When You Become the Caregiver: Practical Tips

We all know this metastatic breast cancer "game" we have to play is challenging for us and our families. The constant doctor's appointments, monthly scans, medication side effects, and never-ending pain are complex.

Becoming the caregiver

But what happens when a spouse or one of your children gets sick? What about when another family member gets sick, and suddenly, you (as the person dealing with cancer) become the caregiver? That's a scary thought, especially when you can barely care for your needs.

Helping my daughter with knee surgery

I was personally thrown into this situation a few months ago when we discovered that my daughter has a blood disorder. Not only that, but she will be getting surgery on her knee next month. Both are pretty scary situations to have to deal with, all while keeping her calm but internally freaking out a little.

Now I'm driving almost 2 hours to see a hematologist for her. I'm setting up surgery details for my daughter's knee surgery, and on top of it all, I'm going back in for more radiation. Whew, I'm exhausted just thinking about it all.

I'm sure many of you can relate, especially those with younger children. Even a minor cold, cut, bruise, or broken bone can become complicated. It's very easy to start feeling anxious about how you will take care of someone else and yourself.

Tips that help me with caregiving

I know every situation is different, but here are some helpful tips I've leaned on when I have stepped into a caregiver position.

Tame your anxiety

Don't freak out. I know it's easier said than done. When you feel that worry and anxiety start to creep in, close your eyes and take a deep breath in, hold it for 4 seconds, then blow out slowly through your mouth. Relax your shoulders and jaw, and say, "I have this."

Make lists

Get a notebook or use the notes app on your phone. Jot down everything you need to do, like:

  • Items you need to buy
  • Documents you need
  • A medication list
  • Upcoming appointments
  • Emergency contacts

Seek support

I know being surrounded by family or friends willing to help can be rare, but you're not alone. Ask for help or support as you navigate your caregiver role. There are online support groups for those with advanced breast cancer, and believe me when I say a lot are going through similar situations. Those people can be very helpful.

Ask a physician where you can find help. Maybe a nurse or someone who specializes in these situations can help. You can also consult your child's teacher for help. If you ask for help, someone in the community will point you to helpful resources.

Take care of yourself

Lastly, take care of yourself. Being a caregiver can take up much of your time, but you must be mindful to carve out time for yourself. Even if it's 5 minutes a day, take the time to read a book, take a bath, go for a walk, or do anything to clear your mind.

If someone is sharing caregiver duties with you, ensure you're taking care of your body and mind. You need to care for yourself to have much energy to care for others.

Have you had to take on the caregiver role? How do you deal with the stress and anxiety?

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