Caring for someone with lung cancer, or any chronic illness, is one of the greatest expressions of love. Putting aside the busyness of life to care for one less fortunate can be incredibly rewarding. There are few things we do in our day-to-day lives that benefit another as much. It can also be draining. Doing too much without the support of others can create feelings of resentment that linger long after the crisis is over. What can caregivers do to care for themselves, while they care for others?
Maintain a Sense of HumorWatch a funny movie. Recall amusing memories. Compare the nurses and doctors around you to your favorite cartoon characters! Cancer is a serious, scary disease, but sometimes laughter is the best medicine. Check out books such as Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips, The Funny Side of Lung Cancer or Smilies Are Naturally Bald. Laugh – but be sensitive. There is a time to laugh and a time to mourn.
Take Care of YourselfGetting adequate rest, exercise, and good nutrition are more important than ever when you are caring for another. For those who feel guilty considering their own needs important, consider what you would hope for if the situation were reversed.
Make Use of Available ResourcesSeek out resources in your community that are available for cancer patients and their caregivers. Ask for a list of local organizations from your cancer center. Support groups allow you to share your experiences with others in a similar situation, and can be a source of further resources. Several online cancer support groups are available, that you can join without leaving your home.
A great resource I keep at my side is Lori Hope's book Help Me Live: 20 Things People With Cancer Want You to Know.
Maintain Your BoundariesGive as you can but know your limits. Stop periodically and think about your giving. Are you feeling pleasure in your efforts? Giving beyond your ability and sacrificing your own needs may leave you feeling resentful and bitter.
Keep a JournalWriting a journal can be a great way to express those thoughts and feelings you can’t share openly. Checking back over your entries can also help you monitor your stress level and know if you are overextending yourself.
Educate YourselfLearning as much as you can about your loved ones illness can help you understand more about what they are going through. It can also prepare you – a bit – for some of the inevitable bumps in the road.
Take a bath. Indulge in a massage. Listen to your favorite music. Read an uplifiting or inspirational book. Take time to maintain your friendships. Caring for another does not mean giving up your own needs and desires.
For other ideas on caring for yourself, as well as a chance to feel less alone and isolated as a caregiver for a loved one with lung cancer, check out this tremendous resources: Cancer Journey: A Caregiver's View From the Passenger Seat
National Cancer Institute. Caring for the Caregiver. Updated 06/19/07. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/caring-for-the-caregiver