Our colleague Jo shares her experience as a sole carer at 20 years old for Carers Week 2020

Our colleague Jo shares her experience as a sole carer at 20 years old for Carers Week 2020

“Look Jo, we are going to do our best to treat it, but we want you to understand that we cannot cure your Dad’s cancer.”

Words I will never forget, that I tried to block out for the six-month demise of my Dad’s health. Yet, somehow, I am now at peace with them. Here are just a few words about my experience becoming the sole carer for my wonderful Dad, Bernie, when I was 20 years old.

My life was the 7AM wake-up. Check on my Dad who is still dozing. Tell him I’ll be back from walking the dog in 30 minutes and have his breakfast (thick cut marmalade on granary toast, orange juice and a coffee) ready. Along with the umpteen pills and morphine he’s prescribed to shovel down his mouth every morning. 

Do you want a shower, Dad? “No”. I can’t get my head around why this man, both an athlete and a coach, would refuse the basic routines that he lived by his whole life and were once so important. Sadly, I was learning how quickly ill health can change your outlook on life. Life on a chemo ward and ferrying my Dad around the Leeds healthcare systems in my banged up old Peugeot, soon became our every day, all whilst trying to work and study. 

My dad treated me differently to everyone whilst I was caring for him – especially different to those coming to visit him in his final weeks of life. Those visits were almost a performance for my Dad. When they were over, I saw him switch off and the energy drain out of him. He was so proud, even in the discovery of the finiteness of life. I would get quiet Dad, sad Dad or angry Dad. 

On reflection, I can see how this was indirectly a massive tribute to our relationship, nevertheless it was such a struggle for me at the time. I realised that he was being authentic to how he was really feeling with me, because I was the only one who he could show those emotions to. He knew that the care and love would be continued, unconditionally. I wish that I had known about options for support around me and reached out to organisations that could help me understand this, much earlier.

For other (especially young) carers out there, with limited access to resources (including the crucial resource of time): if you reach out, you will find so much support that you didn’t even imagine existed. Guidance on financial provision, peer networks of carers and the help to take much needed breaks, are some of the many valuable things that Carers UK offer. Caring is so challenging in so many ways. But, if you come to experience being a carer, I implore you to seek the help from charities that exist to support YOU. They will assist you with juggling the day-to-day and help you to see caring for others as a transformative role that you can find great strength through.

** Support Carers UK for Carers Week 2020 and Make Caring Visible. You can do so by visiting our JustGiving page or by texting ECORYSCARE to 70460 to donate £3. **

12 June 2020

3 minute read