by Teaganne Finn
Actor Patrick Dempsey, 56, has a warm message for all the cancer caregivers— take care of yourself, too. The Greys Anatomy star knows first hand how taxing it can be as a caregiver for a sick loved one after losing his mother to ovarian cancer.
The actor’s new movie Disenchanted premiered Nov. 16 and was a long awaited sequel to Disney’s hit movie Enchanted. Dempsey was also recently featured on the cover of Fatherly donning a blue cable knit sweater. Despite his busy life, he’s been a dedicated and passionate advocate for cancer and caregivers.
Being A Caregiver
Dempsey’s mother, first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1997, battled the disease for 17 years before she passed away. Her cancer journey affected the entire family, of course, a close-knit group that remains tight to this day. In an intimate sit-down with SurvivorNet, Dempsey offered advice to others who act as caregivers as loved ones go through cancer.
“We went through all the ups and the downs, and went through the entire experience,” Dempsey said. “With the recurrences, it was [hard] to stay optimistic.”
His sister, he added, was responsible for the brunt of the caregiving responsibilities, so their mom’s cancer was toughest on her.
One of their goals, he noted, was to help their mom stay positive. A strategy they tried was to make sure she had a variety of daily activities to keep her busy.
Through the experience, he said, the whole family learned how important it is for caregivers to keep their own health — mental and physical — in check.
This was one of the reasons that Dempsey co-founded The Dempsey Center in his home state of Maine. It offers complementary services for cancer patients and for caregivers, such as group therapy. The center also offers yoga, meditation, Reiki, acupuncture, support groups and grief counseling, among other classes and therapies.
All are welcome, and the services are free of charge. The center is able to do this through donations, corporate sponsorships and foundation grants, along with an annual bike event, the Dempsey Challenge.
The Value of Pairing Complementary Medicine with Conventional Treatment
Complementing conventional medicine with holistic healing methods and supporting, whole-person care is called “integrative medicine,” and many doctors believe in its benefits, given that the effects of the disease go beyond the physical impact of the cancer itself.
“Complementary medicine, I think, is very important,” Dempsey said. “For me, racing is the perfect example. You have the driver, you have the engineer, and then you have the mechanics and team, and you’ve gotta get around the circuit. And you better not wreck it.”
Dr. Brian Berman, the Director, Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Maryland on The Difference Between Integrative Medicine and “Alternative Medicine”
As Dempsey explained, many oncologists are on-board with complementary medicine. They recognize that it can be really beneficial when used alongside the cancer treatment.
“Whatever an individual needs and a family needs, we try to customize it for them, while at the same time working with their doctors,” Dempsey said.
This article was published by Survivor Net.