Caring for Someone with Cancer, Caring for Yourself

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Every day in Australia, around 65 women are told they have breast or a gynaecological cancer (Cancer Council, 2021). The Cancer Council’s Pink Ribbon campaign raises awareness about these cancers, cancer prevention and research, and importantly, support services.

Supporting carers of someone with cancer is vitally important, not least because that caring impacts all aspects of a person’s life. Being a carer impacts one’s health and well-being as well as relationships, careers and finances (Cancer Council, Qld, 2021).

In research by Coyne and colleagues (2020) in the European Journal of Oncology Nursing, they remind us too that supporting someone with cancer involves several people. Seeing the family as a unit-of-caring during cancer treatment importantly acknowledges all family members, such as children, friends and older adults who are also impacted. Having a family unit-of-caring, of course, also lessens the responsibilities and psychological distress of one carer – typically a spouse.

Caring for yourSelf

For carers of someone with cancer, the most important person to put first is you. As the Cancer Council, Australia maintain, while caring can be rewarding, it is also extremely difficult at times.

So what are the most crucial practical strategies you can do to care for yourSelf? The Cancer Council recommend that you:

  1. Maintain/develop your physical fitness and eat nutritious food as these will support you to more effectively cope with stress;
  2. Ask others for help – understand that this is not a sign of failure, but a way to relieve the pressure and allow you more time with the person you are caring for.

Finally, seek out a supportive group or centre where you can be listened to. Caregivers are critical to providing quality care, and pathways for carers to gain support need to be accessible and flexible (Taylor et al., 2021).

In my own research about carers’ using a cancer support centre, my colleagues and I heard first hand the devastating effects of living with a diagnosis of cancer, its impact on family members and friends, and the immensely supportive place that a cancer support centre can have for all people affected (Hepworth et al., 2011). Finding such a place where carers can go to be listened to and share their experiences can make a huge difference to their own health and well-being and to those for whom they care.

So carers – seek out that help and support for yourSelf now and make sure that wherever you go that you obtain exactly what you need to fulfil your caring role, and, most importantly, stay healthy.

Dr Julie is a Senior Psychologist with ORS with extensive experience in psychological practice and research. Julie has conducted psychological assessments and interventions with clients from diverse groups in various settings including in the areas of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, substance use disorders, complex trauma, interpersonal conflict and others. In her work, Julie also uses tools and strategies for quality improvement and evidence-based practice.

Julie has a PhD in Psychology and has over 25 years of experience as a university teacher and researcher. She is an internationally recognised researcher with over 100 publications, conference papers, book chapters and book in the field of health services research. Julie has published research in high quality journals on topics such as equity of access to health services, health governance, therapeutic approaches to eating disorders, and research methodology and ethics. She is passionate about training and mentoring practitioners and the design and delivery of optimal services for clients.

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