Being a cancer patient is hard. First, you’re fighting for your life. Second, you’re barely clinging to that life because of all the poison being pumped into your body to kill this thing. The cancer is sucking the life out of you, so is the chemotherapy and radiation, and you’re clinging desperately to what little there is left to hang on to. Everyone is focused on taking care of you, and for most of us, there is that one person, or maybe two, that really focus on taking care of us. It could be a spouse or even one of your children. What people fail to realize is that cancer doesn’t just drain the patient, it drains the caretaker, too.
Being a caretaker for a cancer patient is almost as taxing as having the disease itself. No, you’re not being pumped full of poison, but you are driving to every doctor visit, sitting through every treatment, waiting through every surgery, and picking up every prescription. On top of taking care of the patient, the caregiver often has to pick-up the tasks the cancer patient can no longer do, like taking care of the kids (if the patient has younger children) or taking care of tasks around the house. Don’t forget, the caregiver still has to maintain their regular job on top of everything. It’s no easy task, and if the caregiver isn’t careful, it is easy for a lot of negative consequences to creep in if they don’t take care of themselves.
Caregivers quickly become tired from the extra work and extra running. It’s a physical strain on their bodies, on top of the stress of worrying about their loved one’s well-being. This combination of stress and fatigue is a breeding ground for anxiety and depression. Without due diligence to avoid this, the caregiver will end up needing a doctor’s care themselves before they realize what is happening. Here are some things to do to prevent this from happening:
- Ask for help from others. Don’t try to do everything on your own. You’re not a superhero, and you don’t have to pretend to be. Ask neighbors, family, friends, and church members to help out with a few things here and there. A sister picking up medications once a week, the neighbor moving the trash can to the street and back on trash day; these are little tasks for the people you are asking, but when you group them all together and taking them off yourself, you’re relieving a lot of work.
- Get support. Join a cancer support group, religious study group or caregiver support group – something. Find someone or somewhere that you can vent your frustration and feelings about what you are dealing with. You need to have an outlet for your emotions. Stuffing them deep inside will cause depression to develop quickly.
- If you notice depression or anxiety symptoms developing, get help early. The sooner you get help, the more likely you are to be able to deal with it without medications. Medications come with many undesirable side effects. If you’re starting to feel a little down, try adding 4 grams of inositol to your routine 3 times a day or adding 200-300mg of 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), which is converted to serotonin in the body. Both are natural treatment alternatives for depression, and they can safely be used simultaneously, as the body reacts to them in different ways. You can find these at your local vitamin shop or find them online. Read reviews and choose a brand you can trust.
Being a caregiver can be demanding, but it doesn’t mean you have to end up sick yourself. If you’re going to take care of someone else, first you have to take good care of yourself. Ask for help, take care of yourself, and take care of your loved one. You are going to get through this and see the other side.