Being a supporter for someone with cancer

Anna Sisley, Cancer Society Nurse

A supporter is anyone who cares for and supports someone going through cancer. People use different terms and names for describing what they do and how they see themselves and may give support in different ways, such as practical, emotional, spiritual or physical. Supporters might be partners, relatives, friends, neighbours or work colleagues.

Supporting someone going through cancer can be a very positive experience. It can be a time of strong connection with the person and lead to greater understanding and improved communication. 

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Feeling like you are making a difference for them can be very satisfying.

At the same time, it can be difficult adding the extra care required into your life. Supporters may have their own health issues, work stresses, school or study pressures as well as finding the diagnosis impacts on their free time, activities and social life. 

The emotional impact of caring for someone with cancer can include feelings of anger, resentment, helplessness, sadness, fear, guilt, frustration, loss and loneliness. 

Many find the change of role in their relationship with the patient difficult to adapt to. These feelings are all normal and may come and go at different times. People express these emotions in different ways, at different times and in different amounts. Again, there is no one right way to react. 

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It’s important for supporters to look after themselves as well as the diagnosed person. Their own good health is vitally important to keep everything going in difficult times. 

Looking after one’s own health and wellbeing could look like asking for or accepting help, taking time for oneself, making sure to eat well, and getting enough sleep and exercise.

If you find it getting harder, it can be helpful to connect with others going through the same thing. Talk with health professionals such as counsellors to gain strategies for coping with the situation.  

You can always call our Cancer Information Helpline on 0800 226 237 or visit www.carers.net.nz for more ideas.

This article appeared in our 2019 Summer Edition of CanTalk. Take a look at the full magazine here.