Patrick Dempsey: Cancer Caregiver
You may know him as 'Dr. McDreamy,' but the real Patrick Dempsey is a supportive son who has twice helped his mother face down ovarian cancer.
Patrick Dempsey: Caregiver in Action continued...
Of course, caregivers themselves experience emotional ups and downs, seeing
someone they love dealing with cancer.
“It’s really hard to stay positive all the time -- and that’s OK. You need
to talk about what you are feeling and be honest about your emotions, and get
therapy. And you should stay in the workplace,” the actor suggests, “so that
your life is not just about the cancer.”
Terri Ades, MS, APRN-BC, AOCN, director of cancer information at the
American Cancer Society in Atlanta, agrees. “Support for the caregiver is
important. He or she must step back and say, ‘I have to take care of myself.’
It can be really hard for caregivers, especially, to try and maintain an
optimistic attitude when their fears are just as great as the patient’s,” she
tells WebMD." Even as the years go by, from the time of first diagnosis, that
fear oftentimes doesn’t ever go away -- for anyone in the family.”
Dempsey says that, at some point, we all will be caregivers or patients:
“The big thing now is that more and more people are surviving cancer because we
are diagnosing it earlier and earlier; there is more awareness. It’s inevitable
that at some point in your life you or a family member will be dealing with
Patrick Dempsey: Role Model
While helping his mother battle ovarian cancer preceded his People’s Choice
Award-winning role in Grey’s Anatomy, Dempsey did channel some of his
caregiving experiences to help mold “McDreamy” -- and to foster a new approach
to health care for himself and his family.
“I met a doctor who had a really wonderful bedside manner, which I thought
fit in with some of the other characters in the show,” he says. “When I started
working on Grey’s, the thing that appealed to me was someone who had a
relaxed bedside manner and who was not alienating patients and talking over
This is precisely the kind of medics Dempsey and his mother encountered --
at first. “There were great doctors when my mom was being treated. But then a
doctor retired, and he handed her over to another doctor who was considered
very good but had a horrible bedside manner,” he recalls. Fortunately, Amanda
was able to switch to a doctor with whom she had a better rapport.