The Unsung Heroes of Breast Cancer Battles

Reine Nader

Getting diagnosed with Breast cancer is a life-altering moment, not only for the person receiving care but also for their family and loved ones. The journey that follows the diagnosis is an emotional roller coaster full of fear, uncertainty, and a relentless struggle to hold on to the bright side.

Amidst the whirlwind of treatments and emotions, one group of unsung heroes often stands unnoticed. The resilient strong and supportive caregivers.
The Caregiver steps into a challenging role with an open heart and unwavering support, providing a lifeline when needed.

A caregiver could be a spouse, a partner, a child, a sibling, a close friend, or even a neighbour. Their role is multifaceted and demanding. A few examples include;

  • Emotional Support: Lending a compassionate ear, providing encouragement and positivity, while being a constant pillar of strength for the healthseeker.
  • Appointments: Caregivers are often responsible for driving the care seekers to appointments, consultations, tests, and treatment sessions. This all adds up to time and effort.
  • Managing Medications: Ensuring that medications are taken as prescribed, managing any potential side effects, and keeping track of treatment schedules.
  • Assisting with Daily Activities: Such as bathing, dressing, and cooking.
  • Household Duties: To provide the care-dependent individual with the opportunity to focus on their health, caregivers may take it upon themselves to do grocery shopping, house cleaning, and even manage their finances.
  • Advocating for the Patient: Ensuring the health seeker’s needs within the healthcare system, are met and they receive the best possible care.
  • Communication Challenges: Maintaining open and honest communication with the care seeker is crucial but can certainly be difficult especially when discussing topics such as treatment options and prognosis.

The Emotional Toll

Stress and Anxiety
High levels of stress and anxiety are expected due to the times of uncertainty they are experiencing. The responsibilities, the fear of the unknown and the emotional strain of witnessing a loved one’s suffering are enough to bring a grown man to his knees.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that caregivers of breast cancer patients may have higher levels of depressive symptoms, anxiety, and decreased quality of life altogether. Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and helplessness are especially heightened when the care seeker’s condition is critical. The emotional burden of caregiving can be massive to carry around alone.

Guilt: Feelings of guilt may hover, especially if they need to take a break for self-care. One might question if they are doing enough, even when they are already going above and beyond.

Isolation: This is not a 9-5 job. Caring for a breast cancer individual involves long hours, and the lack of time for personal relationships and social connections can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Burnout: The relentless physical and emotional demands of caregiving can lead to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed. This can adversely affect their own health.

Role Strain: Balancing caregiving with personal responsibilities and even work, can put a lot of strain on one’s role as a caregiver and create feelings of inadequacy.

Empowering Caregivers

Do you know an individual with breast cancer? Chances are you know the caregiver as well. How can you help? Here are a few proven ways you can use to empower and give strength to caregivers in order for them to carry on their selfless journey.

Acknowledge them
Recognise the invaluable role that caregivers play in the breast cancer battle. it’s vital to support them and let them know you see them and appreciate all their effort.

Educate and Inform
Help them better understand breast cancer, its treatments, and potential side effects. Knowledge equips them to provide better care and emotional support whilst making a bit of sense of the chaos. The National Cancer Institute has great resources on this.

Allow them space to prioritize their own physical and emotional well-being. This includes taking breaks and seeking support from others. After all, one cannot pour from an empty cup. Encourage them to engage in activities that bring them joy.
The National Cancer Institute survey revealed that caregivers often experience financial strain due to their caregiving responsibilities, adding to their emotional burden. Assure them that it’s okay to take a breather and not put their life on hold.

Seek Support
Motivate caregivers to consider joining support groups, or counselling sessions either in person or online. By connecting with others who share similar experiences, the burden is lightened. Such groups provide a safe space for sharing emotions and coping strategies that might just be what they need.

Respite Care
Inform and support caregivers to know that there are options available to help them and they are not alone. Respite care services, at home or specialised centres, may be just the thing they seek to be able to recharge, stay sane and carry on.

If Caregiving had awards…

Caregivers are the unsung heroes in the battle against breast cancer. Their love, support, and strength are a source of inspiration. They shoulder the weight of the diagnosis and treatment, often sacrificing their own well-being for the sake of their loved ones. The dedication of caregivers deserves recognition and much gratitude.

Despite their important role, caregivers are often invisible helpers. They may not receive the same level of recognition or support as breast cancer individuals. However, their contributions are essential to the success of the cancer treatment.

As we celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month and honour those who have faced or are currently battling breast cancer, let’s not forget to acknowledge and appreciate the caregivers who stand by their side. They are truly the unsung heroes, offering comfort, love, and hope in the face of one of life’s greatest challenges.

To delve deeper into this topic, here are a selection of TED Talks by a collection of remarkable individuals.

How to Manage Compassion Fatigue in Caregiving
Your Caregiving Journey – The Opportunity of a Lifetime!
Caring for the caregivers

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Reine Nader

Impact writer & catalyst, uniting research & passion to drive social change.