A breast cancer diagnosis can be far-reaching. Not only does it impact the life of the person receiving it, but also their loved ones, some of whom will take on the role of a caregiver. A breast cancer caregiver is someone that provides support, whether that be practical or emotional, to a person who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. This could be a family member, a friend, or a colleague. As a breast cancer caregiver, it’s absolutely normal for you to feel overwhelmed at times. Just remember that you’re not alone. Providing lasting emotional support to your loved one can only be possible if you take care of yourself first. Here, you’ll find support and knowledge to help you avoid caregiver burnout. Plus, tips to help you take care of yourself so you can take care of your loved one. It’s good to ask for help. When it comes to dealing with a serious diagnosis like breast cancer, support from friends and family is vital. Helping your loved one through this difficult time may leave you feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, especially if this is your first direct experience with cancer. It can be hard for caregivers of people with breast cancer to admit, but you need support too. And you deserve it. While you’re not the person battling breast cancer, your needs are also important. It’s good to ask for help. You can only provide lasting, long-term support for your loved one on the road to recovery if you stay strong yourself. And to stay strong, you need support. Communicate openly, establish and respect personal boundaries, and allow space and time for your individual needs. Figure out a way to find your balance and make time to look after yourself too. Communication and boundaries. Effective and open communication is key to providing your loved one with emotional support after their breast cancer diagnosis. Healthy communication means respectful language and clear personal boundaries when it comes to where, when, and how much time you’re able to give. Here are some more ways to practice positive communication while you help support your loved one in navigating their cancer journey together: Help and encourage your loved one to set clear boundaries in their everyday life. This could mean knowing that they can cancel appointments when they’re exhausted or taking time alone when they need it. Discuss the different support options available if your loved one needs extra help. Discuss when it’s important for them to ask for help, for example, when their energy is lacking or they’re in physical pain. Encourage your loved one to actively communicate their needs, as this may also help you provide them with the right support. Actively listen, take turns speaking for two minutes without interruption, and only respond when they other person has finished talking. Show physical compassion by giving your loved one a hug or lend a listening ear. Verbally acknowledge their feelings by trying sentences like: “I’m so sorry you feel that way. I can imagine that this is hard.” As a caregiver, it’s important to open up a dialogue whenever you can. Communication is key after all. By being receptive to your loved one’s needs, you provide them with that priceless feeling of being loved and being heard – an important factor on the road to recovery. If you’ve found yourself in the role of breast cancer caregiver, you might be wondering how to do it right. In this article, we’ve got four valuable tips that can help you provide the right support to your loved one. 4 tips for caregivers. Practicing effective communication and establishing boundaries can benefit both you and your loved one with cancer greatly. There are also other important things you can do in your role as caregiver to help your loved one feel supported. Here are 4 more valuable tips for caregivers supporting people with breast cancer: Build a support network. Supporting a loved one with breast cancer involves building an effective support system. Self-care when living with breast cancer is important, but your loved one can’t do it all alone. And they shouldn’t have to. The saying goes, “No man is an island”, and one of the most beautiful things about being human is the sense of community we share with one another. Sometimes it takes a village. And that’s okay. We’re all here for each other. You’ll be amazed at how willing friends and family may be to support you if you approach them openly and ask for help. Tip: A detailed support plan can help to ease the burden for everyone involved. Help your loved one with breast cancer write down a priority list outlining exactly what they need and how their caregivers can best support them on a daily basis. Be open. It can be tricky to talk about certain topics. Maybe you or your loved one is embarrassed to talk openly or ask questions about sensitive issues. In these cases, open communication is particularly important. It can also help to strengthen your relationship and support the healing process. Don’t be afraid to bring up topics like sex, stress, or depression. Cancer can have an impact on all of these areas of life and not talking about them can often make the situation more difficult. It’s important to be able to talk openly about feelings and insecurities. Sometimes the support of close friends or therapists can also make communication easier. And for the times when open communication is not so easy, it may likely mean a lot to your loved one if you respond to their needs without them having to ask. Making sure there’s food in the house or reminding them of their appointments are great ways to reassure your loved one that you’re there for them and are open to their needs. Overcome everyday challenges together. One of the most important parts of caregiving is helping with everyday tasks and challenges. When living with cancer, it can be hard to adjust to the fact that things don’t work out the way they used to. But that’s okay. You’re there to provide help and support to your loved one when they need it. Supporting with everyday tasks can help your loved one more than you may realize. This includes things like grocery shopping or household chores like cleaning, cooking, and childcare. Be sure to reach out to your own extended support system if you need extra help. You’re all in this together. Avoid caregiver burnout. When providing support to someone with breast cancer, it’s important not to fall into panicked caregiving mode, but to plan for the long term. This is how you’ll manage to avoid potential caregiver burnout. Communicating openly with your own loved ones and building a strong support network outside of your day-to-day caregiving role are both effective ways to curb caregiver burnout. As a caregiver, you can also prepare yourself to deal with some of the most common challenges people with breast cancer face on a day-to-day basis. These include: Fatigue. Stress. Anxiety. Depression. It’s normal for your loved one to experience these tricky feelings on a daily basis. Encourage them to communicate their feelings and needs so you can give them exactly what they need. Whether that be alone time or a hug. Also, try not to take things personally. Cancer is an extremely emotional experience so don’t be offended if your loved one is a little short with you. It’s also a great idea to take advantage of any extra support available. There are a lot of online resources that offer helpful information for caregivers supporting people with breast cancer. You’re never alone on your caregiver journey. The first step to finding the right help is to ask for it. And just in case you needed a reminder, you’re doing a great job. You’ve got this.
You’re on your way home after your breast cancer check-up appointment, and it’s only now that all those questions you’d been storing up come flooding back to you. During your appointment, however, your mind went blank. Sound familiar? Appointments with your healthcare providers are key touchpoints in your journey to recovery, and getting all the information you need when you meet with your doctor is important. But, we understand that feeling overwhelmed and navigating medical jargon can sometimes make that difficult. We’ve put together a guide to support you during your journey, including how best to prepare for your appointments and what questions to ask. Emotional well-being in between appointments. There’s no right or wrong way to feel after a breast cancer diagnosis. People who have just received a diagnosis can go through many different emotions in one day – from shock and anger to disbelief and numbness. The days and weeks immediately after a diagnosis while you wait for your first appointment can be particularly difficult. Many people start to feel calmer once a treatment plan has been identified. However, it’s still very common to struggle with the following types of emotions in between appointments. Acknowledging these feelings and knowing that you’re not alone in them will help you to navigate your treatment journey. Stress. A cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming, making it hard to think straight or carry out everyday tasks. Some people also experience physical symptoms such as loss of appetite, diarrhea, or difficulty sleeping, all of which often lead to raised levels of stress and anxiety. Sadness. It’s normal to have times when you feel very low. Breast cancer treatment and recovery is rarely a linear journey. And sometimes, a cancer diagnosis can trigger more serious mental health issues such as depression. Loneliness. Feeling lonely or isolated is very common, and you may feel lonely even when family and friends surround you. If they haven’t experienced cancer themselves, you might feel like they don’t understand what you’re going through. How to make the most of your appointments. We understand that appointments with your cancer care team can sometimes feel pressured. This is your opportunity to speak in person with the healthcare professionals, get some answers to your ongoing questions, and receive those all-important updates. Firstly, know that you can always let your doctor know if you’re having a hard time following along during the visit. Doctors tend to forget that their medical jargon isn’t always clear, and will be more than happy to rephrase their explanations. Remember, you and your well-being are the priority throughout this journey. Here are some other ways to look after yourself and get the most out of your appointments: Preparation. Before an appointment, plan your journey, leave yourself plenty of time and, most importantly, write down all the questions you’d like to ask. We recommend putting your main concerns at the top of your list to make sure they get covered in good time. It’s always worth bringing a pen and a notebook to jot down answers and further questions that come up too. Advocacy. Our number one tip is to bring someone along to assist you. Someone you trust who can help worry about the best route to get there, as well as help take notes so you don’t have to remember every little detail on your own. If they can’t join you in person, you can always ask them to call in with a video or audio call. Ask questions. There’s no such thing as a stupid question! Doctor’s appointments and meetings with your health care team can be tricky. You often get a lot of new information and hear terms that might be difficult to understand. Practical questions for your first meeting might include: What treatment is recommended for my diagnosis? What are the benefits and risks? How and when will I receive my treatment? How long will treatment last? What are the main side effects? How can I tell if the treatment is working? Is there anything I can do to aid my recovery? What clinical trials are available for me? If you’re looking for further advice on questions to ask your doctor, the American Cancer Society has compiled a comprehensive list to guide you from diagnosis through treatment and recovery. Tackling difficult topics. There’s no need to be embarrassed about any part of your breast cancer journey. Breast cancer and its treatment – from screening tests, genetic testing, breast reconstruction surgeries to radiation therapy – can impact many areas of your body and personal life. Understanding the side effects of your treatment and feeling confident enough to talk to your doctor and support network about them will ensure you get the help, care, and information you need when you need it. “The worst is hair loss. You cry for your hair because it has such a strong link to your identity. For people struggling with this, we’re happy to put them in touch with a wigmaker in advance of their therapy. The psychological burden of breast cancer is another strong side effect. Our psycho-oncologist offers help in the form of talks during the therapy. It’s also important that people with cancer communicate with their loved ones. Be open with them, tell them that side effects are normal, and don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.” Nurse Ines, Specialist Oncology Nurse. How can you live well when living with breast cancer? It’s still possible to find joy in the everyday, even when you’re living with breast cancer. You can read more about that right here. By engaging in positive tasks and building healthy habits that focus on physical activity, tailored diet, sleep, stress management, and medication adherence, you can make a big difference to your overall quality of life. “When you’re living with a condition like breast cancer, making small changes to your daily routine can have a big impact on your overall quality of life.” Haukur – Physical Therapist, Clinical Researcher, and cancer survivor. Advocating for yourself, committing to self-care, and getting the right support are invaluable when living with a chronic disease. Explore our other articles on breast cancer and find valuable, supportive information on mental health as well as tools for breast cancer caregivers.