Caregiver Perspective: Getting Ready for Radiation
As a caregiver, it's my job to support my partner through their metastatic breast cancer journey. Support has looked different over the years that we have walked this road. From making appointments, fighting with insurance, and setting alarms every 4 hours through the night to keep up on pain medication, I've been there.
Now, I'll be there through radiation, balancing a job and our child starting school. I want to say after 3 years, I have it down. By now, I had hoped times like this aren't stressful, but they are, and every single time we face a change in treatment, surgery, progression, or any new shift in the terrain, there has to be an adjustment.
A caregiver's guide to preparing for radiation
Sometimes, we can anticipate changes, as we did with this time's radiation, and I'd like to share some ways I've been preparing to be as minimally stressed through being a caregiver these next few weeks.
Budget for small treats
We've been budgeting and saving our money for small treats. There's not always a lot of space in our budget for extravagance; living with cancer comes with lots of different kinds of costs.
Facing everyday treks into the city isn't easy on our gas budget, but it isn't any easier on our mental health.
Ordering a coffee, taking a trip to our favorite bakery, or even ordering French fries on the way home from the clinic can feel like a huge reward for waking up early and spending hours in the clinic.
We find the space in our budget to prioritize these small treats amid these stressful and challenging tasks.
Plan ahead for meals
We've been stocking easy-to-make meals, freezer meals, and quick-make boxes of muffins, cakes, and cookies. Usually, I'm all for freshly made food for my family. I regularly bake bread from scratch; however, when it comes to times when I know my energy will be running shorter than usual, I rely on easy-to-make meals as a way to conserve my energy and my dishes.
Being able to have quick meals on hand keeps us from eating out as often, and the price of fast food rises faster than my budget can keep up with. It's a trade-off I'm willing to make.
Be honest about your needs and feelings
We're honest with each other about our needs and feelings. This round of radiation brought with it nausea, a side effect my partner hasn't experienced with radiation before. I can't say that my partner is enjoying it.
However, after the first few days, I urged them to contact their doctor to get some relief from these side effects and help them stay hydrated. My partner's dedicated care team can only be effective if we communicate with them.
Rely on your support networks
We rely on our support systems. We schedule extra time for our daughter to be with friends and loved ones to give us a break.
We schedule extra time with our therapists if we need it. We've even hired help with house cleaning. There are some companies that offer this service to cancer patients at no cost or low cost. There is no shame in taking advantage of these services.
Incorporate movement or exercise
We have been trying our best to get outside and move our bodies, even in the Arizona heat. We are, of course, careful in the sun. Heat stroke and sun sickness can happen to anyone, but especially individuals undergoing cancer treatments. We use sunscreen, select shaded areas, and hydrate often. While maintaining our sun safety, my partner has found that swimming and movement help with some of the stiffness and discomfort caused by radiation.
Supporting my partner with cancer
No matter how often our terrain changes, I will always walk the path beside my partner and offer them my best support. Today, it's a coffee treat and time spent on the couch. Maybe I'll fight the insurance companies tomorrow, but I'll always be next to them.
Do you have a safe space where others understand what you are going through?