Positive Purpose

Cindy Barshop describes her experience as a caregiver and her commitment to seeking the silver lining.

By Diana Price

When Cindy Barshop’s mother was diagnosed with both lymphoma and a brain tumor in 2005, there was never a question of how Cindy would handle the challenge of caregiving: head on and with a positive attitude. “The way I see it,” she says, “things are black and white. You always have a choice with how you will approach things: you can be positive and make the best of things, or you can be miserable. I choose to be positive.”

It’s an outlook that has served the single mother, entrepreneur (Completely Bare spas), and reality TV star (Real Housewives of New York City, Season 4) well throughout her life, as she has pursued business success and personal fulfillment; it has also helped her face her mother’s illness and embrace the role of caregiver. From the beginning, Cindy says, she realized that her attitude would help see her through the many changes and challenges that would mark her family’s journey.

“When my mom was diagnosed,” Cindy says, “we found ourselves facing many appointments and considering many different factors right away.” As she took on caregiving commitments on top of her professional and parenting responsibilities, Cindy learned to adapt her life to an entirely different schedule and found herself reassessing her life. “The diagnosis has really made me open my eyes and reevaluate my priorities,” she says.

Fortunately, Cindy was able to meld her professional and caregiving priorities early on, taking meetings at the hospital and fitting responsibilities to her business around time spent with her mom. In fact, life in general came to revolve around her mom’s treatment and Cindy’s role in that process. “Going to the hospital just became part of my way of life,” she says. And because she was spending so much time there, she quickly learned to make that time meaningful and positive for her family. “We tried to make it a positive and fun environment,” she says, “because the time involved, when you’re the primary caregiver, is significant. It becomes your life—so you have to make it enjoyable, if possible.” To that end Cindy made sure that each day she and her mom spent some quality time together, looking at photos, watching videos, or engaging each other in some way. Each morning before she went to the hospital, Cindy would take a new video of her twins to show her mom.

As Cindy integrated her new role as caregiver into her life, she found she was presented with an unexpected gift: a better relationship with her mom. “I had never been close to my mom,” she says, “but this brought us to together.” Her mom’s illness also offered Cindy a renewed sense of the value of her connection with her family in general. “Though we’ve always had a tight family, and we’ve always really been there for each other, I appreciate our time together even more now,” she says.

Today, as Cindy continues to help care for her mom, she maintains her commitment to approaching the journey with a positive outlook and encourages other caregivers to do the same.

While each family and each situation is unique, Cindy says, and everyone—including herself—endures difficult times, many of those taking on the care of a loved one can likely benefit from seeking the positive on their journey. “Everybody has it in them to find the positive,” she says. “Though you can’t take another person’s experience and make it your own, you can take your own scenario and make it positive.”