Jill Biden praises 'inner strength' of cancer caregivers
Jill Biden offered a message of consolation and compassion during an intimate listening session with cancer caregivers this Saturday in Portland.
The Biden Cancer Initiative — an offshoot of the Cancer Moonshot created by President Barack Obama in 2016 — seeks to hasten the pace of research and spread new treatment methods to those living with cancer. The nonprofit even has its own hashtag, #cancerFIERCE
Both of Biden's parents died of cancer, and her son Beau succumbed to brain cancer in 2015.
"Whether your child is 46 like ours was, or whether they're 21 or 15 — it's your child. You've got to be calm and make sure that you have the inner strength to go in and face it," Biden said during the April 14 roundtable at Fleur De Lis Bakery in Portland's Hollywood District. "I asked God to give me the strength to get me through. That's what I did for my son, and everybody does something different."
It's been quite some time since Biden landed in the Beaver State. She recalled that years ago renting a convertible in California with her husband, Joe, and driving through the redwoods to visit their son, Hunter, who was helping Jesuit Volunteer Corps run a Portland homeless shelter. Several at the table joked that the Bidens must have been doused by rain the second they crossed the state line.
Joe Biden served as U.S. vice president for eight years under President Obama, and is rumored to be considering a run against President Donald Trump in 2020.
"The Biden Initiative is really focused on changing the story around why we show up for work," noted Krista Nelson, an oncology social worker with two decades of experience. "We have the opportunity as social workers to see people at their most vulnerable and brave moments."
Massage therapist Elizabeth Baxter started caring for her husband, Mark Farnsworth, after he was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2013. The breadwinner for her three kids, Baxter said she wished there were more online and hardcopy lists of resources distributed to cancer caregivers.
"What if when my husband was in treatment, there was yoga for caregivers, because that's a big component of my self-care," she said. "When I was at every chemo infusion, (I was) sitting there and eating bad junk food and being so stressed that by the time I got home I needed care."
At the meeting, Jill Biden encouraged caregivers to speak up and advocate for their family member or loved one. You should bring water and a magazine — even if you're too distracted to read — and know your way around the hospital in advance, she recommended.
For more information about the Biden Cancer Initiative, click here.