Breast Cancer Caregiver Tips

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A Personal Story

Cancer has touched everyone's lives at one point or another but seldom does it affect you more than when it happens to a close friend of family member. In my case, it happened to my mom in 2002.

I was just starting high school and getting used to things. And so were my parents. But one day in October 2002- she felt a lump in her breast and decided to go to the doctor.

What we were hoping was a benign tumor turned out to be cancer. The doctor said that since it was Stage 1 that a lumpectomy should remove the disease. So my mom did just that and was successfully operated on.

However, she still needed chemotherapy and radiation. After that was complete, we thought we cancer was through with us. We were wrong.

In 2004, the cancer came back. And this time the doctor said it would be best that my mom have a mastectomy. But unlike before she didn't just listen to her doctor, she went and got a second opinion.

By the winter of 2005, she had undergone further treatment and declared cancer-free but even with that knowledge, the fear of cancer coming back and ripping a hole through our lives was still there.

Thankfully it has been seven years since we've dealt with breast cancer but what we learned and experienced will affect the rest of our lives.

Basic Dos and Don'ts

In this hub I hope to provide basic information about what it is like to be a breast cancer caregiver. There is no science or art to it but you have to be aware of the fact that caring for someone with Breast Cancer is different than anything you have previously dealt with.

  1. Do Educate Yourself on the Disease: There are plenty of books and websites that can explain what breast cancer is.
  2. Do Talk to Cancer Survivors: Find out which local groups and organizations have sessions which you can attend. Talk to a survivor who knows about everything from treatment to recovery.
  3. Do Make them Laugh: Laughter is one of nature's best medicines. It can not alter pain or suffering but it can offer a much needed smile to your loved one.
  4. Do Compliment Their Appearance: Men or women experiencing cancer not only go through surgery bu their cosmetic appearance changes, which affects their confidence. Make them feel good about themselves by complimenting their appearance or buying accessories that might them feel better.
  5. Do Not Say "I Know": There is no way of knowing what cancer is like except if you went through it yourself.
  6. Do Not Drastically Alter Your Relationship: By this, I mean do not specifically go out of your way to act like a doctor or nurse instead of friend or loved one. While there are times you will need to care for them, you do not want to make them feel the say way their doctor does.
  7. Do Not be a WebMD Doctor: I urge this to any and everyone- the internet is a resource not a guidebook.

Helping with Lifestyle Adjustments

One of the hardest parts of dealing with cancer is trying to make adjustments to lifestyle. Here are some tips to help with changing lifelong habits.

  • Make Healthy Eating Fun: Most studies and research show that your diet effects your health. So instead of making it a chore, make it an adventure. We tried ground turkey in lieu of ground beef, as well as wheat pasta instead of white. None of these changes were permanent but we made an adventure out of trying new foods.
  • Make Exercise a Priority: The importance of remaining physically active is evident in how studies have shown exercise is a key element in a healthy post-cancer life. We bought a treadmill and made a point out of being more active.
  • Spend Quality Time Together: One thing cancer makes you realize is how important it is to utilize the time you have with those you love and care for the most. It does not mean radically changing your schedule but putting down the remote or the fantasy football every once in a while to get face time is always a good thing.
  • Join a Community or Online Support Group: This was something we should have looked into more. While we did help my mom with a local support group she tried to start, nobody thought of the internet for support. But either, way it's good to get involved by hearing how others have made it or are still going through the day to day journey.

Kelly Pickler and her childhood friend Summer Holt Miller, who is battling Breast Cancer
Kelly Pickler and her childhood friend Summer Holt Miller, who is battling Breast Cancer | Source

Making Lemonade

There are very few things I admit to hating in life but cancer is one of them I will proudly admit to hating. Not only is it selfish, time-consuming and draining on the individual experiencing cancer- it does so to the family and friends of the patient as well.

But as much as it would like to claim the victory it is being defeated slowly but surely. With charities such as Stand Up to Cancer, Relay for Life, and many others. Breast Cancer in particular has alot of charities that you can donate your time, energy, and money to.

Recently, I attended the funeral of a woman I was blessed to meet who ultimately succumbed to Breast Cancer. And even though she did not survive, the fighting spirit she had did. Her nephew said it best, "Cancer may take a life but it can never take a spirit."

I dedicate this hub to the memory and the legacy of those who have fought boldly but are no longer with us as well as the continuing triumph of the survivors who encourage us to keep fighting.

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Comments 28 comments

Janine Huldie profile image

Janine Huldie 4 years ago from New York, New York

First off Alecia, I am so happy to hear that your mother indeed did survive and overcome breast cancer. I can't imagine what your mother and your family did go through. I know a few people who have gone through different types of cancer including breast cancer (she did unfortunately succumb to it), but they were not anyone in my immediate family. Thank you for sharing your mom's experience here and for giving some very good tips on how to cope whether it is you yourself going through it or a close family member. Have of course voted and shared all over!!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Alecia, Thank you for sharing your family's journey. Your mom is a trooper. Your tips are awesome! I'm sure many will benefit from them. One of my peeves is when people say "you don't look like you have cancer" this also applies to many, many diseases besides cancer. I think it's so damn ignorant of people to say that to anyone who lives with a disease they struggle with daily. Wishing your mom the best! You are blessed to have each other.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much Janine! I know we as a family went through alot but my mom still endured most of the lingering pain. But I am very fortunate she survived and continues to live in such a way to encourage others. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting and sharing too!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I agree Sunshine! We are blessed to have each other. And I hate when people say ignorant stuff like that as well- it desensitizes the fact they are fighting for their life. But if someone ever does say that I'll reply, "You don't look like an ignorant fool!"


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

Good one Alecia! I just might use that next time, I'm at that point. It really irritates Dave when people say that.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I think you should!


Daisy Mariposa profile image

Daisy Mariposa 4 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

Alecia,

Thanks for publishing this vey important article. I lost my mother to stomach cancer and my grandmother to lung cancer.

Let's stop all forms of this dreaded disease!!!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I'm so sorry for your losses Daisy! And I agree we have to stop all forms of cancer! Thank you.


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

Alecia, I thank you for this wonderful hub. Your experience with your mother will help many people who know someone battling breast cancer (unfortunately that is a substantial number). Sending you hugs and sharing. Of course a vote up xx


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much ChristyWrites!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

A beautiful hub....an important hub....a very useful and informative hub. I am so happy that your mother survived; my mother did not and we lost her in 2003.

Great job my friend!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I'm so sorry about your mother billybuc. Thank you so much for coming by and commenting!


gwendy52 4 years ago

Hi, I"m Alecia's Mom. Alecia you were my biggest supporter and inspiration during my fight with this dreaded disease. You are still an inspiration and I love you so much and am so proud of you! Thank you for sharing what we went through so that others can benefit from it! So many of the warriors I have encountered on this journey have lost the battle but I try to keep the fight alive in any way I can! Thank you all for supporting my dauther's hub! Luv to all of you!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks mom! Love to you!


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Voted this way up! Great advice for those of us who are on the outside looking in. Thanks or the education.

Voted way up! This is great advice for those of us looking in from the outside. Thank you for the education. Hugs and prayers sent your way.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much teaches12345!


midget38 profile image

midget38 4 years ago from Singapore

May we all remain positive, and let the positivity be the fight against the disease. a great write, which I share, Alecia.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

I agree positivity is the way to go! Thanks so much, midget38!


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 4 years ago from Virginia

Great advice and great tips to help those that have a loved one dealing with this disease. I went through this with my mom and luckily everything turned out fine....but I can only imagine the pain and suffering everybody goes through when dealing with this on a long term basis.....mine was only about a year....which still sucked but at least after 6 months we were seeing the end of the tunnel. Thanks for sharing this important information. Voted up and useful.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much Cogerson. I came out pretty well with my mom too and am very thankful. Having seen other families ultimately lose their loved ones puts things in perspective. But either way, I believe remaining positive is one of the best ways to stay encouraged.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 4 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

Alecia,

As a nurse and someone who loves her SIL, who has beaten breast cancer so far for 20 years since her mastectomy...I believe in the essential power of positive thinking and living.

Your Momma is also such an inspiration. You have given beautiful, practical and comprehensive strategies we can all handle. I am so glad you have each other and bless your whole family.

Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

HI Maria,

Thank you so much for coming by and commenting. And I'm always glad to hear the powerful and motivating stories of other survivors and their families. Hub Hugs :).


TToombs08 profile image

TToombs08 4 years ago from Somewhere between Heaven and Hell without a road map.

Alecia, I hope your mom continues to have good health. Voted up and more.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thank you so much Terrye!


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 4 years ago from Orlando, FL

I stopped by for a link I need for a hub. This hub is too awesome not to share with others.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Sunshine!


remaniki profile image

remaniki 4 years ago from Chennai, India

Hi Alecia,

I realize how traumatic it must have been for you and your family especially your mom. I am very happy for you all. Thanks a ton for posting useful information about the deadly cancer and the great tips.

Sharing everywhere.Cheers, Rema.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 4 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Hi Remaniki,

Thank you so much for your kind wishes. And I'm glad you found this hub useful :).

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