In Singapore, 1 in 4 people will develop cancer within their lifetimes. The equally unfortunate reality: even if we manage to escape the demographic, each of us knows someone who won’t. Rarely is the weight of cancer diagnosis and treatment borne alone, which is why learning to care for someone with cancer is all the more important.
We asked on our Instagram and Facebook pages for cancer social support stories from both the patient’s and caregiver’s perspectives. Gathered from real experiences, here are 5 helpful tips for cancer caregivers and the cancer warriors in your life.
It’s the little things
Having trouble lifting your loved one’s mood? Remember it’s the little things that count. Thoughtful, everyday gestures that demonstrate love and concern can mean much more than the grandest of overtures, because they show that you are ready to weather daily challenges as a team.
Cancer survivor, J., shares:
“Nothing says “I’m here for you” more than being there with me for doctor’s appointments. At first, my wife was not. I was once very upset having to explain to her what my doctor said. She would know if she had come with me. I believed she felt my unhappiness and accompanied me for my appointments from then.
This act not only showed me that she cares, but also kept her updated on my condition. Now we could discuss questions before each consultation, and create a list to bring to the doctor. This journey bonded us a lot.”
Like Mrs. J., try accompanying your loved one for a medical appointment or bringing them a treat on a particularly difficult day. If they are busy or too tired to handle the household chores alone, a helping hand can go a long way. At times when they could use the distraction, take them for a movie or a scenic walk. And the list goes on.
Get a caretaking app
Caretaker S. says:
“I formed a support team which I found was a great way to help a friend living with cancer. Some online communities offer tools to coordinate tasks among friends and the caregiver. Shareable online calendars also helped me to organize activities among my friends and his family. I also make sure my friend had access to the calendar so he knew what to expect and when. From time to time, we would also surprise him with a gift.”
There’s an app for everything these days, and that includes caregiving. Cancer treatment being a long-term process, keeping track of medical appointments and regular medication becomes a necessity.
Appointment tracking apps like Leeloo and medication scheduling apps like MyTherapy or Medisafe Pill Reminder can help ensure you don’t miss anything important by sending notifications ahead of time.
If you and your friends or family are caring for your loved one collectively, the app, Lotsa Helping Hands, makes organising and communicating in a group easier, while facilitating looking for volunteers to help with day-to-day tasks. Care calendars – as simple as a shareable calendar on your Apple or Google account – can keep everyone up to date.
Take care of yourself
Caregiving can be extremely rewarding, but it’s natural for you to feel overwhelmed at times and in need of self-maintenance. Since your loved one depends on you for the time being, it’s important that you stay mentally resilient and emotionally available to attend to their needs.
Partition regular time for yourself to care for your own mental health. Whether it’s taking yourself on a date, meditating or routine exercise, self-care can do wonders for how you feel and the quality of care you provide. For a more disciplined approach, try an app like Headspace, Calm, Tide or Smiling Mind.
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Keep life as normal as possible
Cancer survivors, you shared that what you appreciated the most was sincerity, minus the pity. Battling cancer is an ordeal, and it can be disconcerting when loved ones begin behaving differently toward you.
M., a cancer survivor, says:
“I am grateful that people around me supported me by behaving normally to me and not simply acting normal. This seems like common sense, but it has to be said. I didn’t want people to look at me differently, and I certainly didn’t want people to treat me differently.
I was diagnosed just before Easter, and I told my family that the only way I was going to show up to Easter lunch was if they could act normal. So they did, and the precedent was set. This didn’t mean that they ignored the fact that I had breast cancer. We talked about it, got worried about it, made jokes about it, and then rifled through our kids’ Easter baskets when they weren’t looking.”
If you find yourself in the cancer caregiver’s role, centre your loved one’s life around familiar elements to ease their adjustment to a lifestyle that accommodates illness and treatment. A daily or weekly routine is a good start. Make a point to speak to your loved one as you normally would, and to reinforce optimistic mindsets rather than focusing on the discomfort.
Find your support system
Just as your loved one seeks support and encouragement from stories of strength, so would you. Draw upon your network of friends for company and a welcome distraction when you can afford the time.
Caregiver P. shares:
“It is very difficult to know how to react (what to say or do) [in the face of cancer] but I find most people like to keep a certain amount of normality in their lives to avoid feeling that cancer has completely taken over their lives.”
Meanwhile, you can join communities of caregivers online, and even attend gatherings to exchange experiences and share perspectives that can make caregiving easier.
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Cancel cancer together
Just as a family receives bad news as a unit, recovery is a combined effort, and every contribution counts toward winning the fight with cancer. Stay strong for those you love, but allow yourself room to be human and seek strength where you need it too. Life can be unkind to the kindest souls but in counterbalance, your loved ones are lucky to have you.
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