Staying Strong as a Caregiver: Hopeful Progress

Staying Strong as a Caregiver: Hopeful Progress

January 30, 2023

Written by: Courtney Benisch | Senior Manager of Partnerships and Community Relations for Head for the Cure and Brains for the Cure Ambassador

I was able to attend The Society of Neuro-Oncology annual meeting in November 2022 and
learned an amazing amount about what the field is focusing on and how it can pave the way for
future treatments of this horrible disease. As I go into my 7th year without my mom, it is
bittersweet to see all the new treatments and programs out there for brain cancer patients and
their families. I wish they could’ve been around when my mom was diagnosed with
glioblastoma, but I know they are doing amazing things for those currently battling.

This multi-day conference known as “SNO” brings together doctors, hospital and clinic staff,
brain cancer foundations, and companies creating treatments from across the world to present
and discuss the current research findings and the new treatment options to hopefully be
available. This large conference allows organizations like Head for the Cure to meet and
connect with important people in this industry to help educate and inform our community.
However, as a caregiver, it was eye-opening to see the potential of future treatments and learn
what the doctors are looking for to ensure their patients are getting the best possible care.

We had a booth showcasing Brains for the Cure and the resources we have, and a lot of other
companies and hospitals were interested in how we can connect. Another big portion of the
conference was attending speaking sessions. To my surprise, there were two days that featured
caregiver-focused speakers and I was immediately interested. The overview from these
sessions was that doctors and their staff are really wanting to focus on caregiver care and
the mental health of the patient just as much as their physical treatment. They go hand in hand, and
it felt amazing to hear that being acknowledged. As a caregiver, you don’t want to bring the focus
to yourself whatsoever because the patient is everyone’s number one priority but knowing that the
clinicians are actively looking into ways to help is a big step in the right direction.

Mental health was another big topic of the caregiver sessions, and I was very pleased to see
that. Patients and caregivers go through a huge rollercoaster of emotions and there is no guide
on how to manage that. Taking care of your mental health is just as important as your physical
health and seeing how hospitals are focusing on that is great. It also makes Brains for the Cure
evaluate our resources and how we can add mental health resources as well.
The SNO conference was emotionally and physically exhausting but in a good way. As a
caregiver, I could tangibly see the process of clinical trials and where they stand as well as
connect with other caregivers as well. Most of the people who are in this field of work, unfortunately, have a connection to brain cancer, so it is one united front working together. As a
part of the Head for the Cure team, it was inspiring to see everyone come together to simply
educate and share their stories.

There were countless times I said in my head “oh I wish I had that when my mom was sick” or
“wow, that laser treatment might have gotten more of my mom’s tumor.” A lot of things have
changed in the past seven years when it comes to treatments for brain cancer so there will
always be “what ifs.” However, I know my mom got the treatment she needed at the time
and that was available. It really showed how there is so much needed to assist patients and
caregivers now while they are going through their journey, but also how we can hopefully find a
cure for this down the road.

Attending SNO was extremely valuable to me not only as a staff member for Head for the Cure,
but also a caregiver as well. It gave me some peace knowing that the work we do is actually