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Caregivers offer hope, comfort to many



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June 11, 2014
Editor's note: As Relay for Life of Valley Center approaches, we at the Valley Roadrunner thought it would be interesting to hear stories from those affected by cancer to give everyone in the community a better understanding of how cancer affects a patient and the families that love them. This week local nurse John Lallo shares his story of being a caregiver and how cancer affected him even though he was not diagnosed with the disease. We continue to look for stories from everyone who has been affected by cancer and invite readers to share them with us by sending an email to editor@valleycenter.com for publication in a future issue.

For local nurse John Lallo, tending to patient needs is nothing out of the ordinary. Taking care of patients with cancer is always difficult, at best, but it wasn't until his uncle and sister were diagnosed with cancer that he realized how that diagnosis truly affects the family members of his patients.

"In the past 20 years I have cared for many patients with cancer in the emergency room, each of them with their own heart-wrenching story," Lallo said, noting he worked in the cancer ward at Palomar Hospital for several years before transferring to the emergency room at the San Diego Veterans Hospital in La Jolla. "However, none hit home like family members."

Lallo's sister Martha won her battle with uterine cancer, and continues to enjoy everyday life spending time with her family and friends. Sadly, he recently lost his uncle Bill to pancreatic cancer. Both were diagnosed a little over a year ago, Lallo told the Valley Roadrunner in a recent interview.

"I gave them a hand to hold, encouragement to fight back against cancer, and hugs helped my family members feel better during their battle with cancer," Lallo said. "However, the greatest service a caregiver can provide is knowledge. I helped both my uncle and my sister understand the changes their bodies would go through in relation to chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I educated them about the healing processes that take place following their surgical treatments and what to expect in regards to pain control, proper diet, infection control mobility limitations, and medical reactions."

Lallo, who became a nurse after suffering a life-changing injury while working as a carpenter, says there are many reasons to become a caregiver, but for him it was about giving back to others who may someday find themselves in the same situation he was in following his injury.

"There are as many reasons as there are caregivers," he said. "For some, being a caregiver is a good way to support his or her family and for others, it's more personal. It took me two years to recover from my injuries and I was blessed to have many awesome caregivers. By taking care of others I feel I am paying forward the kindness and caring afforded me during my recovery period."

Lallo says his job as a caregiver is rewarding, but the hardest part about being a caregiver is the personal and emotional attachment he feels toward his patients.

"In order to care for a person properly, I believe a caregiver needs to develop and maintain a caring relationship based on transpersonal interactions. That relationship strain on caregivers is greater when the patient is a family member," Lallo said. "The most rewarding part, though, is the empowered feeling I get when helping others. I can make a difference in how they feel and the choices they make in regards to treatment and recovery."

Lallo says the support of his family and friends is an important component in being able to serve as a caregiver.

"Without the support of my family, I couldn't imagine dealing with the strains of being a caregiver," he said. "When I lose a patient to cancer a little part of me goes with them."

Lallo has been active in Relay For Life of Valley Center since its inception four years ago. Last year, he along with his wife of 30 years, Lori, started Bark For Life raising over $16,000 for the American Cancer Society at their inaugural event. This year's Bark For Life Event event will be Sept. 20 at Bates Nut Farm.

No matter how difficult being a caregiver is, Lallo says the payoff is how he feels about what he does at the end of the day.

"It's just very rewarding."

Relay For Life of Valley Center will be held at Bates Nut Farm on Saturday, June 21 beginning at 9 a.m. The 24-hour event will honor survivors, memorialize those who have lost their battle and provide the opportunity to come together for a worthy cause. For more information, to donate or to register a team, visit RelayForLife.org and search for Valley Center or send an email to sbriscoerealy@hotmail.com.

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