Poor health doesn’t occur in a vacuum – a diagnosis can turn loved ones into caregivers and affects families, friends, colleagues and beyond.
As part of the annual Astellas Patient and Caregiver Event, four company employees shared their personal stories of a close family member developing a serious illness.
Meredith Dart (Regional Sales Manager, PCP/Urology), Tarsis Lopez (Head, Communications, International Markets), Adam Flahive (Finance Director, Budget and Control) and Linda Hawkins (Regional Sales Manager) all spoke about how their caregiver experiences had impacted on their lives and their work.
Introducing the session, Catherine Levitt (Executive Vice President, General Counsel) explained: “This event is really important to us because we know the critical role that caregivers play in a patient’s experience.”
Look for the Silver Linings
Meredith, whose mother had been fighting a rare type of aggressive stomach cancer, said her family had learned to look for the “silver linings” – such as looking at being a caregiver as an opportunity to spend time with a loved one.
“When you think about the challenges you face, we all need to focus on the silver linings, because this helps you through the bad days and strive for the better days,” she noted.
Meredith went on to explain how the experience impacts her work.
“I am constantly going back to how we can help the patient, because at the end of every prescription is a patient. What we need to be focused on is empathy toward that patient and the people who rally around them,” she added.
Tarsis explained that his life changed when his son was diagnosed with a brain tumor at little more than six months old.
“There was a lot of fear during that time. I had to ruthlessly re-prioritize, and what I thought was important to me before was no longer important,” he said.
He explained the importance of supporting caregivers, highlighting how much he relied on his family and his faith to get through the difficult times.
It is an experience that will stay with the family, who continue to raise awareness of the large unmet need in the therapy area.
Tarsis fundraises for the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation by DJing at monthly club nights in Chicago and talks about his son’s journey whenever he can.
Adam’s daughter has had multiple open-heart surgery since being born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome.
“As she was discharged and readmitted, I noticed a lot of the same faces in hospital and realized they had been there the whole time. It helped me to realize that every journey is unique, and that you may feel like you are going through difficult times, but other people are struggling as well,” he said.
“The whole family, her siblings, our parents, our siblings, the extended family and our friends, are all part of that journey.”
Information is Power
When Linda’s husband developed stage four colon cancer, she realized how big an impact his life had had on those around him.
“My husband was not just a husband and dad. He was a coach, a son, a brother. All of these people are affected, and you need to let them in,” she said, adding that the experience changed her perspective on what a caregiver was.
“I thought it was about taking someone to doctors’ appointments and taking care of their physical needs. Now I understand the emotional part is as important as the physical part,” Linda said, revealing the experience had impacted on her work.
“I am in the field. I realize that if I can get the right message to the doctor, and they can get the right product to the patient, that can save a life,” she said.