heather Jose

I‘m excited to meet you as we launch our new home page called WeAreCaregivers.com! Bookmark this page and check back regularly. Every week, I plan to bring you helpful tips, practical news for caregivers and a mix of inspirational columns by myself and other writers. Together, we can find common threads in our lives.

That means you are an important part of this effort, too! I’ll tell you about several ways you can share in a moment. But, first, if you don’t want to miss future news and columns, click on the link (at left) to “Sign up for our Email Newsletter.” Don’t worry: It’s free, comes only once a week and you can cancel at any time—so give it a try for a few weeks. When you click on that link, you’ll be invited to receive the WeAreCaregivers newsletter from me via Email and, if you want, the ReadTheSpirit weekly newsletter and the OurValues newsletter, as well. Get them all—or just our new Caregivers newsletter. It’s your choice.

This new WeAreCaregivers.com is more than our group of writers talking to you. The “We” includes you. Every day, you can help other caregivers, right here on this website, by sharing a photo, a tip or a personal note. All of us need this kind of help. Me, too! As I look around me, I see caregiving everywhere! My mom is a caregiver. She provides assistance both to my dad and to her mother as well. I watch as my aunt juggles her job and the demands of her father. I sit in meetings with families who have children with special needs. And for 14 years now, I have seen caregiving from the perspective of a cancer patient.

This a tough job—caring for others. The hours are long and the reward is often little. But there are bright spots too. Tell us your story. Let’s begin this journey by connecting. Who are you caring for? What helps you? Any advice? Here are several ways to share with us right now …

SHOW US YOUR GODSIGNS SNAPSHOT

Cover of GodsignsGot a photo to share? Here’s why we are asking: Suzy Farbman, a popular writer who you might have seen in magazines or on Oprah, has just published a new inspirational memoir about her successful struggle to recover from cancer. “Godsigns” helped to light her way. No, Suzy isn’t writing about big miracles. She’s describing the many little ways that we can find hopeful glimpses of God even in the midst of our toughest struggles. Sometimes these Godsigns are as universal as the wondrous experience of seeing a star-filled night sky, or a beautiful bird landing on your porch, or the smile of a child. Spot a Godsign in your life? Snap a photo and upload it on our front page (at left). Add a line or two describing your snapshot—then check back with us soon. We regularly will post some of these photos at WeAreCaregivers.com to inspire others. It’s easy—and a good thing to do. Those uplifting little Godsigns helped you—now let them help others.

SHARE YOUR TIPS, IDEAS AND NOTES

Got an idea to share? Another writer contributing to WeAreCaregivers.com is the Rev. Dr. Benjamin Pratt, a pastoral counselor and veteran caregiver. He wrote the practical new book, A Guide for Caregivers: Keeping Your Spirit Healthy When Your Caregiver Duties and Responsibilities Are Dragging You Down. You might have enjoyed Ben’s columns elsewhere on the Internet or you might have heard him on the radio or at a conference. He talks and writes about the spiritual challenges of long-term caregiving. Ben’s most important advice is: Don’t do it alone. And, right here, you can start exchanging ideas with others. Whether you’ve read his book or not, you can start sharing ideas online, right now.

DON’T DO IT ALONE: I’VE LEARNED THAT LESSON MYSELF

Together, we can make this new website a place of refuge, information, and above all community. Every week, you will find other men and women who are just like us in the daily challenge of caring for others. At WeAreCaregivers, we’ve done our research: We know that being a caregiver is a common thing. In fact, 1 of 3 people are taking on the role of caregiving in some capacity right now. However, even though this experience is so widespread—very few people talk about it. That is why we are here.

Each week, I’ll be here to welcome you. Remember my name, Heather Jose, along with the WeAreCaregivers.com home page. You can read my entire story in Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. As you’ll learn in that book, I have spent many years surrounded by caregivers and being cared for myself. Fourteen years ago this December I was told to get my affairs in order as an oncologist reviewed the scans that showed the spread of breast cancer. That was a terrible shock for a 20-something mother of a 1-year-old daughter. Cancer was not on my radar until that day! The title of my book comes from a hand-lettered sign that I carried with me through the long, tough journey to recovery.

SET YOUR GOAL TO ‘THRIVING,’ NOT JUST ‘SURVIVING’

Over the years, I have learned many things about the interaction between caregivers, patients and the medical community. As a longtime columnist for Breast Cancer Wellness Magazine, I’m an advocate of describing the goal we set for ourselves as not just “surviving,” but actually “thriving.” And, we can’t hope to thrive, if we’re alone.

Professionally I am trained as an occupational therapist. I have worked primarily in schools and nursing homes. These settings have opened the doors to caregiving in many ways. If you remember and share only one thing from your visit, today, it’s this: Become an active participant in your own health and don’t tackle these challenges alone. That’s the message that runs through everything I write. It’s what I say when I stand before conferences of health-care providers, caregivers and cancer thrivers across the country. It’s the message that saved my life.

So, you’ve heard a little of my story; you’ve met a couple of my friends who will visit with us in future weeks here at WeAreCaregivers.com. Now, it’s your turn. We’d like to meet you. Got a Godsigns snapshot to share? Get started via the Godsigns links on our home page (at left). Got a tip or idea to share? Take a look at the whole list of ways you can share with other Caregivers right now. And, keep in touch: Don’t forget to sign up for the free weekly newsletter.


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