Advice for a Cancer Caregiver from a Survivor

Tips and advice from a survivor of stage IV breast cancer

If you are a cancer caregiver, I want you to know that you have a crucial role to play in your loved one getting well but that you also can’t do it for them. They have to make that decision and they have to commit themselves. I have seen many, many well-intentioned caregivers trying to do more than the sick person wanted. You can support, but they have to do.

One great way to take on the responsibilities of being a cancer caregiver is to take a team approach. Support from multiple individuals benefits the person you are caring for and relieves you of some of the weight of the responsibilities. Taking a team approach allows individual strengths to combine to support your loved one. By sharing the role, you can take turns and rest assured that while you are taking a break, someone else is there to help. A caregiver that gets run down and sick can’t be around to help.

10 Additional Tips for Cancer Caregivers

• Be supportive, but have expectations for your survivor.

• Let them know what you are seeing or hearing because survivors often focus on one part of a conversation and miss the rest.

• Be open and willing to do new things. (Don’t expect the same dinner as before.)

• Keep it real—brainstorm ideas together, hash and rehash issues.

• Help your survivor talk with doctors to clarify their ideas.

• Be willing to let you survivor focus on themselves.

• Research, or find someone who can muddle through information that may be beneficial to your survivor.

• Have fun—find the cancer humor.

• Tell your survivor that you are proud of them.

• Help your survivor cope with changing relationships. You may have more in common with others that have cancer than your close friends.

My Story

Heather Jose Portrait

This list of tips comes directly from my memoir Every Day We Are Killing Cancer. It is a personal account of my fight with breast cancer. But, my book is not just my story. It also details how friends, family, medical professionals, acquaintances and even strangers pulled together to support and help me through. My book is a wealth of information for someone who would like to provide care and support to an individual battling cancer.


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