Looking after yourself
One of the best ways to help your children is to get help and support for yourself. Do not try to do it all alone – call on your friends, family and others for help. Accepting support can reduce the burden on you and your children and help to limit the changes to family roles and routines.
Tip: Family and friends are usually keen to help, but don’t know how. So be specific and let them know what you need. It can even be helpful to ask someone to coordinate offers of help from others, for example, cleaning, driving you to appointments, taking children to school or picking up groceries.
Take some pressure off
Life as a parent was already busy and now you’re dealing with the demands of cancer as well. On top of that, parents with cancer often feel like they have to pack more into every day because the future is uncertain, or make every moment with their children fun because of the stress that cancer is putting on the family. This just adds to the pressure on you. Accept that you don’t have the time and energy for everything right now. Instead, work out what’s most important to you and focus on those things. Find smaller chunks of quality time you can spend with your children.
Take care of your body and mind
+ Eat well: Eating healthily helps you cope with the physical and emotional impact of cancer, but it can also be difficult to prepare meals and easier to order takeaway. Do your best and try to find the balance where you can.
+ Try to be active: Regular exercise helps to reduce stress, anxiety, anger and depression, improves sleep and helps you feel less tired. Even a short daily walk can help. Discuss what you can do with your doctor or ask to be referred to an exercise physiologist.
+ Make time for yourself: Try to make time, every day if you can, to do something that brings you joy, like reading a book, listening to music or walking in a park.
+ Clear your mind: Meditation and mindfulness can help you feel calmer and more connected with the things that are important to you, as well as boost your mental health. Many people find yoga or tai chi helpful.
+ Talk to people who understand: Connect with other parents who are dealing with cancer at Canteen Connect for Parents. You can also talk to a Canteen counselor about the parenting challenges that cancer brings or call the Cancer Council on 13 11 20 for general support.
For more information, check out our Parenting through cancer booklet.
Other ways to get help:
• The CanDo app lets cancer patients easily ask their network for help on day-to-day tasks while removing the awkwardness of face-to-face conversations
• Many organisations provide practical help, like transport to treatment, home nursing care, or legal and financial advice. Ask the oncology social worker at the hospital, or contact Cancer Council on 13 11 20
Tip: Make a list of all the things that need to be done – anything you need to organise for your treatment, childcare, household chores, etc. Decide which ones are most important for you to do, which ones someone else can do, and which ones can wait.