When someone you love has cancer, it doesn’t only affect that individual and his or her health — cancer happens to you, too. Between the anxiety, energy it takes to shuffle between doctors’ offices, radiation appointments and the medical bills that accompany cancer, you barely have time to process what’s going on, let alone time to take care of yourself.
As upsetting as it may be to justify stepping away from your loved one, you should take time to assess your own caregiving needs. After all, you can’t provide care for others if your needs aren’t being met, either.
So, where do you start?
What can you delegate?
Think about things that you would find helpful. Other people are often more willing to help than many realize; many are happy to help with running a few errands, making dinner, yard work, and even eldercare or childcare. Others may be able to provide comfort and friendship through listening to and talking with you.
Think about all the networks you are a part of through family, work, neighbors, religious communities or civic groups, who may be able to alleviate some of the load, whether it’s picking up your children from school or doing some cleaning around your house.
Often, other outlets you can turn to for support include internally-regulated services or outside agencies offered through cancer centers or hospitals. You can also find resources on CancerSupportCommunity.org and select “caregivers” to find more on who can help you, or how to provide better support for your loved one.
Taking time for yourself
It’s easy to think your needs aren’t important right now, while watching a loved one fight cancer, or perhaps you feel guilty about being able to enjoy aspects of life that your loved one cannot participate in right now. However, taking time to recharge your mind and spirit can help you feel renewed and give you more energy when playing the role of caregiver.
Identify a few things that you can do for yourself every day — whether it’s taking time to do some stretching, applying a facial mask, or spending a few minutes alone with some music you like, just having those little moments can help.
Don’t cut out the personal activities that make you feel fulfilled. It might make sense to cut back on those outlets, but cutting them out entirely will only leave you in despair.
Seek ways to connect with friends for small amounts of time.
Additionally, the American Cancer Society offers free services to help cancer patients and their loved ones receive emotional support. If you’re interested in finding someone to talk to, or a group of caregivers who are going through the same challenges you face, considering joining a support group at cancer.org.
Lastly, don’t ignore your own health needs. You can’t afford to miss a mammogram or Pap test. Even if you think you don’t have the time or you’re without the proper insurance to cover the exam, there are plenty of resources to help you. The HealthyWoman Program is one such service offered throughout Pennsylvania. Find out if you might be eligible for The HealthyWoman Program today.