My husband and best friend, Wiley, was there for every step of my journey. He cried with me when there was bad news, made me laugh when I was feeling desperate and helped me to retain my sense of humor in the face of the possibility I could die from cancer. Wiley took over all of the cooking and cleaning up after meals. He also took charge of our teenager’s life, getting him to and from school and helping with his homework. He stepped up in such a major way! Looking back, I am so impressed with how well he cared for us and how much he loves us!
Our close friend, Jeff, invited Wiley out to several concerts and events during my chemo. It was so great that Wiley could take a break from the stressful reality of cancer and go out and have some fun. Just because I was missing everything, didn’t mean he should. When he would come back from an event, he was much more relaxed and happy. He needed that and our good friend saw that. Priceless!
It is rare for a person to be completely alone in their cancer journey. If you are a caregiver, an involved friend or family member that is actively helping or supporting someone with cancer, you are important too! You need downtime. You need to care for yourself, so you don’t become overwhelmed, exhausted and resentful. Cancer is one of the most stressful things I have ever gone through. It makes owning your own business look like a walk in the park! Take time out and focus on you and don’t feel guilty! If you feel grounded, cared for and happy, you can pass that on to the person you are caring for and supporting.
How to care for yourself…
Do: Take time out for you!
Dont: Ignore your own needs!
Do: Make an appointment for a massage. So much tension can build up in our bodies as a result of daily stress. Clear it out and take a deep breath!
Don’t: Stuff down your feelings. You will need to deal with them at some point and the present moment is the best time to do that.
Do: Take walks or other form of exercise you enjoy. You can include the person with cancer if they are up for it. It helps so much to get out and enjoy part of the day.
Don’t: Give up keeping your mind and body healthy.
Do: Go out to a concert or dinner with a friend. It’s ok to enjoy your life even if someone you know is dealing with cancer. You deserve to take a break!
Don’t: Try and do everything yourself. Ask for help. Being a martyr is just a dumb idea.
Do: Acknowledge your own feelings. Cry or feel angry if you need to.
Don’t: Give, give, give until you have nothing left.
Do: Go to a cancer support group for caregivers. It is so amazing to be surrounded with people who are going through the exact same thing. They can be supportive and share helpful ideas for caregiving.
Don’t: Give more emotionally or physically than you can afford.
Do: People want to help, so let them. Call people. Ask them for specific things. Let people take some of the burden off of you.
Don’t: Ignore friends and family that have offered to come help. They may feel helpless in the situation and this will help them as well.
Do: Be grateful that you have your health. It is truly one of the most important life lessons I have gleaned from my breast cancer journey.
Don’t: Ignore your own health at the expense of someone else. Eat right, sleep well and take care of yourself! It is so very important!