Two female figures embracing/together. One present and one absent (dotted lines).

Feeling Invisible: The Importance of Caring for the Caregiver

I don't mean to sound selfish or pitiful, but sometimes, as a caregiver to someone with cancer, I feel forgotten and invisible. People seem to forget to care for the caregiver.

Providing special attention

Of course, I want what's best for the person I care for. I love it when friends and family drop by with something to make their day a little special. Nothing makes me happier than to see the smile that a gift or remembrance brings to their face. I love seeing someone take the time to give our loved ones a little extra care especially when we aren't able to get away to get something for them ourselves.

Thoughtful offerings during cancer treatment

At the time that my wife underwent most of her cancer treatments, we lived in a house on a main street that everyone we knew drove past almost daily. So many times, one of our friends stopped on their way somewhere else to drop off a little something for her. Even during the lockdowns due to COVID-19, they knocked on the kitchen door and handed their offering to me. They would bring flowers from a garden, a soft drink, a gift card, a bag of treats, puzzles, or personal care items; it was awesome to know how much they thought of her.

I could have used a little something, too

Usually, I felt happy enough with my wife receiving these kindnesses, but as the cancer spread to other parts of her body, my own energy started to flag. We'd battled hard for 5 years and were exhausted from it. I never resented her receiving gifts. I mean, what kind of person was I? But I have to admit that it hurt when friends dropped by, bringing lunch for the 2 of them but excluding me.

While running myself ragged to care for my wife 24/7, I could have used a little something special, too. Most people brought things for us both, but some didn't, and a few even brought me more work via medical gadgets, books, and cancer-friendly cookbooks. I knew everyone meant well, and I acknowledged that they did not understand the struggle.

Feeling petty

I'll never forget the kindness of one friend who, knowing I have a bad back, dropped by on her way home from work one evening, demanding I sit down while she vacuumed the entire house. And, of course, I'll always treasure the one who bought me a Roomba®! These are extraordinarily unique gifts, and thinking about them and all the meals people brought to us, I feel ungrateful and selfish for wishing someone had brought me a soda or an ice cream. Gosh, this sounds petty of me!

Ways to support the caregiver

Nevertheless, it's essential to include the caregiver from time to time. You can offer to sit with the person with cancer while I take a shower or a bath. Some days, I can't get around to that. We had one special friend, who took my wife out Christmas shopping – a lot of work and patience for her, and a huge favor for me!

Once, when I was ill and could not go to the chemo treatment center, this same friend went in my stead. I won't lie; having a couple of friends who helped me with these important tasks was, and is, monumental.

I count myself blessed indeed to have these friends in my life, but people are suffering alone with a family member through metastatic breast cancer. Whenever I saw senior couples waiting for treatments or doctor visits, I felt so badly for them. Let's face it. Our elderly can use and would be grateful for a bit of help anyway, with or without the cancer factor. It's harder when we get older, especially with kids moving away and friends dying left and right. It's brutal but true.

Asking for help and accepting it is hard

All I really want to say is, don't forget to care for the caregiver. It's sincerely appreciated, and I guarantee you it's needed. Even if they say they've got things in control, do something for them anyway. You see, we're just as afraid of accepting help as asking for it. One day, you may walk in our shoes and appreciate that soft drink from the fast food drive-up.

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

Please read our rules before commenting.