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By: Nadya Carlson-Bowen

My twin sister Vera was diagnosed with stage-IV colon cancer on April 20, 2015. She fought hard but passed away eight months later, at 26 years old. As a caregiver, I learned a lot about myself and about life. Here are some of the most important lessons this terrible yet powerful journey instilled in me. 


Nothing can change your outlook quite like cancer can. As a caregiver, you learn to value life more and appreciate those who surround you with as much love and happiness as possible. You learn to care for even the smallest things in life because life is so precious. You take life one day at a time and live it to the fullest.


Being strong is so important, especially for those who are caregivers for others. You don’t realize how strong you really can be, until you face a tough situation like cancer. That’s not to say being a caregiver isn’t tough. Often, you feel hopeless and like you can’t do anything for a loved one. I managed to keep it together because her and I had an incredible support system, which is the first step to being strong. After her passing, I still do.


You learn to be patient with things that may not go your own way at times. I experienced this a lot, especially as there was less hope in a positive outcome. But I was there for my sister no matter what the outcome was, always. 



You learn to love the one you care for even when they are sick. As a twin, I felt sad that my other half was going through a tough situation. I did everything I could when it was needed. Even if it was just a simple as a hug. I was her rock, her best friend, and her sister. We had an unbreakable bond.


Being positive through the whole process is probably one of the best things you can do to help a patient. If you’re positive and smiling, then the patient can be hopeful and smile. Your affection can really impact the other person. I remember even on my toughest days, I’d put a smile on for my sister.

Nadya Carlson-Bowen is presently writing a novel about her and her sister’s journey from strangers in a Russian orphanage to discovering their sisterhood in the United States, and beyond. To keep up with Nadya and her book, tentatively scheduled for publishing on December 29, on the anniversary of her sister’s passing, follow her at Nadyaa.cb07 on Instagram. To view resources for caregivers, click here.


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