Elizabeth Dole Foundation
Hidden Heroes
Caregiver Journey Map Campaign for Inclusive Care

Betty O’Brien

No One Fights Alone!

At what moment did you realize you were a Military caregiver?

I realized when Kevin came home from the hospital after 102 days that he was going to need around the clock care.

How has life changed since you became a caregiver? What sacrifices have you had to make?

The biggest way that my life has changed is losing my identity as Kevin’s mom. My life was no longer my own, it was dedicated to caring entirely for my son. I gave up a successful career as an asset manager and business owner. The friendships I once had have disappeared.

Can you describe a milestone or a moment that made you feel empowered or inspired as a caregiver?

The moment Kevin came home from the hospital and the day that I became a Dole Caregiver Fellow. I realized I am a lot stronger than I thought. Every day is challenging in its own respect but, knowing there is a caregiving community has provided me with the strength to continue being a caregiver. It’s an honor to be able to provide my son with the care he needs, but being a caregiver is complex and complicated. It takes perseverance and the will to never give up.

My Story

Betty is an Air Force Veteran who served seven years in the Air Force Reserves as an Admin. Her son, Kevin, served as an Avionics Technician on F-15 Fighter Jets for seven years, 10 months before he was medically and honorably discharged in March of 2015. In November of 2013, Kevin was diagnosed with a very rare brain cancer. To eradicate the tumor, the surgery he received left him with several motor skill deficits. Kevin spent 102 days in the hospital. He endured 30 proton radiation therapy treatments and five-weeks of chemotherapy. He also received speech, occupational, and physical therapies. After he returned home, he underwent another five months of rigorous chemotherapy. Once his treatments and most of his therapies were completed, Betty decided at the age of 50 to go back to school to finish her associate degree in Business Administration online and start advocating on behalf of Veterans. Betty graduated in May 2018 with her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and plans to continue and get a master’s in Health Care Administration. She has served as a Legislative Ambassador for the American Cancer Society, and now she is working to have a stronger voice for caregivers.

As a Dole Caregiver Fellow, Betty is committed to promoting the inclusion of “ill” veterans to have the same entitlements as “wounded” and “injured” veterans. She wants to help improve the financial futures of caregivers. Betty's hope is to start a caregiving series in her community for support, in addition to a series at local libraries to be presented during the month of November, which is National Caregiver Month.