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Caregiver Profile: Jim Martin

JamesMartin3Jim became a caregiver for his mother when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Adding to the already challenging experience of being a caregiver was the fact that his mother lived on the East Coast and Jim lives in Thousand Oaks. He worked with his mother’s primary care physician to get her into a National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Institute, then worked from afar to coordinate her surgery, and remained with her for two weeks after the surgery. For the next five years, Jim traveled across the country to accompany his mother to her twice-yearly oncologist visits.

When, sadly, his mother’s cancer metastasized into liver, adrenal, and colon cancer, Jim spent the next 11 months ensuring that his mother was as comfortable as possible. He spent most of his time with her and watched her make new friends in her Assisted Living facility. During the last six weeks before his mother’s passing, Jim worked with hospice to ensure his mother was free of pain and had a network of support.

Three years into his journey as a caregiver, Jim joined a Caregiver Support Group at the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara. “I joined somewhat reluctantly and was surprised by my own lack of knowledge, comprehension, and tools to cope,” recalls Jim. “The Cancer Support Community has provided a place to share my experiences on this journey, to laugh, to cry, and most importantly, to learn. Coming into this experience, I thought I had the tools to cope with challenges I was facing. I was so wrong, as no one learns these skills unless they have faced the exact same challenge.”

To give back to the organization that helped him, Jim donates his time as Treasurer of the CscVvsb Board of Directors and volunteers for the Holiday Homes Tour and other events. “I believe that giving back to this community is very important as the services that are provided are free to those receiving them,” says Jim.

A consultant in Thousand Oaks, Jim also enjoys cycling throughout the Conejo Valley, cooking good food, creating art, and growing fruits and vegetables.

Jim encourages cancer caregivers to seek support for themselves, not just for their loved ones with cancer. “Caregivers carry a tremendous burden.  Given how taxing this burden is and can become, you need to learn skills to cope with the challenges and be better able to help your loved one.  It is important to have a community of like individuals to truly understand the emotions that you are experiencing.  You will grow, and as you grow, you will be even better equipped to help your loved one.  And the community will help you grow and learn about how to care for your loved one, how to care for yourself, and how to prepare yourself for the challenges you will face.”

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