×

Offering comfort to caregivers

Joyce Aleshire knows challenges of assisting family member in need

Following her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Joyce Aleshire became her caregiver. She realized that it’s difficult sometimes being a source of support for the patient, leading her to establish the Cancer Caregiver Support Group.

CANFIELD — Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is physically and emotionally hard, for the patient and for the family member who becomes a caregiver. Suddenly, normal life is gone.

Joyce Aleshire is the facilitator of the Cancer Caregiver Support Group that meets monthly in the Cornersburg area of Youngstown.

She knows the challenges of being a primary caregiver since she cared for her mother who was diagnosed in 1991 with breast cancer that metastasized to her stomach. Her mother died in 1993.

All actions focus on the patient surrounding a diagnosis. Doctor visits, treatment appointments, pharmacy trips, grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry — these aspects of daily living are thrown up in the air and most fall in the lap of the caregiver.

“I was scared, often panicked, terrified of not doing it right and hurting her,” Aleshire said.

She felt that this was her mother and it was her responsibility to care for her. She turned people down who offered help, refusing to let anyone shop for groceries or help around the house.

She said she did not need anyone to bring over dinner because “she’s my mother, it’s my responsibility.”

Looking back, she saw how taking it all on herself denied others the opportunity to help. Not only that, “I deprived my mother from seeing other people’s faces besides mine. I didn’t give her the chance to visit with her friends.”

Aleshire credits the mistakes she made while caring for her mother with helping her to see the importance of support. She also cared for her husband and her sister and her husband during their cancer treatment.

BUILDING SUPPORT

With the support and encouragement of Dr. Arthur Greenbaum at Northside Hospital, Aleshire started her Cancer Caregiver Support Group in 2010.

Initially, groups met at Northside Hospital and St. Mary Parish in Mineral Ridge.

Aleshire’s husband, Jim, was involved with the American Cancer Society and suggested to her that she should consider facilitating the support group at Yellow Brick Place in Cornersburg in 2015.

Then COVID-19 mandates shuttered any in-person meetings that were held.

Aleshire said she is not a psychologist. “I don’t have a degree. I just understand that people need support. I researched support groups online on how to set it up. I am used to talking to people so that part came easily.”

She pointed out that “support groups are not about finding cures or debating medical theories … those tasks are left to trained professionals.”

Aleshire said that when people first come to the meetings, they do not know what to expect and sometimes wonder what they have gotten themselves into.

“There is no judgment; you can vent, you can cry — and you can laugh.”

Aleshire believes in the power of laughter. She said that she recalls the laughter she and her mother shared and is grateful for those memories of her. Through the meetings, she encourages caregivers that they need to have fun, they need to laugh.

“Sometimes I will give them an assignment to find something funny before the next meeting.”

SUPPORTING OTHERS

Since its inception, Chris Zifchak of Girard has been involved in the Cancer Caregiver Support Group. She brings the understanding of being both a caregiver and a patient.

Her daughter, Jessica, died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2009, at the age of 25. Zifchak herself is a breast cancer survivor.

Describing the difficulty of caring for someone with cancer, Aleshire and Zifchak agreed “It is easier to be the patient than to be the caregiver.”

Aleshire spoke of the help Zifchak has given to mothers who deal with the heartache of having a child with cancer. Zifchak added that as a caregiver, “you become their secretary. I oversaw scheduling appointments, arranging transportation and whatever else.”

She spoke of her supportive family during this time and realized not everyone has that family support. The caregiver support group offers more support to the caregiver. She said the support group is “an opportunity to be calm and judgment-free.”

Aleshire has had three articles published in Today’s Caregiver magazine: “New Normal vs. New Beginning,” “When Your Caregiver Days are Over” and “Stuck in the Middle,” stories of the experience of being part of the sandwich generation, taking care of children and parents.

The Cancer Caregiver Support Group meets the third Wednesday of each month at 4 pm. at Yellow Brick Place, 2959 Canfield Road, Youngstown, Ohio 44511. Anyone who is a caregiver for a cancer patient is welcome and encouraged to come.

Aleshire said the support group is a “safe place where people can vent as much as they want and share what they are comfortable sharing. They do not have to talk at all. They can listen.” For more information about the group, contact Joyce Aleshire at 330-540-1815, or Yellow Brick Place at 234-228-9550 or info@

yellowbrickplace.org.

Have an interesting story? Contact the newsroom by email at news@vindy.com. Follow us on X, formerly Twitter, @TribToday.

NEWSLETTER

Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *
   

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today