Caregiving for Her Mom Brings Compassion for Tomorrow’s Patients
Now, more than ever, people around the world are united in recognizing the invaluable role family caregivers play when a loved one is sick. Being a family caregiver can be incredibly challenging, both emotionally and practically while juggling careers, children, spouses, and aging parents. This critical time brings families together and, for some caregivers like Guylaine, they go on to use their experience and compassion to make an impact by offering hope to the next generation of patients.
In 2011, Guylaine Béliveau’s mother, Michelle, was diagnosed with a serious blood cancer. Devastated and scared, Guylaine was by her mom’s side for treatments, holding her hand through the hardest of moments, while also advocating for her needs in the complex cancer care landscape.
Guylaine attended many appointments, her notepad and pen always at the ready. Whenever her mother’s specialist saw Guylaine in the office, he’d tease, “I see the Chief is here again today.” She would ask questions, take notes, and later share with her family. “My parents were too emotionally involved. They couldn’t absorb the information. With cancer care, often there are tough decisions that we have to take as a family and it was important for us, for me, that we had the right information to feel empowered to make these decisions.”
Over the course of seven years, there were a myriad of treatments, clinical trials and a stem cell transplant. Guylaine speaks of her mother’s strength throughout this journey. “Each new treatment brought fear of the unknown. We were always trying to balance her quality of life and unbearable pain with the potential for more time together. These transitions were very difficult. There was hope each time her doctor would suggest a new treatment, but there was also trepidation.”
Not long after her mother’s cancer diagnosis, Guylaine began working in the human resources department at Bristol Myers Squibb, a pharmaceutical company that makes medicines for people with serious illnesses, including cancer. For the first time in her life, home and work had an important connection.
“Navigating cancer is complicated,” says Guylaine. “But I felt lucky. I had so many generous people at work who understood what we were going through – not only because they understood the science, but often because they had been on this journey and helped me figure out what questions to ask the doctors.”
Ultimately, Michelle passed away. “It’s been three years now. I miss my mom. Talking about her is a way of honouring and remembering her.”
The experience of caring for her mother through cancer has also made her feel a deep sense of belonging and great pride in working for a company that helps families affected by serious disease.
“It’s impossible not to feel that what you are doing day-to-day is impacting families who need hope, just like we needed it when my mom was sick.”
Guylaine Béliveau is the Head of Human Resources at Bristol Myers Squibb Canada where she is a caregiver and an employee. Her personal caregiving experience has inspired her at work and volunteering in the cancer community where she feels positive about the future for other families.