Finding out how to balance your chemotherapy treatments with the demands of daily life can be challenging. As you continue your treatment sessions, there may be days when you’re just too weak to do normal activities. Prepare yourself by knowing that it’s important to lean on your support network during these times. Don’t feel guilty that some things will have to change while you concentrate on your health. Take steps to get help at home and at work.
Your Home Life
Your family and friends can be the biggest help with doing chores that you’re not able to get done. If you’re a parent who lives with a partner, make a list of what parenting duties may need to be shared differently. Do you usually handle transportation to school and other activities? If so, you may need to temporarily shift the responsibility to your partner.
Once your family and friends learn of your chemotherapy treatment, most will offer to help with “anything you need.” Although they offer and really want to help, they may not specifically know what you need.
Select one family member or close friend who is very organized to be a “chore coordinator.” Think about all you do in a normal week and ask your coordinator to help you make a list of what your duties include and how they can be shared with others. Your list might include household chores like laundry, caring for your pets, and grocery shopping.
It’s also a good idea to ask your coordinator to organize meal deliveries. Your friends can take turns dropping off dinner at your home and can be assigned different days of the week throughout the month. Don’t hesitate to have your coordinator share any special diet concerns as the types of foods you and your family enjoy. Your meal helpers will be happy to deliver exactly what you want, and can worry less about how to please you.
Other than your chore coordinator, pick someone to serve as a “gatekeeper” for communicating to your family and friends. You may receive many phone calls or messages but might not have the energy to talk about your health. It can be emotionally exhausting. Your gatekeeper can send occasional group messages of thanks on your behalf and explain that you need your rest. Most importantly, be honest with yourself and don’t try to do more than you have energy to handle.
Even if you’re single or live far from family members, you can still gather support from nearby friends. Consider asking a close neighbor, co-worker, church or community member to help pitch in.
Your Work Life
While some people going through chemotherapy are able to continue working, others find they need to take time off or work limited hours. Figure out how much you’ll be able to work and talk with your employer about any changes you may need:
- Can you work from home some days?
- Will working part-time be an option?
- Is there an opportunity to shift some of your duties to co-workers for a short time?
Talk with your human resource department to learn what’s available if you need extra time off. Some employers offer short-term or long-term disability insurance. This allows you to get paid a portion of your normal salary while you’re away. You may also be eligible to use the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA allows you to take unpaid leave to get medical care for a serious illness.
Besides leaning on your family and friends for support, keep in mind that your community may be a resource for help with your daily duties. Charitable organizations may be able to provide transportation to medical appointments, childcare, meal deliveries, and help with household chores.
Talk with your oncology social worker or nurse, a local cancer organization, or the American Cancer Society about your needs. They can help connect you with resources in your area.
Remember that although managing your responsibilities while you’re going through treatment may seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be. Reach out and ask for help.