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Ovarian Cancer Health Center

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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 this disease.”

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 their heads.”

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.

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