In 2016, Allen and his wife adopted three sibling sisters from India and began the process of building a loving home. Tragedy struck in 2018 when Allen’s wife discovered that she had Stage IV cancer. Sadly, after a short but “hard shot” battle, she passed away in 2020.
Allen’s greatest support in his care journey came in the form of his church community. He and his family are part of what Allen called a “large small church,” a big community where everyone knows each other. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Allen found support from his spiritual community when they would bring his family meals and offer to watch the girls or to do work around the family’s home, such as yardwork and cleaning. During the pandemic, members of his community send Allen’s family restaurant gift cards, which Allen finds helpful to easily pick up food whenever he and his family need.
Allen pointed out that caregivers of cancer patients are often overlooked. Cancer treatments for the patient are covered under health insurance, but respite considerations for the caregiver are generally not, since cancer itself can be fairly well covered under health insurance. Caregivers such as Allen would benefit from policies that promote respite services, tax breaks, and financial incentives for employers to better accommodate caregivers. During the pandemic, Allen found it especially difficult to be able to be there for his wife while she was seeking treatment. Due to COVID restrictions, patients were not allowed to have visitors with them during their treatments. Having someone to support them during treatment is vital to many cancer patients. Allen had been struggling to keep her out of the hospital much as possible during this time. For her last two chemotherapy appointments, which he always attended with her, he had to let her go alone. Allen would like policymakers to understand that caregiving is a full-time, full-attention job, and that caregivers need support on all levels in order to do that job.