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Ensuring carers of those with cancer are supported. Wigwam Online Carer Groups coming soon…

17 Mar 2023

y2l post

Cancer is a life changing experience, not just for the one diagnosed with cancer, but everyone touched by it.  Especially ‘Carers’ classified as those dealing with primary care, family members, loved ones and friends who play a caring role in whatever capacity from full-time care, physical, functional and emotional support, to being at the end of a phone.

Carers just want to know how to help and comfort…and often the diagnosed, in the turmoil of shock and treatment, may not be able to articulate their needs and wishes. Everyone can end up being pulled along by a process, reactive, feeling out of control and losing themselves in the process. Of course the focus is on the person going through the diagnosis, but it’s also key that carers get the support they need and that they metaphorically ‘ensure their own oxygen mask is on too’.

Some of the challenges experienced by carers can include:

Knowing how to help

Understanding how to support a loved one through cancer can be heavily influenced by how we think we’d like to be supported or how it ‘should’ be done, which is of course highly individual. Being able to stand back, listen, and use skills to enable your loved one to express their needs with understanding and acceptance can be incredibly powerful.

Emotional processing, the weight of responsibility & desire to change outcomes

Carers also have to navigate their own profoundly strong emotions and challenges during this life-changing experience. Not only will they equally be experiencing the shock and challenge of their loved one’s diagnosis, but may feel they have to be ‘strong’ and put their own emotions and needs on hold in light of what their loved one is going through. The weight of responsibility can be a heavy burden to bear when one feels powerless to change any outcome or just make things a little better. Equally a carer may feel the profound weight of responsibility may not be congruent with the relationship pre-cancer.

Putting own needs on hold

The light will often be shining on the one with the diagnosis and carers can risk losing themselves entirely while having to re-schedule and adapt their own life and responsibilities, impacting their own health.

Opinions for treatment options may differ from the one diagnosed

There are often circumstances where carers’ opinions of what their loved one ‘should’ be doing differ from the one with cancer. Gently managing these personal wishes and enabling effective resolution and acceptance is paramount.


Grief can present in multiple guises, from the initial loss of original ‘normality’, to the loss of expectations of what was to be in the future, to the loss of the person diagnosed in terms of who they were before cancer, to the anticipatory grief of potentially losing the loved one, to actually losing a loved one and all that was. It is an emotional rollercoaster.

Living with uncertainty & change

Life is of course uncertain, with no promises, but cancer can bring this very much front of mind and living in the presence of a cancer diagnosis and navigating this is a different way of life. While this of course feels different for the person diagnosed, this may bring up a different set of emotions for the carer seeing their life and future change profoundly.

Relationship impact

Relationships can be impacted significantly. The roles people play and the dynamics can shift. For example, when some take an integrative approach and feel empowered to use all options to change their life and health as a result of their cancer diagnosis, this can catapult them into a world which is starkly different from the one they inhabited before. In taking all possible options to support health, carers can feel left behind, especially if this shifts lifestyle behaviours in different directions. The potential financial burden of losing or changing work or complementary treatment can also create significant pressure for relationships.


Strong bonds are created by similar experience and while the person with cancer may find their tribe and ‘team’ and feel very supported, the carer can feel isolated and alone.

… and this is why Yes to Life feels there is a strong necessity to support carers on this journey too. To help carers feel less alone and provide the safe space for them to feel seen and heard as well.  To support them be the best carers they can be for their loved one, explore challenges and planning for the future, without losing themselves in the process and ensuring their health and wellbeing is nurtured.

Wigwam Online Carer Groups coming soon…

Please register here for interest