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Family & Friends > What it means to be a breast cancer caregiver

What it means to be a breast cancer caregiver

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Caregivers can help with day-to-day needs, such as transportation to and from appointments and maintaining home life. Caregivers can also provide social and emotional support. If you are (or are becoming) a caregiver for someone diagnosed with breast cancer, your role makes a huge difference in the physical and mental well-being of your friend or loved one.

As a caregiver, you may help your loved with a wide range of needs, such as:

  • Shopping, cooking, cleaning, pet care, and other household tasks
  • Driving and transportation arrangements
  • Providing physical assistance, such as help with dressing and bathing, and helping a person to cope with treatment side effects
  • Organizing and giving medicines
  • Making appointments
  • Helping fill out medical forms
  • Managing communications with healthcare providers and insurance companies
  • Managing finances
  • Keeping other friends and family informed
  • Providing social and emotional support and outlets

Caregiving roles will be different based on each individual situation, and they will likely evolve over time as needs change. When a loved one is diagnosed with breast cancer, the road ahead is usually a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to pace yourself. Maintaining personal boundaries and having open, honest dialogue can help everyone involved to feel like they have as much energy as possible for each day and whatever it may bring.

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I'm fortunate to have a caregiver, my son Lowell, who loves me as much as I love him. [He's] 24 [and] has known me longer with cancer [than] without. He quit his job and moved back home to be my caregiver. I didn't ask him to; he just did it because caring for others come naturally to him.

Rhonda (Diagnosed Stage 1 in 2008, Stage IV in 2011)

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For many people, becoming a caregiver can represent a role shift. It might be a new role with a parent or sibling, or with a long-term partner. Maybe you’re taking on responsibilities that were normally someone else’s. For example, maybe your mother has always been there for you with support and care, and now it’s the other way around. Or, as a friend, you’d always been there for social fun, but now find yourself helping with chores.

Transitions like this can feel awkward at first, but it can help to remember the positive role you are playing in your loved one’s life, and that caregiving can bring satisfaction to your own life, too. While caregiving can be challenging sometimes, a caregiving relationship can strengthen bonds, provide opportunities to give back, and help you recognize skills and abilities you never knew you had. At the same time, it’s important to take care of yourself. Checking in with your emotions, finding people you can talk to, and setting limits are all a part of that.

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Reviewed and updated: December 28, 2021

Reviewed by: LBBC Staff

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.

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